‘Euphoria’ season premiere satisfies, lives up to acclaimed first season

Recently, the second season of ‘Euphoria’ premiered in an excellent follow-up to its acclaimed first season.

Graphic by Finnegan Courtney '23

Recently, the second season of ‘Euphoria’ premiered in an excellent follow-up to its acclaimed first season.

Graphic by Finnegan Courtney ’23

HBO’s critically acclaimed and award-winning teen drama ‘Euphoria’ returned on Jan. 9 with the first of its eight-episode second season after its incredible first season, and I’ll admit: it certainly lived up to it.

Premiering in the summer of 2019, the show quickly garnered critical acclaim and rave reviews from critics, fans and myself alike. Specifically, the cast received universally positive feedback, such as Zendaya who plays lead character Rue in the show, who received awards for her performance including an Emmy for Best Actress. 

Since then, two special episodes were released last year, set in between both seasons. While I was excited about these episodes, I ended up disappointed as the first was overly long and even bland at times. While the second had a great plot and acting from Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules, it didn’t move the story ahead and now, following my watching of the second season’s first episode, I am further perplexed as the only thing that made the plot go forward was undone in the premiere.

Upon the release of the second season, the show broke the viewing record of HBO Max, HBO’s streaming platform. Overall, the show, production-wise, took an interesting path in its new season, with specific lighting and camera angles which gave the show a new feel, including filming the second season on discontinued film. This gives the second season a new, engaging visual experience, in stark contrast to the first season’s distinct style. Personally, coming into this season, I was worried about whether or not it would be able to live up to the first season, which I loved. However, less than 10 minutes in, my fears were assuaged.

In the first act of the episode, the show provides a spotlight for the backstory of one of the main characters, Fezco (played by Angus Cloud), who while popular among fans, didn’t get nearly enough screen time in season one in my opinion. Seeing him get a true backstory and spotlight upon his character instantly made me happy with the direction the showrunners went with for the second season. The episode also, thankfully, returned to the first season’s roots of chaos and wild partying and the pedal to the medal-style that led to the popularity.

However, in this episode, the main standout for me were two performances, the first of whom was Zendaya (who always seems to deliver) who proves time and time again why her Emmy was well-deserved.”

— Finnegan Courtney '23

However, in this episode, the main standout for me were two performances, the first of whom was Zendaya (who always seems to deliver) who proves time and time again why her Emmy was well-deserved. Rue is certainly the most complex character in the show, as it is based around her life, in particular her struggles with drugs. And as was true in the first season, Zendaya puts in a stellar performance as the troubled teen. Particularly, every scene that Rue has with Jules in the premiere is just magical, as the two share great chemistry and electrify the show through the screen.

The other was Sydney Sweeney who, coming off another major project (‘The White Lotus,’ which I cannot recommend enough, go watch!) has an emotional, at times close to comical performance as Cassie. Following the first season, she is on a journey to find herself, yet it goes anything but. It leads to her cheating on her best friend with her boyfriend, an entirely intense, cringe-worthy and laugh-worthy sequence of her being trapped in a bathtub while trying to avoid her best friend and a heartfelt conversation with her ex-boyfriend. Overall, it’s a wide range of emotions yet Sweeney is able to cut through and puts in a great performance.

Beyond that, the show certainly builds intrigue for the rest of the season with a shocking conclusion and a rather violent beatdown of a universally loathed character, which is a great recipe for hooking viewers in.

Overall, this latest season of ‘Euphoria,’ even just an episode in, is shaping up to be nothing short of brilliant, with this episode being among some of the best television I have ever seen. If you have not watched it, please stop reading and go do just that – you’re missing out. Without a doubt, this is a five-star classic of a season premiere.