Image from the Euphoria Instagram page @euphoria
This is the second article in our new series “An Exploration of Euphoria.” To catch up on what you might’ve missed, check out last week’s article here. This series comes out on Sundays at 3PM PT before the new episode of Euphoria airs weekly at 6PM PT on HBOMax.
TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains discussions on topics such as substance abuse, violence, sexual assault, body dysmorphia, and other potential triggering subjects.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Euphoria on HBO.
The weight of the New Year still lingers over the students of East Highland. In fact, it’s really all they can think about. Not the actual New Year, but what happened that night.
Episode 2 picks off exactly where we left off, with Nate being dragged to the emergency room. And remember, Nate’s body is beaten up badly, like really badly.
As Maddy and Cassie’s high heels steal the spotlight, click-click-click-click, Nate fades out of consciousness and falls into a sequence of fantasy. In this world, everything is better because Nate is nothing like his father Cal, whom he absolutely despises. And, he has a pregnant Cassie by his side. They enjoy the warm weather and loads of sex, which explains the pregnant part. Nate’s fantasy is perfect so long as he has Cassie.
Except, even Nate’s fantasy and subconscious can’t slip through Cal’s clutches. The suburban fantasy is tainted with images of Cal doing yoga in their backyard. A short image of his dad eating someone’s ass joins the barrage. Cal then approaches Cassie who’s basking in the sun. Nate wished his dad would just die then. (Instead, his dad was actually very much still alive.) However, he knew that this fantasy with Cassie could never exist so long as Maddy still had that tape of Cal raping Jules.
Nate’s fantasy quickly turns into a nightmare. Recalling his childhood and his upbringing under Cal, Nate sees flashes of those tapes seared into his memory. Several brief voyeuristic and pornographic clips attack his fantasy further. Seemingly all too much for Nate, he begins seizing in the hospital bed.
Nevertheless, after receiving medical attention, we see Nate wake up and smile, blinded by all the possibilities he had to make his fantasy with Cassie a reality. His smile fades when he feels Cal holding his hand.
Meanwhile, Cassie’s paranoid reality stands in contrast to this picturesque fantasy in suburbia. Cassie breaks down several times throughout the episode thinking about the possibility that Maddy might find out about her and Nate hooking up. (And, of course, this nervousness makes Cassie all the more appealing to Nate since it allows for easier control.)
Cassie contacts Nate several times asking how she should deal with this situation, if she can even deal with it in the first place. Nate, to no surprise, doesn’t give her a straightforward answer, manipulating her to his will. He tells her, “We can’t do this.” Then, he proceeds to meet with her in person one night but still tells her, “We can’t do this.” (Obviously, Nate’s actual wants and desires conflict with his actions, which makes total sense considering the messed up and traumatic past this man has had.)
After a game of cat-and-mouse through a housing development, Nate finds Cassie, and they engage in oral sex. “We can’t do this.” “You’re a bad person.” Nate proceeds to eat Cassie out. Even with this sense of forbidden love and betrayal looming over Cassie and Nate’s domineering passion for manipulation, their non-relationship turns into something messier.
Meanwhile, Maddy is babysitting a kid and enjoying the life and luxury of his parents. She doesn’t actually like children, but she likes nice things. And, this kid’s parents have a lot of nice things.
Without thinking, Maddy tries on the expensive designer clothes in the closet, puts on a few accessories that cost more than they should, and admires herself in the giant closet mirror of the kid’s mother. It’s late. The kid’s asleep. The parents will be home later.
The parents will be home now. Maddy rushes to undress and put everything back into their proper locations, and the audience thinks she’s about to get caught. But, when the parents do find her, she appears like she has been doing the dishes the entire time. They thank her for babysitting.
As she’s about to leave, the kid’s mother calls her back into the closet, only to ask for help unzipping her dress. Maddy obliges, and it feels like there might be some exchanged chemistry between the two as it happens. Maddy’s not sure what this moment was, and we don’t know either.
Maddy knows that Nate is seeing someone, or at least feels like he is. She expresses this feeling to Jules in a heartfelt conversation. Maddy feels like she’s missing out on her man, and she can never have a relationship without pain. Jules swiftly remarks that this isn’t true. According to Jules, Maddy deserves better than Nate, and everyone knows that Maddy is worth so much more than she values herself. Maddy seems a little put at ease, but the unspoken subtext between the two permeates the scene more than anything.
One love triangle. Check.
RING. RING. RING. School’s back in session for the New Year.
And just like school, Jules and Rue are back in session, too. Except, there’s something a little off: the relationship to be exact. Its current state exists around lies this time, rather than codependency. Jules thinks Rue is sober, and Rue is most definitely not sober. Rue’s not even sober when she’s around Jules; she just pretends she is.
Plus, as if the pyramid of lies wasn’t enough, there’s a really odd dynamic between Jules and Rue when Elliot comes up to greet Rue in the school hallway. Jules can tell Rue likes him. Rue awkwardly introduces Jules as her girlfriend. And, Elliot just stands there a bit awkwardly, swaying back and forth. And, to add another lie on to the fire, Rue didn’t meet him on New Year’s, and she definitely doesn’t love to get high out of her mind with him daily.
Another love triangle? Check.
At least there’s one healthy and sustainable relationship in this show between Kat and Ethan, right? Apparently not.
Kat is struggling with her relationship to her relationship, existing in this weird space where she likes Ethan but doesn’t like him enough. Ethan’s nice and all, but he’s not like the strong and broad-shouldered men she used to write fanfiction about.
Speaking of fiction and fantasy, once again, Kat’s situation is explored through the use of two hilarious and imaginative fantasy sequences from writer-director Sam Levinson:
- Ethan is slain. Kat has aggressive sex with a Game of Thrones knockoff of Jason Momoa in front of Ethan’s bloody corpse. This is the kind of man she’s been dreaming and writing of.
- Kat is bullied into “loving herself” by a flood of gorgeous Instagram and TikTok influencers annoyingly trying to convince herself to love herself by destroying the patriarchy and whatnot. You can never hate yourself if you just love yourself.
Another love triangle? Maybe, but this one doesn’t exactly include “real” people.
Meanwhile, Cal vigilantly tries to find out who beat up his son. Going to everyone he knows who saw the scene unfold, Cal will not stop until he uncovers the assaulter’s identity.
Cassie’s pretty vulnerable, given the whole Nate and Maddy situation, so she speaks up pretty quickly after Cal intimidatingly sits her and Lexi down at their own dining table to talk, threatening to call the police.
Lexi’s pissed at this decision. She’s beginning to develop an affinity for Fezco and decides that she’s going to warn Fezco before it’s too late.
Cal loads a gun, ready to take revenge.
Lexi rides her bike swiftly to Fezco’s shop while listening to the absolute hyperpop banger “Haunted” by Laura Les. She gets there before Cal does.
Cal arrives shortly thereafter, gun in pocket.
The tension between Lexi, Fezco, Cal, and Ashtray, who possibly plans on killing Cal if things go south, is palpable through the screen. Lexi and Cal walk around the minute mart eyeballing each other, making sure nothing gets out of hand.
Cal reaches for his pocket in an extreme close-up. He pulls out $20 and pays for the snacks. But, before he leaves, Cal gives Fezco an update: Fezco isn’t entirely safe.
The tension still lingers, but the lack of Cal’s presence has assuaged the situation.
Lastly, Nate returns home after the housing development hookup to the news that his father knows who beat him up. Nate lies and confronts his dad, saying that it happened because they all knew there was a nonconsensually filmed tape of Cal having sex with Jules. Cal realizes where the tape has gone missing, at least he thinks. Nate’s delivery of this false information is collected with no hesitation or restriction. Cal asks, “Nate, do you have it?”
Nate raises a smug and smirk face. (He’ll probably hold onto this leverage a little longer.)
The episode cuts to black.
This episode definitely felt “Out of Touch” in that there was an enormous amount of setup before all of the built-up tension unfolds, misfires, and comes undone in shocking, disturbing, and upsetting ways during the rest of the season. Nevertheless, this episode explores desire and its complexities, showing the audience that most of our desires are in direct conflict with our actions. In regards to the camerawork and script structure, the exploration of this desire is unconventional and intriguing for television, straying away from your typical inner monologue moment and/or confessional.
Overall, this episode reminds us of what our feeling of euphoria was after the first episode, and it teases us by tossing everything up into the air. Are we about to fall harder than we’ve ever fallen? Or, are we just experiencing a lapse in the effect of the drug we’re consuming?
Author: Jaden King (He/They)
Copy Editor: Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He)