Image from @euphoria on Instagram on @hbo
This is the fifth article in our 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.
Character centricity, the thing TikTok “critics” and casual viewers alike argue has been missing from this season of “Euphoria,” is back; and, it’s back on our beloved drug addict Rue. (Give Zendaya her second Emmy!)
Throughout this season, Rue’s addiction has faced little to no consequences. She’s managed to stay high off her ass through school with the excuse of: “Oh, it’s just weed.” Rue has also managed to keep her influx of drugs steady with her “genius” plan she proposed to a massive drug lord named Laurie.
With “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” we get a taste of the consequences when the drugs are no longer there and Rue can no longer stay high.
Rue, being the hummingbird, cannot stand still when her seemingly only lifeline, a suitcase full of $10k worth of drugs, gets flushed down the toilet by her mother Leslie (Nika King) after Jules tells her about Rue’s relapse. Rue bursts out in rage, fury, and desperation. She is willing to say whatever she can to get those drugs back, including suggesting she will kill herself. (Of course, Leslie and Gia don’t know that Rue now owes $10k to a drug lord, but who knows if that’s the only loss on her mind.)
Rue rampages through her house in search for the misplaced drugs, breaking down Gia’s bedroom door as Gia and Leslie seek refuge away from the emotional and physical violence. Leslie has had enough of Rue’s outburst and tells Rue that she needs to leave the house otherwise she’ll call the cops. Rue does anything to tear away at the love her sister and mother have for her, and it becomes increasingly hard to watch.
In stark contrast to the rampage, an addiction-ravaged Rue breaks down into several moments of raw tenderness flippantly when the violence appears to not do the trick. Rue apologizes for being so violent and yelling at Gia and her mom, she cries out in desperation, and she politely asks where the drugs are; all are actually attempts at coaxing her family into giving the drugs back, as well as symptoms of the bipolar disorder she was diagnosed with all the way back in Season 1 Episode 1.
It doesn’t work. Nothing works.
During this altercation, Jules reveals herself to be present, along with Elliot, which turns Rue’s violence from her family to her supposed best friend and lover. All the love Rue went on to describe in the last episode is seemingly gone, disappeared in the blink of an eye (or, the flush of a toilet).
Rue rehashes old arguments, old arguments that were never openly discussed between the two, about the moment Jules left her at the train station, again blaming Jules for her addiction. They both just continued on without ever really discussing the root of their issues. Instead, they both gravitated toward Elliot to alleviate their pains for each other. Jules could get the emotional availability she wanted and needed while Rue could get the drugs she craved.
Then, Rue confronts Jules’ idea of love saying, “You love being loved,” which obviously hurts Jules. Nevertheless, Jules tries to remain strong during this confrontation only repeating words Rue needs to hear but doesn’t realize that she does: “I love you.” Jules has likely been here before, thinking back to her mother’s addiction explored in her Special Episode. Rue pursues with emotional violence and thrashes the dead body of their love in front of Jules, ending the conversation with, “You can stay out of my life forever.”
(Many of those aforementioned “critics” believe Jules deserved this abuse because of her decision to cheat on Rue in the previous episode. Remember that just like her actions toward her family, Rue is most likely saying these things as a result of her withdrawal and desperate need for a fix, just as she nearly completely severed her relationship with Ali last episode. No one, under any circumstances, deserves emotional abuse.)
Elliot finally pitches in once the storm has passed: “I should’ve never said anything. I liked Rue the way she was.” (This seems mildly suspect, as he encouraged Rue’s addiction and openly told Jules about it. Elliot obviously has his own demons to deal with, and, hopefully, we’ll see them surface sooner or later to get a better understanding of his character and his motivations.)
Now, in an attempt to bring Rue to rehab after she agreed to go to the hospital, Leslie and Gia pack a suitcase and hop in the car with Rue. We see a glimpse of sibling love when Gia asks if Rue wants shotgun. However, during the ride, Rue realizes their true intentions and jumps out of the car into oncoming traffic. Maneuvering between vehicles, she slips away and is now on the run.
Rue seeks refuge at the Howard household, where all of her other friends who she hasn’t ruined relationships with yet (Cassie, Lexie, Kat, and Maddy) are awaiting chaos. Now, Rue is bad, and she is getting progressively worse as her withdrawal intensifies and her body succumbs to the toxins.
Suze (Alanna Ubach), Lexi and Cassie’s mother, takes note of Rue’s state and tells Leslie where her daughter is, another intervention waiting in the distance. Once Rue comes out of the bathroom, Leslie comes into the house to try and talk sense back into her daughter.
Cassie puts her two cents in on the topic of Rue’s addiction, “Just take it one day at a time,” and it backfires. Majorly. Rue, seeing an opportunity to release some anger at the previous comment and to direct attention away from herself, asks Cassie, “How long have you been fucking Nate Jacobs?” Maddy’s ears perk up and she becomes aggressive towards Cassie, Kat tries to stop Maddy from doing this in front of Rue, Suze and Leslie urge the girls to take the conversation elsewhere, and Rue runs out the front door. She’s on the run, again.
Now, let’s go back to the man who has been there for Rue through thick and thin, Fezco. Rue uses her appearance as an excuse to use his bathroom because she “doesn’t feel well.” Fezco politely asks if she wants any Pepto Bismol before uncovering Rue’s true intentions of stealing some drugs from his bedridden grandmother to ease her withdrawals. Fezco, in Rue’s best interests, lifts Rue out of his house. Here she goes, again.
Taking the opportunity of an open garage, Rue sneaks into a nice house in search of anything she could potentially use as collateral for the $10k she owes Laurie, the drug lord I mentioned a while ago. She steals some jewelry, adding to the collection she started in Suze’s bathroom, and some cash from a safe whose password was easier to guess than most of this week’s Wordles.
However, her luck in thievery runs quite thin. She’s caught by the owners of the house she’s stealing from, only to swiftly evade capture. She’s stopped by the police while walking down the alley, who realize something suspicious is up. Rue, for the second time this episode, runs out into the middle of fast-moving traffic and incites a police chase, kind of like a game of Frogger. In an intense “Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner” chase through many backyards and dumpsters, Rue still staves off capture.
Nevertheless, desperation takes over Rue’s body as her luck spreads thinner, resorting to Laurie, the drug lord who she basically owes her life to at this point. Rue’s encounter with Laurie is filled with unease and suspicion, beginning with Laurie’s casual mention of Rue’s full legal name. Laurie creepily suggests, “I knew we would know each other for a long time.” In addition, knowing that Rue doesn’t have the money for the suitcase she took, Laurie lets Rue know that women and girls always have “something people want.” (This appears to be a suggestion for sex work, which may explain the weird scratching at the end of Laurie’s hallway behind the padlocked door. Perhaps, sex trafficking? She did threaten to sell Rue to some “real sick people” if her debt wasn’t paid.) Lastly, in a final act of manipulation, Laurie tells Rue that she doesn’t have any pills to ease her withdrawals, despite having loads of them in the closet. Instead, as Laurie helps Rue into the bathtub, Laurie injects Rue with an incredibly high dose of morphine.
Laurie’s intentions for Rue become clearer. It appears she always knew Rue would be unable to pay back the debt she owed her.
As Rue succumbs to the morphine while Laurie washes her up, we are given a flashback of her father giving her younger self a bath, suggesting that the loss of her father is yet another trauma that Rue has never really processed. Now, she allows herself to go numb.
After Rue’s morphine bath, she wakes up in Laurie’s apartment, dressed in clothes that aren’t hers, a space filled with men with guns who are presumably light sleepers, birds that chirp too loudly to allow for easy escape, and numerous locks on the doors making it even harder to leave. Will she escape? Yes, in a moment where her luck returns at just the right time.
Somehow, someway, Rue is still alive and makes it home.
What are Rue’s next steps? Will she actually get sober this time around, or will she manipulate her family yet again into getting what she wants? How is she going to bridge the relationships she has torn apart? Who’s going to pay for that suitcase and how? With money? Sex? A life?
This episode was one of, if not, the most difficult to watch from the entire series, but it reminded us of the show’s core: struggling with addiction and the immense consequences it can have on oneself and all of those trapped inside the storm it creates, suffocating from its torrential and violent winds of manipulation, trauma, and heartbreak.
The writing for this episode was some of the strongest seen this season, with no narration, as the entire episode focuses on Rue’s run from not just her family, but her true self. The camerawork borrowed from those of real police chases, which I think is absolutely genius, while still maintaining the beauty that the show is known for. The acting was absolutely phenomenal. Again, Zendaya deserves another Emmy for this episode. It helps when the show is centered and grounded on its main character, but this doesn’t discount any of the previous episodes’ triumphs. Altogether, I’m becoming increasingly eager to see how this season ends with everything (Rue’s addiction, the suitcase full of drugs, the Nate/Cassie/Maddy situation, Lexi’s play, and so much more) coming to a head.