There’s a particular neurosis, loneliness, and heartache that feels intrinsic to being a teenager. While cultural backdrops change, creating new flavors and complications for the coming-of-age narrative, there is a resonance that transcends particular moments in time and makes these explorations of self compelling for audiences of all ages. With Euphoria, show creator Sam Levinson creates a stunning portrayal of these anxieties that has achieved both popular attention and critical praise for its dense, darkly realistic storytelling. Levinson has spoken publicly about the writing of the show drawing from his own struggles with addiction as a teenager, and this shows through in the authentic storytelling and the—at times frustratingly—multidimensional characters.
Loosely adapted from the Israeli miniseries by the same name (created by Ron Leshem and Daphna Levin), the first season of Euphoria followed seventeen-year-old Rue Bennett (Zendaya) who, as soon as she returns home from rehab for her drug addictions immediately visits her friend and dealer to buy drugs. From then on, it’s a push and pull between life and death, healing and self-destruction. In all of its plotlines, Euphoria doesn’t pull any punches, diving deep into the experiential dimensions of gender dysphoria, mental illness, and sexual assault. Its tone and themes are reminiscent of Skins, another teenage drama that dove into the gritty parts of growing up, but let's face it: Skins is downright nostalgic at this point. Euphoria brings the transgressive teenage experience into the contemporary moment with distinctive flourishes that set it apart in a crowded streaming market.
Everything from the show’s aesthetic to its music to its commentary on the ongoing opioid epidemic to a collective, generation-wide malaise and disaffection rings alarmingly true. If you’re curious about how this impactful show is going to come back, keep reading for all of the information we have and the questions we’re still pondering.
Where Did We Leave Rue at the End of the First Season?
It seems like ages ago that the first season ended. It was a relatively slim volume, with only eight episodes. The final installment “And Salt the Earth Behind You” showed a wish unfulfilled. Rue and Jules (Hunter Shafer) have an opaque relationship throughout the season as they both struggle with their own sets of mental health and community issues. After a series of disruptions and reconciliations, Jules confesses to being in love with Rue and they create a plan to leave town together. At the last minute, Rue decides not to. The season ends, then, with Jules on the train heading out of town and Rue snorting oxy alone.
Luckily, this piece of the plot hasn’t been left to dangle indefinitely. Two specials—which aired on December 6, 2020 and January 24, 2021, respectively—provide some follow-up on the two girls. The first one focuses on Rue as she confronts her relapse and the sequence of events leading up to it. She blames Jules for abandoning her, but ends up surfacing some of the underlying traumas and pressures that have contributed to her addiction. The second episode provides some context for what happened to Jules at the end of the last season. After leaving on the train, Jules went to therapy for the first time and talks through some of the feelings she’d been trying to process regarding Rue: feeling guilty for leaving her but also overwhelmed by the responsibility of trying to support Rue in her recovery while also sorting out her own experiences as a transgender teen whose mom was also a recovering addict. When Jules gets home, she’s greeted by Rue. Jules tries to apologize but Rue shuts it down.
What these episodes offer is a kind of reassurance that despite the ambiguity of the end of the first season, Rue’s story is not over. She survives her relapse and continues to try to make meaning of the messy, jarring situation around her. Likewise, Jules’s trip out of town does not mean that the character is gone. But while there were some immediate questions answered in these special episodes, there is still a lot left up in the air that will come into play as these complicated characters continue to navigate their lives and relationships, particularly those subplots and ensemble characters whose trials weren’t immediately addressed in the specials.
When Will Season 2 Air?
Like every other production in Hollywood, Euphoria’s filming schedule has been disrupted by COVID. Originally, the show was supposed to be released in 2021. Instead, production got pushed back and has been underway this year. So, while there hasn’t been a definitive date set for release, the light is there at the end of the tunnel for fans who have been continually stalking Zendaya’s Instagram for clues. Back in January of this year, Levinson was confident season 2 would both get shot and debut in 2021.
What Will the New Season Be About?
There isn’t a ton of confirmed information about the plot of the second season. We know that it will continue in the vein of the first season, building on the complex lives of the characters that audiences already know and care about.
We also know that it will be quite dark. In separate interviews, co-stars Zendaya and Jacob Elordi have stressed that the new arc goes to some brutal, truly surprising places, with Zendaya calling it “brutal” and stating that Rue deserves “care, because she is a special character.” Eldori has said it’s “like a completely different show.”
It seems likely that the overwhelming success of the first season will help the production team to settle into their disturbing, glittery vision of young America with even more fervor and honesty. It also bears mentioning that the world that this new season is being released into is dramatically different from the landscape of the original season. As the show deals with so many dense, contemporary societal traumas, it will be fascinating to see how this plays against the backdrop of the pandemic.
Will the Cast Be the Same?
Based on the interviews and the threads that were extended in the specials, we can definitely expect to see Zendaya, Elordi, and Shafer again. It also seems likely that much of the stunning ensemble cast will be returning, including Lexi Howard (Maude Apatow), Cal Jacobs (Eric Dane), Maddy Perez (Alexa Demie), Gia Bennett (Storm Reid), McKay (Algee Smith), Cassie Howard (Sydney Sweeney), and Ali (Colman Domingo).
Additionally, in August there were confirmation of three newcomers to the show: Minka Kelly, Demetrius “Lil Meech” Flenory Jr., and musician Dominic Fike. It remains to be seen how the new characters will be interwoven into the existing narratives, but if the first season is any indication, we can expect fraught relational dynamics to emerge between any given pairing or grouping of them.
Will Labrinth Return to Do the Soundtrack?
It’s honestly impossible to watch Euphoria without falling in love with the musical stylings of Labrinth, the combined rapper, singer, songwriter, and music producer who is responsible for the show’s disturbingly flowy soundtrack. The music fits the show’s aesthetic perfectly, underscoring all of the textures of the narrative, using complicated electronic pop to encapsulate the mixed, layered experience of an adolescence that is both extravagant and harrowing. Luckily for all of us, Labrinth will be involved with the music for the second season as well. It’s hard to imagine the show without Labrinth, so this is a big reassurance and reason enough to put “Mount Everest” on repeat until the season premiere.
KEEP READING: 'Euphoria' Special Episode 2 Review: Sometimes Crisis Is Cathartic
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