Over California State University, Monterey Bay’s winter break, HBO released two special episodes of “Euphoria” which focused on the aftermath of season one’s winter dance. The film and television giant made it clear that this is not season two, but an interlude where we follow up with the fan favorite, glitter-eyed teen couple of Rue and Jules.
When viewers left Rue and Jules at the end of season one, Jules was trying to get Rue to run away with her to the city. Both characters were feeling suffocated by life in the suburbs – Rue found it difficult because of her struggles with mental illness and addiction and Jules, with an open heart and seemingly delicate nature, is sick of facing trauma at the hands of the men in her town.
Each episode takes on a perspective of an individual character’s perspective and both episodes stay true to the character’s aesthetic throughout the first season. Rue’s episode is dark, moody and broody, while Jules’ episode has a dreamlike, ethereal element.
Rue’s titular episode was structured in one continuous shot at a diner on Christmas Eve. Rue is having a conversation with her sponsor, Ali. It is very self-reflective as Ali pushes Rue to ask herself some really deep and meaningful questions about her lifestyle.
Central to the series is Rue’s struggle with bipolar disorder and its comorbidity with her addiction to drugs. Her sobriety is constantly in question and largely dependent on her relationship with Jules. Though their relationship is filled with love and understanding, at times there is a toxic codependency.
In her episode, Rue is angry with Jules for her decisions at the train station after the dance. In her mind, Jules’ actions laid evidence that Jules didn’t truly care for her. This was the first time that Jules did anything for Rue to be angry with her about, and Rue categorized it as Jules being emotionally manipulative.
There is much to take away from Rue’s conversation, and people who struggle with mental illness or addiction might find the content of this episode at times triggering, and always self-reflective. The winter storm provides symbolism for the troubles Rue faces, while bringing with it the promise that after storms come rainbows and a fresh start.
Jules’ episode follows a similar structure; however the way time is portrayed is more non-linear, with lots of flashbacks. Some scenes are hazy with a dreamlike quality. Jules is also having an important conversation about mental health and also features thoughts around her transgender identity, involving her decision to physically transition. She also faces introspection.
Jules is speaking with a therapist, and we are led to infer this is a result of her decision to run away. She discusses her identity in a meaningful way, addressing the nuance and fluidity that transness can sometimes be.
She notes that she has created a persona based on what she believes men find attractive. This is a very interesting conversation because she reveals that her femininity and her gender expression have been delicate and hyper-feminized because she wanted to appeal to men. But as she explores gender and sexuality, she realizes that what she thought were womanly and manly qualities are merely dictated as so by the gender binary. She realizes that she doesn’t have to abide by these social constructs, wanting to be ever-evolving and saying, “I don’t ever want to stand still.”
Both episodes provide a more in-depth look at the internal struggles the characters face. The writers of Euphoria have created multi-faceted, complex characters that are representative of the very real traumas that young people often face. The show carries meaningful representation, portraying these struggles realistically (though sometimes through a lens of pink neon lights and glitter tears.)
Though there is exaggeration, at the end of the day this show has the ability to make people feel seen. This may be part of the reason it is so wildly successful in its intended age group. Season two is set to start filming early this year, so viewers can expect it to premiere late 2021 or early 2022.