Euphoria’s finale is a pretty accurate reflection of life. It’s chaotic, confusing and structurally uneven as our characters stumble through their storylines to the other side, for better or for worse. It’s almost certainly going to be one of the most polarising finales of the year too, as HBO’s latest drama does its best to wrap up as many character plots as possible, whilst leaving just enough open for a potential second season. In a way it just about achieve this although some frustrating plot inconsistencies and a tendency for style over substance holds this back from being the explosive finish it so easily could have been.
Instead of the usual narration introducting the history of one key character, Euphoria begins right at the heart of the drama, following Rue as she tackles her kidney infection. She refuses to take Vicodin and blissfully revels in the lack of responsibilities she has in hospital while recovering. Life is good. Of course, this is fleeting at best as Rue is sucked back into her teen angst as Jules tells her about her time away and they both curse Nate Jacobs together.
It’s the night of the Winter formal at school and most of the teens prepare excitedly for the big night. We see each of them getting dressed up at home, including Fezco who dons a hooded jacket and eyes himself in the mirror before leaving with a loaded gun. Beautifully poetic narration from Rue’s Mum colours this portion of the episode too, discussing symmetry and balance, as we cut (presumably) forward in time. It’s the perfect recipe for what happens next but also sees the episode’s structure become unhinged the deeper down the rabbit hole we go.
Maddy and Nate continue to experience issues in their volatile relationship, dancing with other people only to find solace in their own crazed ideas of love. These two feel destined to be with one another; finding a strange addiction in their own chaos. In the midst of all this romantic angst, one good thing does come from the finale. Kat finally comes clean to Ethan about how she feels. They decide to leave together while Cassie and Lex wish them the best. This happens to be the eye of the storm for the episode, as everything around it spins out of control.
Rue catches up with Nate soon after and threatens him, telling him he can mess up his life but Nate bites back – telling him she doesn’t know everything about wild-child Jules. Nate knows exactly how to hit her where it hurts though, digging in to her own insecurities around her best friend and lover. This inevitably leads Rue and Jules to talk, as she asks whether she’s in love before deciding to leave town together.
As the episode reaches its crescendo, we cut between various characters as they hit breaking point. Cassie has an abortion, Rue and Jules tell each other how they really feel while Fezco robs a high-ranking official. As he stacks wads of cash into a bag, unbeknownst to him the man’s son watches on from the hallway. It turns out the robbery was essential – a play to square things with his dealer before ending in bloodshed.
Before Jules and Rue can leave town, Rue has second thoughts, deciding this isn’t the life for her. She says her goodbyes and watches as the train leaves the station – both metaphorically and physically. After her stint with drugs, everything appears to be coming into perspective for Rue and one final montage sees her understand the damage her drug addiction has had on her family. However, this happens to be a double bluff as the final scene of the episode sees Rue return to a life of drugs, beginning her slippery slope all over again.
Euphoria’s first season has been a wild, tumultuous ride. At times the narrative has teetered close to careering off track and the series has definitely valued its stylish visuals and aesthetic over narrative consistency. Having said that, the first season has managed to do well in conveying its thought provoking messages. Substance abuse and teen love are the main themes here and both are showcased to go hand in hand. It’s a cleverly written idea too – that love can be as destructive and powerful as drug addiction – and for the most part the series does well depicting this.
While some may lament the open ending and outright weirdness of the finale, I personally feel like the unhinged, chaotic and unstructured way this is depicted works well to reflect our own lives. A lot of us just stumble through life with no direction, going with the flow, and in many ways Euphoria showscases just that. With the exception of perhaps Kat, Cassie and Rue, the other characters don’t really get much of a send-off here though which is a little disappointing. I predicted weeks ago that Rue would turn back to drugs when Jules leaves but actually seeing this happen no less softens the blow.
Whether this will return for a second season remains to be seen but given the UK have picked this up to run on Sky Atlantic, a global audience can only mean more people get to experience this beautifully written show. It’s not perfect, and the ending does leave things open for more, but there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable finale nonetheless – weirdness and all.