Euphoria Season 2 Knows Exactly How to Break Your Heart

Elliot sang for a minute, huh

There are very few shows as melancholic as the second season of HBO’s Euphoria. It is a moody, tear-jerking cinematic collage that the internet cannot stop talking about (for good reason). From Zendaya’s impressive, intimate performances to the waves of Uncut Gems-esque shenanigans, this melodrama is a loveable mess unlike anything else on television right now.

I have issues with how Euphoria tells its stories; specifically the oversexualization of youth and unresolved plot points. But its recent season finale shows that when it isn’t doing those things, it outshines its streaming contemporaries, and it does so purely through its willingness to be sorrowful. Euphoria masterfully wades you through a sea of sadness until the sun sets and the moonlight’s rays finally make you realize your fingers are pruning up.

Euphoria, created by writer and director Sam Levinson, is a show about Rue (Zendaya), a teen struggling with addiction while navigating through the layered drama of high-school life. It also dives into the lives of the ensemble around Rue, including her friends, classmates, and her drug dealer Fezco (Angus Cloud), who harbors this season’s sharpest emotional hook.

Season two starts with Fezco and side character Lexi (Maude Apatow) forming an unexpected bond, giving both characters a chance to tell their own stories instead of propping up others. As they have a sweet moment chatting with each other on a couch, every other corner of the New Years party is filled with backstabbing, plotting, and chaos, except for theirs. That bubble pops shortly after, when Fezco sees Nate Jacobs and bashes his face like a piñata. The two continue to stay in touch throughout the season, and their conversations build up to Lexi saving Fezco a seat at her play and Fezco writing Lexi a letter. Whether it’s platonic or romantic, I don’t really care — it’s heartening to see these lonely characters connect with one another. Euphoria dangles that shred of hope in front of you until you trip into the pitfall of anguish of its season two finale.

Fez Euphoria Season 2 (Credit: HBO)

Instead of letting these characters find happiness, Euphoria prefers they suffer. Right before Lexi’s play Fezco gets caught in a SWAT murder and drug bust, losing his brother Ashtray in the crossfire. And on-stage, in the middle of her play, Lexi gets chewed out by her own sister Cassie with the entire school watching (and recording it) live. Season two’s finale is an overwhelmingly somber array of scenes that pulls the comfort rug from under your feet. You could argue that Lexi takes her L and bounces back, wearing the familial drama on her sleeve for the rest of the play. But the passing friendship of Lex and Fezco is too brutal a loss, also, Ashtray literally dies! It’s so sad.

Especially when you think about the first scene of this season, which is a nostalgic flashback montage of Ashtray, Fezco and their badass grandma Marie O’Neill, it slowly crescendos into a beautiful scene that provides vital context to why Fez matured so young. That same gradual build up fills up the screen during the finale, when a SWAT team kills Ashtray, Fezco fails to protect his brother, and in the next room their grandmother floats in a coma, unaware of anything. When you add in Angus Cloud’s tremendous performance in the finale, those tears all compound to demonstrate that Euphoria is at its best when it makes you cry.

While it excels at crafting moments of pensive despair, Euphoria isn’t that good at following through with solid conclusions for characters’ urgent problems. A few plot points feel like cheap thrills, cast to the side for the latter half of the season and never resolved. In episode three Rue starts her misguided venture into drug dealing, and she loses $10,000 in contraband by episode five. Euphoria makes Rue’s debt a huge deal, dedicating an entire episode to Rue spiraling around town Mirror’s Edge style, dodging cops while finding a way to repay a bloodthirsty drug dealer.

But later in the season, the impending drug-lord revenge just evaporates. Once Rue is clean it’s never mentioned again, and she doesn’t even seem stressed about it anymore. It’s disappointing that Rue doesn’t reap what she sows, and that the writing team didn’t deem that plotline worthy enough to get a satisfying conclusion after hyping it up so much. Don’t get me wrong, the episodes with problematic highs make every heightened minute worth it. But upon reflection of the surreal season as a whole, you start to see the cracks in its sensational storytelling.

Euphoria isn’t perfect, but its weekly episodic rollout has been a wonderful whirlwind. It’s powered by sadness, but it also delicately sprinkles in some optimism, crafting moments you naturally treasure. Picking apart insane scenes and horrible character choices is ridiculously fun with friends, and I can’t wait until season three debuts, sometime in the future, so I can watch the internet argue endlessly over the future messes that Euphoria‘s characters leave behind.