This Euphoria recap of episode 202 contains spoilers
When I was in high school, I had several teachers, several friends’ parents, and even a therapist tell me that I was the most self-aware kid they’d ever met. It’s funny to think about that, knowing I was closeted to myself — even funnier to think about all the other less obvious things I didn’t know, too.
What these adults actually meant was that I could articulate a story about my interior life in a way that was convincing. It didn’t necessarily have to be the truth or the entire truth, just clear, just using the right language.
As Instagram infographs spread and viral TikToks teach people about themselves, I’d imagine it’s easier than ever to be this kind of kid. Euphoria has never been a show that feels especially astute when it comes to teens today as it is entirely written by a 37 year old and has teen actors ranging in age from 23 to 31. But if it gets one thing right about today’s teens — and teens in general — it’s in the stories these kids tell themselves about themselves, the misguided self-awareness of youth.
The episode begins with Nate, beaten to a bloody pulp, being rushed to the hospital with Maddy and Cassie by his side. Narrator Rue muses about Nate being in love with Cassie and I groaned with indifference. This opening culminates in a montage where Nate is imagining a life with Cassie and I’m really trying to get on Sam Levinson’s level and not be a prude but God he sure does love to show Sydney Sweeney naked again and again and again. The most interesting part of this opening is the flash we get of Jules — proof that even in his ultimate fantasy Nate can’t help but think of her.
I get it — I would still be thinking about Jules, too. We see her at school in a great pair of low rise jeans and a white graphic tee. Rue narrates that she has everything she could ever wish for and then she kisses Jules.
This is all I’ve ever wanted from this show so why does it feel so bad?? Maybe because Rue is in such a bad place and trying to hide that from Jules. Last season did a good job capturing the appeal drugs have for Rue — this season is showing their dark side.
Jules says “I love you” and Rue doesn’t respond because she’s too busy staring at Elliot. He comes over and there’s a very awkward scene where Rue is nervous about Elliot revealing they’ve been doing drugs together which Jules mistakes for Rue trying to hide romantic feelings. It ends with Jules walking away barely holding back tears.
Last week, I wondered what the show would do without new characters to focus on and this week we get our answer. While the episode begins like it’s going to focus on Nate, Narrator Rue ends up bouncing the story from character to character the whole episode. It makes for an exhausting hour of television, but what is Euphoria if not exhausting.
We learn that Cassie had been committing herself to abstinence. This is the kind of narrative I was talking about. Sometimes it’s absolutely good to take a break from sex. But it’s also an extremely juvenile thing to make a grand declaration like I rely too much on sex so I’m not having it ever — only to give in by fucking your best friend’s abusive ex. She’s a mess and only gets more upset when Maddy calls to brag about a sweet text Nate sent her from the hospital.
Speaking of Maddy… she might be going from Nate’s B Team to the B Team. She’s working as a babysitter because she likes trying on the mom’s fancy clothes and when this mom — played by Minka Kelly — gets home there’s a tense moment where the mom has Maddy unzip her dress. I’m not saying they’re going to fuck but the mom definitely wanted to fuck her!
The Cassie/Maddy/Nate drama is boring to me. I don’t care about Maddy’s blackmail — beyond its effect on Jules — or Nate and Cassie’s forbidden love. I would gladly accept a story shift where Maddy leaves her toxic Nate obsession and starts fucking a mom. Like yes, officially, that’s gross because she’s in high school but Alexa Demie is 31 so, like, you’re either on board with Euphoria sexualizing its teenage characters or you’re not. (I’m officially not — but as long as we’re here I’ll take the oldest cast member having a mommy issues fling.)
When Maddy, Jules, Kat, and Kat’s boyfriend Ethan are out bowling, Maddy tells Jules that she’s jealous of Kat. She says that she’s just not sure she could ever be in a relationship that didn’t have darkness. Jules commiserates. Here’s another narrative. It’s easier to think you’re built differently than to imagine you could eventually learn to respect yourself more.
Of course, Kat isn’t happy either. Ethan is a total dweeb and she’s having sexual fantasies of a Game of Thrones warrior killing him and ravishing her. She feels super guilty about this and haunted by a world of hashtag feminism models encouraging her to love herself more. It can feel empowering to say I hate myself. I don’t think I deserve the good kind of love. It’s a lot harder to say that maybe the “nice guy” you’re with just isn’t doing it for you. That maybe at 17 you haven’t found the person you want to be with and you’d rather be alone. Self-deprecation is a form of control. It’s difficult to accept you have none. But, babe, Ethan?? If you really loved yourself, you’d KNOW you deserve better!
And then we have Lexi who has spun a tale about Fezco, the drug dealer with a heart of gold. She is meek so to be who she wants to be, she must date someone who is edgy and strong. There are other choices, Lex!! Then again all the guys at this high school suck even more than your average high school guy, so maybe Fez really is the best choice.
Elliot is not so bad. Except that he and Rue are bringing out the worst in each other. He keeps saying this, but he’s crushing too hard to stop. And Rue is crushing too hard on being around someone she can openly use with. Rue’s self-narrative is the most destructive — that her life doesn’t matter, that she’s destined to die young. Elliot notes that Rue is probably using because of her dad dying and Rue is quick to say it’s not that simple. Maybe it’s not, but it’s convenient for Rue to feel that dying from an overdose is her destiny rather than circumstantial.
There’s a part of her that wants a different story. That part drags herself to a meeting where Ali is there to greet her. He drives her home and walks her in and tells her mom she has a long way to go without fully ratting her out.
There are the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories we tell about others. And everyone in Rue’s life is telling a story about being there for her while selectively oblivious to her relapse. I don’t blame Rue’s mom or Jules for choosing ignorance, but Rue isn’t hiding her drug use as well as she thinks. And if they don’t start telling another story soon, Rue’s narrative will have its not so inevitable end.
+ The big cliffhanger of the episode is Nate confronts his dad about Jules and we get a hint that if Maddy finds out about Cassie, she’s going to release the tape of Nate’s dad and Jules to the world. I really, really hope not?? And would she even do that since she’s getting closer with Jules? Maybe she’d just share a video with the random guys instead.
+ Once again this episode was written and directed by Mr. Levinson.
+ Maddy at one point casually uses the R word. Can someone tell me if bitchy teens still use the word like that? It felt very 2006 and very unnecessary.
+ Kat not being able to think of a single con on her pro/con Ethan list… babe. Big Nice Guy has a chokehold on our nation.
+ I liked the too-brief moments of Jules and Kat and Maddy bowling. I would like more moments like this, please. Even the edgiest teens have casual fun sometimes.
+ The only scene we get just focused on Jules is when her dad asks if Rue is a good influence. I hope the next episode spends more time with Hunter and her haircut!
oh god I so agree about Nate and Cassie. corny, lame, boo, throwing tomatoes! also agree that Sydney’s constant nudity feels male gaze-y and icky.
everyone on Reddit is OBSESSED with Lexi and Fez. I don’t get it. I want to know Lexi more and I’m glad Fez got a backstory, but why does this need to be a romantic thing? seems like they just threw the most likeable characters at each other out of fan service. and even if their age gap is only a couple of years, Lexi is so inexperienced compared to the life Fez has lived, which widens that gap emotionally. I also don’t think she needs to get involved with Rue’s dealer – don’t see it ending well for her.
this episode honestly gave me whiplash, there was so much going on. but not in a good way? I’m definitely not enjoying this season so far. maybe the bridge episodes raised the bar too high? you can definitely tell it’s just Sam Levinson writing by himself again.
In regards to the R word – unfortunately yes. They were using the word in 2020. I was so shocked by how casually they used it with each other.
I watch this show sometimes for Zendaya’s awesome performance and for Rue + Jules BUT I don’t think any other show has made me feel like such an Old. I mean I’m only in my 30s / no kids / never want kids but I’m still constantly like WHERE ARE YOUR PARENTS??? (it will surprise no one that I was extremely boring in high school)
Yes teens are still saying the the R word.
Also Lexi being totally into fez tracks to me. But I’m surprised how popular the ship already is??? There is no way this relationship doesn’t end terribly.
The line, “it’s easier to think you’re built differently than to imagine you could eventually learn to respect yourself more” holy hell. The entirety of my adolescence and twenties self just shook.
great work! i am a big fan of your reviews! you are aware of so many things, which u use to build up a complex and witty critique.