‘Euphoria’ special episode proves thought-provoking but disappointingly long

Ali+makes+Rue+uncomfortable+as+he+asks+questions+about+what+led+up+to+her+relapsing.+There+is+a+very+intentional+use+of+pauses+between+each+of+their+lines+that+creates+an+underlying+tension.

Photo by Tallula Stvan ’21

Ali makes Rue uncomfortable as he asks questions about what led up to her relapsing. There is a very intentional use of pauses between each of their lines that creates an underlying tension.

Tallula Stvan ’21, Paper Arts Editor

“Euphoria” saw large success when it was released last summer with both immediate popularity and multiple Emmy nominations and wins. It centers around Rue, a 17-year-old grappling with a drug addiction and her relationships with family, friends, and the other students in her school. Season one of the series left off with the school’s prom and Rue’s best friend and love interest Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer) leaving the town.

A new special episode came out on Dec. 6 on HBO at 9 p.m. ET. Rue, played by Zendaya Coleman and Ali (Colman Domingo) meet at Frank’s Restaurant, where Ali prompts Rue to truly get to the root of a relapse she had gone through. He speaks about his own experiences and challenges each of her words. Rue opens up about her relationship with Jules and how her getting involved with another girl hurt Rue. She told Ali that Jules left Rue at the train station even though they were supposed to leave together. 

This episode is labeled as a documentary and it definitely evokes the feeling of an interview or cameras into a therapy session. While it holds strong messages about the disease that is addiction, it pales in comparison to the exhilarating nature of the previous episodes. 

As the entire episode takes place between two characters (excluding the waitress and Ali’s ex over the phone) and there are no depictions of partying, drug use or adventure that contributes to the fast-paced nature of season one, it lacks a lot of what people liked about the series. 

As the entire episode takes place between two characters … and there are no depictions of partying, drug use or adventure that contributes to the fast-paced nature of season one, it lacks a lot of what people liked about the series.”

— Tallula Stvan ’21

While the show has always had a strong attention to detail, the smaller visuals aspects of this special episode were of note. Lighting in the diner has a warm soft glow, making the outside seem even darker. It is used subtly to illuminate the rain on the pavement which complements the emotion in Ali’s face outside as he calls his ex-wife to speak to his estranged children. 

I think that the viewer is reminded that while Rue puts on a brave front, she is still merely a confused and defensive teenager who is struggling with addiction, for the most part, alone. While there is the potential for the heart of her character to get lost in the pandemonium of the first season, this episode is so genuine that who she is really comes through. This is due, in part, to the strength of Zendaya’s acting. 

She starts off going back and forth with Ali and standing her ground, but as the scene progresses you can see her start to shrink and her voice and body language change as he pokes holes in her mindset and thoughts regarding her addiction. 

Some of the greatest elements of the show- important messages on pertinent issues and acting that makes you feel like you know the characters yourself- were present in this episode. I would rate the episode 6 out of 10 as parts of it are dull, but I would still recommend watching it, especially if you plan to watch the upcoming episode and seasons that follow. 

A second special episode revolving around Jules will air on Jan. 24, 2021.