“Euphoria” Episode 207 Recap: Opening Trite

The only reason I write about Euphoria is because I think it’s good. Don’t get me wrong, it can also be very, very, very bad, but if it wasn’t also good I wouldn’t bother. I went to film school — I’ve seen enough bad movies from people who think they’re geniuses to know the harshest critique I can give something is it doesn’t warrant discussion. When something is just bad, there’s not much to say. Sure, writing a total pan can be a fun creative exercise, but, for me, the point of criticism is to unravel and contextualize a work that provides enough to do that.

When I say I have no idea how to write about last night’s Euphoria I mean that in the worst possible way. It’s my job to recap this show each week so I will try my best to break down the reasons I found this episode incomprehensible. But, to be honest, it’d probably be better for you not to waste any more minutes on an hour of television that doesn’t deserve it. Instead might I suggest watching a work that plays with theatre, performance, and the falseness of reality with far more astuteness? Specifically, might I suggest watching John Cassavetes’ Opening Night?

I brought up John Cassavetes a couple weeks ago, because he’s often the filmmaker cited by auteurs who love improv — even though his films were meticulously planned. My guess is Sam Levinson loves Cassavetes just as much as he loves not planning. This episode may have been a tribute to people who have an intellect for theatre but really it was an attempt to mimic one of the great theatre movies: Opening Night.

Like that film, this episode drifts in and out of stage reality and real life. Unlike that film, it does not work.

We begin at Lexi’s play. She’s taking a deep breath before curtain and then we cut to an overture. In this moment, I realized I’d be a lot more sympathetic to Sam Levinson’s artistic flourishes if he was a teenage girl.

We then go to Lexi at the actual memorial for Rue’s dad. Lexi’s mom is comforting Leslie. Kat, Maddy, and Cassie are in the hallway played by the high school actors portraying them in the play. Lexi (who is playing herself) walks into Rue’s room and Rue (still Zendaya) is snorting her dad’s leftover meds. Lexi and Rue talk for a bit and Lexi reads her a poem and then we pull back to reveal Lexi on stage on a set of Rue’s bedroom. Fake Rue’s back is to the audience which, as a viewer, communicated to me that the play itself was not meant to exist in reality of the show as a play. But I’m not sure that was what it was meant to communicate.

One of the most frequent responses I get when I criticize Euphoria is the suggestion that I just don’t understand its artistry. I’m looking for realism in a show that embraces fantasy. I’m looking for narrative logic in a show that transcends things like character development and plot. I’m looking for substance in an exercise of style. The problem with this suggestion is that nothing Euphoria is doing is that inventive. Putting aside the film and theatre references the show itself presents, television as an art form has taken such greater risks. I can list obvious examples like Twin Peaks and The Leftovers, but even more grounded character pieces like Atlanta, Search Party, I May Destroy You, BoJack Horseman, and Better Things have taken far greater swings than this show has ever attempted.

My complaints with this episode are not things that are objectively bad. There are no rules to television, no rules to art. When I say, for example, that this episode again and again breaks its own internal logic, I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m saying it’s a risk that did not work — for me, as a critic, as the person writing this article that you clicked on, as the person whose opinion you’re reading instead of watching Opening Night.

The entire episode may take place around Lexi’s play, but I wish it had committed to that conceit more. I can make concessions that sometimes we cut from the play to real life inspiration that goes far beyond what Lexi would know. What I find baffling is the combination of Lexi’s play narration and classic Narrator Rue. What I find baffling is the detours that continue our characters from where they were in episode 206 but in ways that feel rushed and provide very little new information. If you’re going to make your episode a concept episode then do that! As is, it feels chaotic and muddled even for a show that’s always chaotic and muddled.

I understand what Levinson was trying to do cutting back and forth between the play and Fez getting ready for the play. The problem is when the play part of that equation is so much wider in scope and so much more confusing than it needs to be. The Fez timeline just becomes another timeline to track. We know early on that he won’t be making it to the play so the moments with him provide little other than dread — a dread that doesn’t get a payoff this episode and that’s undermined by too much else going on.

I’m not even dwelling on the play itself which, again, doesn’t seem to really exist within the reality of the show as a play. Sex Education — the anti-Euphoria — did such a good job in season two giving us a school play that obviously had a budget far beyond an actual school play BUT held a DIY charm that sold it. Here, Lexi has a seemingly endless number of realistic-looking sets. Which, again, isn’t that big of a deal — the far bigger problem is that the substance of the play is even more scattered than the show that contains it. At first, it seems like it’s about Lexi’s parallel relationships with her sister and her best friend. But by the end of the episode we’re getting a dance number, where the Nate Jacobs character and all his fellow locker room guys are being gay with each other.

Again, Lexi doesn’t have to be a good playwright. I’m just not really sure what I’m supposed to think about the whole affair. And, worst of all, I was bored.

I haven’t gone through this episode in my usual linear way, because I’m not sure the value in breaking down every moment here. We get flashbacks like child Lexi and Cassie getting in their dad’s car while he’s high. We get a sequence where Nate and Cassie recreate the Cal and Jules motel scene but then it turns into Cal fucking Nate and then Nate waking up in Cassie’s bed from a nightmare. Oh and we get a scene where Leslie tells Rue that she’s done trying and Rue can just kill herself?? Which feels totally off from where we left last week??

After this episode ends with Nate storming off and Cassie left heartbroken and a “To be continued…” on the screen, I got a wave of panic. Maybe last week was five not six and I should’ve watched six not seven. I thought maybe I’d skipped an episode. Nope! Levinson just decided to have this weird non-episode instead of dealing in a meaningful way with pretty much any of the threads left open last week.

I don’t know. I’m sure some of you will share my disdain for this episode. I’m sure some of you will be pissed at me in the comments and in my DMs. But one thing we all share is that we should watch or rewatch Opening Night.

More Glitter:

+ This episode was once again written and directed by Sam Levinson.

+ We see a moment where Lexi is on the phone with Fez worrying about the reaction people might have to this play. BABE. Even Jenny Schecter changed SOME information about her friends. You literally only changed the names.

+ I love that even Euphoria High’s theatre department has no rules. These kids WILL perform the second act of Into the Woods. These kids WILL sing “Contact” during their production of Rent.

+ Why is Ethan playing Lexi’s mom as well as Nate?? I feel like the high school theatre problem is you can’t get enough boys, so it’s way more likely that girls play boy parts than vice versa. Are we just supposed to think it’s funny that Ethan is dressed like a woman? I don’t get it.

+ The audience had Playbills. Did Lexi… did Lexi print out Playbills??

+ Last week, a bunch of people commented that the reason Nate darkened at 8 or so was because he found his dad’s tapes. Thanks for noting that from season one! I’d forgotten. I still think that explanation makes the most sense even with Nate’s Cal rape nightmare in this episode.

+ The only Kat moment we get in the play is her character doing her sexy cat dance… intercut with Nate and Cassie fucking?? Just because Kat is no longer a character doesn’t mean Levinson is going to give up sexualizing her body!

+ Fez is going to die, right? I assumed he would once Laurie gave Rue the suitcase of drugs. But it seems he’s going to die separate from that? Has Laurie just disappeared? She’s totally cool with Rue owing her money and escaping?

+ The best part of the episode is that Lexi’s mom was obsessed with every single moment of this play. Alanna Ubach’s laugh was the MVP.

+ I don’t want to dwell on Twitter drama, but it’s so funny to suggest that Euphoria — a show created by someone whose resume is co-writing his dad’s Bernie Madoff movie — is a work born from the theatre. Like… one of the best show’s on TV — P-Valley — was created by Katori Hall, an actual playwright.

+ Something I was thinking about a lot this episode that the show isn’t really engaging with is Cassie isn’t just dating Maddy’s ex-boyfriend. She’s dating her abusive ex-boyfriend. That feels like it would be the bigger issue if Levinson took any of the very serious things his show deals with seriously besides his narrow experience of addiction.

+ We have one more episode of the season but if you liked Opening Night, John Cassavetes made a lot of other great movies you could check out instead. Faces is my personal favorite. Or I can recommend some plays if you have an intellect for theatre. Or, I suppose, you can watch the finale with me — I doubt it could be worse than this week.


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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. Her writing can be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Thrillist, I Heart Female Directors, and, of course, Autostraddle. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about trans lesbians. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew Burnett has written 308 articles for us.

35 Comments

    • Agreed, Shanice! Drew has a unique perspective and vision for creative content, which is completely valid. Drew, I love your mentions of twin peaks, Mike Leigh, etc. I feel like you are watching this series with an open, yet educated mind. Keep it up, champ!

  1. The weirdest part of this episode to me, besides the completely random Kat camming scene that had no context, were the scenes with Cassie and Nate. Her wanting to be owned and controlled by him is a very hot kink dynamic … when it’s done by adults who actually understand what kink is!!!! The way it’s shown as her wanting abuse makes me very uncomfortable because Levinson does not have the range to explore that with nuance.

    Also, I hate that Nate said even one single thing that I agree with when he stormed out from the play and said that the scene was homophobic. He’s totally right but I wish someone other than him pointed it out because he has zero moral credibility.

    I have one extremely minute nitpick. Cassie and Lexi’s dad wasn’t drunk, he was likely high from opioids. His backstory is that he started using prescription painkillers after a car crash injury and then started injecting drugs.

  2. I’m confused about something (and I’m not even sure it matters because this show makes no sense, but it keeps bugging me). If I remember correctly, Rue told Lexi about “Tyler”, the guy Jules was sexting during season 1, and they quickly figured out that it was actually Nate. But Lexi supposedly doesn’t know about the tapes, or anything about Nate’s actual trauma. So the locker room scene, to me at least, implies that Lexi is saying Nate is actually closeted…. because he was into Jules (who is NOT a boy)? Or how else did she come to that conclusion? It just reads as kind of transphobic to me, but I don’t know if I’m missing something.

    • Yup!! It sucks!! I honestly wasn’t sure how much Lexi knew so I wondered if it was supposed to be random that she was calling him gay — like just commenting on how gay aggressive straight boys tend to be? But yeah if she knows about Jules — which you’re right I think she does — then the whole thing is super transphobic!!!

      The show has always used this sort of “well they can be bi” defense when it comes to associating queer men with being into trans women. It makes the whole thing just beyond obvious critique but again and again the show just feels kind of gross in what it’s vaguely implying.

      • I mean straight men seeking trans women DO use Grindr but yeah those are both good points to explain where Lexi is coming from. It’s soft transphobia instead of really explicit transphobia. lol

        Also unfortunately Nate IS right that it feels homophobic in the bad men are just secretly gay homophobia the show itself peddles in.

        • Yeah, I also remembered the dick pics from season 1 but I don’t think we ever saw Lexi learning that. Of course, it would be too much to ask for this show to be consistent on that kind of thing.

          I think what bothers me the most is that the show only ever uses the “Nate might be gay/bisexual” whenever it’s convenient and it’s always somehow alienated from his storylines. Like, his main character trait is that he’s abusive and violent, and his main plot points have to do with girls (Maddy, Jules and now Cassie), whom we’ve seen he actually enjoys having sex with or at least has feelings for! So apart from the dick pic fiasco, we’ve never seen any other implication that he’s actually queer, only sort of resentment towards his bisexual father. BUT THEN the show brings stuff like the locker room in the play and it makes it seem as if it’s making fun of and visible affecting Nate…. Because he feels called out? Because he’s embarrassed people might think he’s gay? Because it’s actually homophobic and he’s genuinely angry? We don’t know! So regardless of the true intentions of Lexi writing that, it’s clear that there’s some implication regarding Nate, but I just don’t know what it is. And I hate everything about this, lol.

          • Regardless Lexi’s intentions, it’s an old, homophobic joke: “these masculine guys… they’re gay buahuahahahaha!!!!”. I couldnt’ believe my own eyes tbh

          • I hate to defend the show but in the first season Maddy and Nate get into a fight because she told Cassie about the photos. It’s not out of the realm of realty that Cassie would tell her sister in a moment of closeness. That’s where my brain went as I saw that part. Unfortunately, because Sam Levinson is not a good writer audience have to search their brain for past scenes to fill in huge blanks

  3. You know, at first pass I was like hmm, I’m not as viscerally bothered by this episode as I have been generally this season, maybe this was a better episode. But in reading this (and thank you as always for this, Drew) I have realized that that lack of response was in fact just that—a lack of feeling and comprehension generally.

    The time/space/reality hopping is challenging because I spend more time trying to suss out where we are in time and place and if this is now something the characters know or don’t know or are dreaming or living. The show is asking too much of the viewer in a way that makes it tediously difficult to enjoy. Is it silly? Sometimes, but not enough. Is it serious? Often, but then doesn’t take itself seriously enough. Is it artful? Yes, but does it use art sparingly for impact, no, not anymore.

    It’s like Sam Levinson cocaine fever dreams onto the page each week and we’re all supposed to be like wow, genius. Except I’m not sure the genius is outweighing the madness here. It’s a fine line with shows of this nature.

    I often come back to Mad Men in my own mind when making a comparison. Because it too had characters who were morally corrupt and its creator too was somewhat sex obsessed almost to the point of ick. BUT somehow that show always held it all together with the glue of an advancing plot, clear linear timeline, and some level of boundaries and rules for each of its character.

    Euphoria has always been off the rails, but I continue to feel like it’s tipping now into territory that shifts it from interesting and weird to confusing and boring. It’s just Sam Levinson navel gazing. And honestly at this point I’m not sure where it’s going or if I care. Do other people care? Like what are we all looking forward to seeing from this show? Who are we rooting for? What are we tuning in for?

    • Also, it’s worth noticing/noting that the first season had a clear episode structure each episode, that has mostly been abandoned in season two. So what you’re left with is what feels like a wholly different show each week, stylistically.

      Is that a choice? Sure. But again to your point, Drew, it’s a swing and a miss here. It introduces chaos for chaos sake.

    • 100%. I do think it helps that Mad Men was created by someone with a history of making television AND that he collaborated with other people — including a lot of talented women some of whom he was unfortunately harassing but whose talent shows up on screen anyway.

      I used to watch the show for Rue, Jules, and Kat. But Kat isn’t a character, Jules is less of a character, and even Rue has been kind of absent for several episodes this season. So I agree after this week I was left feeling… why am I still watching. The special episodes gave me so much hope for this new season!!

      • Yes!! Precisely. The Covid hiatus hurt the intensity of my interest for sure, but I do recall being in it for Rue/Jules will they/won’t they of it all. Then the special eps were interesting background and character development. Then season two rolls around and to be somewhat fair, I do not remember most of season one, and I have not the time to rewatch now, but it seemed like they took all that the show built towards, made it happen almost as an after thought, and then tossed it immediately aside to dwell on other B-plots.

        I’m willing to accept it if I am an outlier here and maybe the show just isn’t for me. But I am glad to hear that you and others in the comments share those thoughts.

        And yes, totally, Mad Men was in comparison, a robust writing endeavor, painstakingly executed. I think Euphoria seeks to be such a show, but with just Levinson at the helm, it seems like his own vision is running away with him.

  4. The whole time I was watching this episode I was thinking how much I couldn’t wait to read your take.
    Somehow you’re one of the only people I see writing about this who can tell what is wrong with this show??
    I appreciate your recaps. This show has lost it. Why do I keep watching??

  5. Yep yep, all of this is totally spot on. I was looking forward to this episode as a theater kid who so far has maybe related to Lexi the most and I was just so BORED. The play made no sense, not only as a play itself but as a narrative device for the rest of the show. And I kind of thought “lol isn’t guys fucking each other hilarious” was a comedic device we didn’t really use anymore? Maybe that’s not how it was supposed to come across bc again I was checked out and not totally paying attention but it seemed that way to me

    And I completely agree about the Cassie / Maddy / Nate of it all. It’s so crazy to see people online (and honestly I guess the show itself) treat this as just a regular TV love triangle where you take sides, when Nate is an abusive manipulative sociopath and we should really be deeply worried about both of these women above all

    • Yea agreed on the locker room scene. It felt like something plucked from an early 2010’s teen comedy flick. As in, tired and unfunny. But is it supposed to be funny? The audience was laughing? But is the viewer supposed to read it as funny ha ha or as self-aware funny?

      And then there’s the coexistence of honestly my favorite snippet to date in the show, Cal’s flashback, where we see the same setting (locker room) from a more thoughtful and serious perspective through Cal’s story. So are we as viewers supposed to draw some sort of comparison or line from Cal’s locker room to now Nate viewing this play scene…and omg it’s like trying to find a pattern in sand on the beach. What are viewers expected to be taking from it all?!

    • Also Rue’s mom suddenly, after we last saw her fighting tooth and nail to get Rue into a rehab, telling her that she can just kill herself with drugs while shes just sitting there with her soberly watching TV, unfortunately did give me Finley’s Gen Q Intervention vibes

        • This “Levinson is good in writing addiction” is also a myth. The whole plot about Jules not recognizing Rue’s taking shovels of drugs is ridiculous. Her mother’s an addict, she would know. (The best episode of the show is actually about that!). Lexi also would know and Gia would know. There was a big theme of codependency running under the first series, but now it’s just laying there, not used apart from “Cassie wants to be loved because daddy issues” thing.

      • I assumed that the reason Leslie was talking like she had given up on Rue was because she felt really defeated and burned out after not being able to find Rue a place in inpatient rehab at the end of the previous episode. But, again, the show leaves us with barely enough into to come to our own conclusions!

    • I want to echo that this episode did not work for me. The timelines were confusing. 1. Was Kat Camming supposed to be a flashback, part of the play or has she gone back to camming again? 2. it really feels like we are getting build up to a Jules and Nate reconciliation and I am upset about it. I really would love to see Jules life outside of being a love interest again 3. I’ve seen some people say Nate was dressing Cassie up as Maddy but it seemed to me it was supposed be Jules or maybe a Maddy/Jules hybrid. 4. Sam is out of his depth when it comes to talking about sexuality and gender. I am really confused as to what point he thinks he is making with Nate and Cal. 5. Wtf was Rues mom speech?? 6. Ethans performance as Lexi and Cassie’s mom felt like Sam Levison watched the YouTube series Gayle and wanted to recreate it some how. 7. Where is Elliot? 8. I am dreading whatever Sam is going to do with Maddy and the Hot mom see point 4.

  6. I want to echo that this episode did not work for me. The timelines were confusing. Tried my best to organize my thoughts below.

    1. Was Kat Camming supposed to be a flashback, part of the play or has she gone back to camming again?

    2. it really feels like we are getting build up to a Jules and Nate reconciliation and I am upset about it. I really would love to see Jules life outside of being a love interest again…I extra would love for her to be nowhere near Nate.

    3. I’ve seen some people say Nate was dressing Cassie up as Maddy but it seemed to me it was supposed be Jules or maybe a Maddy/Jules hybrid.

    4. Sam is out of his depth when it comes to talking about sexuality and gender. I am really confused as to what point he thinks he is making with Nate and Cal.

    5. Wtf was Rues mom speech??

    6. Ethans performance as Lexi and Cassie’s mom felt like Sam Levison watched the YouTube series Gayle and wanted to recreate it some how.

    7. Where is Elliot?

    8. I am dreading whatever Sam is going to do with Maddy and the Hot mom see point 4.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this review; you have really thorough, yet generous, interpretations in reviews in general. I similarly found Lexi’s play and the whole concept episode a little boring… I didn’t feel we learned a ton even in terms of character background/childhood that we couldn’t have inferred from this point in the series, especially with just one episode left.

    Like you, I’m curious about Laurie and my guess is the finale will end with that situation swooping back in and setting the stage for season 3. Which, eh.

    I’m also glad you pointed out Cassie is dating Maddy’s *abusive* ex-boyfriend. It seems everyone is frustrated with Cassie for hating Maddy’s ex, which, okay, but not even Cassie’s mother is confused that Nate might attack Cassie??

    I hope Fez doesn’t die, and almost think he won’t because the preview teased it so heavily. My guess is on his brother or the blonde girl who lives with them? But perhaps Fez is arrested during a raid or etc.

  8. I actually really like this show. I’m a hardcore Rules shipper (when Rue gets her shit together at least), but this episode just seemed weird and uncomfy. I’m hoping the finale will be much better.

  9. Am I the only one who read Nate’s comment that the play was homophobic as an (admittedly ham-fisted) attempt at showing an arc of character development for him? They’ve been setting groundwork that Nate is changing in some ways – not into a good person, obviously, but into a different person, in a bunch of ways that directly relate to this: his dad just came out as gay and left the family, his mom told him he’s been screwed up since childhood (aka ever since he found his dad’s secret gay life tapes), he gave the DVD back to Jules (when he could have used it for further blackmail) and told her he “meant every word.”

    That said, he’s also obviously simultaneously using it as an excuse to dump and further torture Cassie, his nearly-broken stockholm-submissive bae. It’s a two-fer.

    Nate remains a psychopath, but a psychopath with a character arc.

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