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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

A wobbly finish: Season 2 Episodes 7 and 8 of “Euphoria”

A creative and introspective spectacle with no goal, the finale was not worthy to wrap up Season 2 of “Euphoria.”
euphoria
HBO Max
Lexi (Maude Apatow) and the actress who plays Rue (Aja Bair) in the trippy spectacle that was Lexi’s play. Screenshot by Deniz Orbay (HBO Max/Euphoria)

I am writing about the last two episodes of Season 2 in a single article. I am definitely doing this because they are connected and not because I forgot to write an article about Episode 7 in time. Good thing the finale was underwhelming—now I don’t feel as bad about it.

“Euphoria” has always known how to masterfully cross the line between fantasy and reality, and Season 2’s finale was the epitome of such mind-bending narrative structures. The two episodes cover the long-anticipated play Lexi wrote throughout the season and we never know if a scene is on or off the Eastland High stage. The show is the play; the play is the show. Seamless cuts between the show’s characters and the actors that play them in the play make it impossible to decipher which visual medium we are watching at any given moment.

The question thus becomes: why? Sam Levinson’s masterful direction entrances the viewer in this fuzzy middle between show and play, but this achieves nothing but bragging rights for the creator. He flaunts the fact that he can create this beautiful visual spectacle with no substance to further the plot. The two episodes were a painting or a music video, not a season finale.

Lexi’s play is reflexive, nostalgic, self-referential. It looks backwards into the past, delving deeper into the characters and exploring Lexi’s relationship with the main girls of the show. The issue is that “Euphoria” has done enough reflection this season, and as a viewer I wanted some setup for the next season.

I do have to give credit where credit is due, of course. The play itself is beautifully crafted by Lexi (and Levinson) and both the backstage scenes and audience reactions (especially those of Lexi’s mother) creates a fun viewing experience. I especially enjoyed watching Episode 7, where Ethan of all people stole the show with his performance—or rather his performances. He played everyone that wasn’t one of the main girls: he plays Nate, Suze and the absent father of the Howard sisters. He finally gets his time in the spotlight, literally.

The highlight of his performance comes when his rendition of Nate and the entire football team give it their all in a very homosexually-coded choreography of “Holding Out For a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler, poking fun at the repressed locker room culture of high school athletics. Sexual innuendoes fly hither and thither as Ethan steals the show in skin-colored leggings and a bare chest. Nate, granted, does not take kindly to this portrayal. Acting like he definitely isn’t bricked up, he storms out, taking his anger out on Cassie for being the sister of such a—and I quote—“homophobic” person. He ends things with her, leading her to lose her mind for the umpteenth time this season.

The locker room scene is an example of what I mean by beautiful, but empty. I loved that scene, and countless other moments in the play, but they were nothing but fillers when we should’ve been spending time developing the plotlines of the many characters Levinson ignored this season. Kat, as much as I hate her, is an interesting character that engenders an important message regarding sexualization and self-love. Jules, arguably the most unique character in any show I’ve seen, is cast aside as a cheater with nothing to do but keep fueling Rue’s downward spiral. But instead of getting more screentime with them, we watch a play, albeit a fun one, that recounts past events. Not the best choice for a season finale.

Speaking of Nate, we realize just how deep his childhood trauma actually goes. In a creepy dream where Cassie, Jules, Cal and Nate shapeshift into each other, recreating the iconic motel interaction in the very first episode, Cal bends over Jules—but instead of Jules we see Nate lying on the bed, terrified. The psychosexual relationship between the two is probably one of the most unique aspects of this show and I’m glad it acknowledges the heavy toll something like seeing your dad’s sex tape would have on an unexpecting child.

Nate apparently has said dream constantly, which he tells his dad before revealing that he turned him in for his crimes. The cops take Cal away from the unfinished real estate project he and his newly-acquired assortment of (queer-coded) friends were hanging out in, leaving us wondering the route Cal’s character will take in the next season.

Oh, remember how I told you Cassie went off the rails? She storms onto the stage, sarcastically making fun of how “hard” Lexi’s life is. She criticizes everything that Lexi put in her play and finally brings up how her character in the play was not wrong in sleeping with Nate’s character. This leads to an annoyed Maddie yelling from the crowd and eventually attacking Cassie. As she should. The girl who claims to love fighting apparently does love fighting after all.

The biggest climax that happened in the finale was the storyline involving Fez and Ashtray. Ladies and gentlemen, the beloved Ash has died. The preteen gangster/dealer/crypto enthusiast was shot in the head by a SWAT officer after a shoot-out in the brothers’ house. R.I.P Ash. You will be missed.

Why, you ask? Because the scumbag Custer, Faye’s boyfriend, ratted out Fez and Ash for Mouse’s and he tried to record them talking about said murder. So, Ash, having seen that killing people works out in the end, decides to shove a razor into Custer’s throat. I’m not saying that Custer didn’t deserve it, I’m just saying if Ash hadn’t been so quick to act maybe he’d still be alive. He is (or rather was) literally a child, though, so I’ll let this one slide. Poor Fez, though. And poor Lexi, who waited and waited for Fez to show up. I am incredibly annoyed that their relationship will be put on hold due to Fez’s possible incarceration, but I’m hoping love finds a way.

Despite the action-packed sequence of Ash and Fez, I don’t think Episodes 7 and 8 were a good ending to this season. Most of the scenes reeled us in with gimmicks and tricks but had no actual substance. It was more of Levinson saying ‘Look what I made!’ and we can admittedly all agree what he made is beautiful, chilling, funny, all of the above. Except for the five minutes Elliot sang in Episode 8. That was long, unnecessary and just straight-up bad.

Will I be tuning in for Season 3? Absolutely. There is still much to explore from Cal and Fez’s time in jail to Maddy and Cassie’s rediscovering themselves. I also expect Jules to be a more prominent character and Kat to actually be important again. I just hate the fact that I will probably have to wait a long while again to see that happen.

New “Euphoria” episodes no longer come out at 8 p.m. CST every Sunday on HBO Max.

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About the Contributor
Deniz Orbay, Former Senior Staff Writer
Deniz Orbay (25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science double-majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science and minoring in Cinema and Media Arts. He writes for Life and News, is a big movie nerd and is better than average at every sport in which a ball is used. You can reach him at [email protected].
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