Higher Than Mount Everest
After last week’s lukewarm pilot episode, Euphoria returns with a much more driven focus, doubling down on its drama to deliver a surprisingly tense and engrossing hour of artistic teen character building. While messages around porn and its damaging effect on youth still play heavily over parts of the show, Rue’s peer pressure when being faced with drugs and her damaged family life as a result of this are surprisingly effective in keeping everything tied together cohesively, much more so than the first episode did.
We begin by seeing a little boy watching his Dad’s homemade porn movies. This little boy slowly becomes driven to perfect his body, growing up to become the jock we met in the pilot episode, Nate. With a fair amount of male frontal nudity, we see his college football life and blossoming relationship with Maddy over a slickly produced montage piece.
We then cut back to see Rue and Jules begin to hit it off together. As school picks up again after the Summer, Rue is forced up on stage to talk about what she’s been up to during the break. The break she spent predominantly in rehab. After fumbling her words a little, she picks out one memory that starts well enough – singing a song in a car – which quickly devolves into a drug fueled, angry outburst at home over the words of Bobby Womack’s ‘Fly Me To The Moon’.
Kat then receives a text that causes her chest to tighten. It turns out when she lost her virginity, it was recorded and put up for the world to see. She confronts the boys who uploaded it, threatening to go to the police given she’s still a minor so the story is then changed. This leads Kat into the Principal’s office where he ask her if she’s the girl from the videos. She accuses him of body shaming which makes him back pedal and promise to do everything in his power to find the culprit.
Nate, meanwhile, tries to patch things up with Maddy, offering to take her out on a date while Jules and Rue grow closer together. However, things get heavy when Fez invites a dangerous man called Mouse into the house while Rue is there scoring drugs. With a gun stuffed down the side of the sofa, Fez watches cautiously as the man offers her Fentanyl; a powerful, quick-hitting drug. Things get pretty intense and the room silences to a hush as they await what Rue will do next. She prays to the heavens above to let her survive and she takes the drug.
On the war path, Nate heads to the house of the guy who slept with Maddy and accuses him of raping a minor. Nate threatens him, telling him to get on his knees before beating him repeatedly in a bid to beat a confession out of him. Crying and whimpering, the boy refuses to admit to it. After beating him to a pulp, Nate casually helps himself to a shower before putting his clothes back on and heading to Maddy’s where he taunts her. After screwing her in an alleyway, he gives Maddie a present – an unflattering pink dress.
Meanwhile, Rue begins to black out and, without the money to pay for her high, Mouse looks to take advantage of her until Fez steps in to pay. Unfortunately, he charges him double; a small price to pay than allowing Rue to being screwed over. After Mouse leaves, Rue takes a turn for the worst, prompting Jules to help Fez drive her to her place where she engages in a conversation with shyguy over text. Here, we find out his name is really Tyler.
Much improved from the first episode, Euphoria finally feels like its found its purpose here, delivering the right level of tension and teen angst to make it a surprisingly effective drama. While the amount of male genitalia in the first 10 minutes was a little left-field, and something I certainly didn’t see coming, it’s an interesting stylistic choice nonetheless and one that gets its message across in a relatively artistic manner.
To me at least, this segment felt like a reflection of Nate’s sexual upbringing, having seen his Father engage in pornography online. It highlights his detachment and how he views others in a stereotypical, resentful sexual manner. This idea also plays into his conversation with Maddy late on when he asks about the sexual encounter with the boy he beat up.
Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but next to Nate’s journey, some of Rue’s material this episode brought back some pretty uncomfortable home truths. Seeing Rue in a room, peer pressured into trying new drugs and seeing her hitting out at her family are pretty realistic and, speaking from experience, certainly nail the right level of shock and drama.
Drugs can give you the best feelings in the world. Some of my fondest memories are from parties where I dropped ecstacy and spent the night listening to Gatecrasher Classics on repeat until we all hit an almighty comedown. It could also be an alien, horrible experience, returning home to my mundane family life and resenting them for looking at me with disappointment, given the dark rings around my eyes and instinctive gurning (grinding teeth). This side of Euphoria is what I really admire the most about the show. These little shades of grey to show the good and bad side of taking drugs is really nicely written and very much appreciated.
The soundtrack to the show is surprisingly good too, drawing on a wide pool of genres and ending with a suitably fitting montage segment with Mount Everest by Labrinth. It’s not the best drama released this year, but it is one of 2019’s more unusual, artistic and interesting shows, one that finally feels like its found the right groove to settle on.