‘Euphoria’ season 2 has bit off more than it can chew

Writer and creator Sam Levinson has left too many strings untangled

Photo+courtesy+of+the+official+Euphoria+IMDb+page

Photo courtesy of the official “Euphoria” IMDb page

By Ashviny Kaur, Collegian Correspondent

TRIGGER and CONTENT WARNING: This article mentions several sensitive topics, such as assault, drug abuse and mental illness.

 

After a two-year hiatus and a great deal of anticipation, “Euphoria” has finally returned to small screens everywhere. As someone who was enamored by its first season, I was excited beyond measure for the second. The trailers looked spectacular, and the new season seemed to follow its predecessor’s footsteps. The season’s first episode opens with an introduction to fan-favorite Fez’s grandmother, a drug-dealing renegade with no regard for those who wrong her.

The entire beginning sequence, accompanied by Steely Dan’s 1972 hit “Dirty Work,” is a montage of strip clubs, drugs and guns. It tells us, as viewers, that we are in for the same-old “Euphoria” we have always known, filled with drama, sex and violence. The first half of the opener episode focuses mainly on Fez’s upbringing and tattered family dynamic. Robbed of his own character-based episode last season, Fez’s story was bound to come to light at some point this season – and showrunner Sam Levinson provides his viewers with Fez’s history effectively. As the episode progresses, we come to find out that Jules is back in town, Rue is addicted as ever to drugs and Cassie begins a secret love affair with Nate, the abusive and sociopathic ex-boyfriend of her best friend Maddy.

Levinson packs a lot into just this first episode, as most writers do. The premiere of a show that’s this popular in today’s culture is a big deal and executives will always look for different ways to pull in viewers. This grand re-entrance to cable television paid off, as 13.3 million viewers watched the premiere itself, indicating a 100 percent rise in viewership from its original 2018 run (roughly 6 million viewers). As season two continues however, some of the plotlines already established in the previous season have yet to be touched upon.

The first season of “Euphoria” was heavy. Emotionally, physically and mentally, it was a very draining viewing experience. The show is centered around Rue, a drug addict who is diagnosed with severe mental illnesses. She suffers from depression, anxiety, BPD and OCD. There aren’t that many positives to look for within its plot, but Levinson did a great job walking the line between spreading awareness and glorifying these hard-hitting topics. The inclusion of triggering topics was carefully chosen and placed strategically into each episode, and it was evident that these issues weren’t just thrown into the series to further the plot. Most importantly, it was hard to side with any character, as they all seemed to partake in self-destructive choices. While Levinson’s characters are relatable, they all have their own negative traits and are far from perfect. This was a big reason “Euphoria” was so successful, as it was a grounded show, yet it was also shocking. People tuned in simply for the drama, and these high schoolers sure do have a lot of it.

When compared to a stellar first season, the first few episodes of season two don’t seem to hold the same charm this show once possessed. Its premise centered around a teen navigating high school while battling a crippling drug addiction seems to be lost in the latest episodes, and presently, the series feels like a jumble of storylines that never seem to get enough attention within each episode’s runtime. The first season had established several plotlines that touched upon important issues, yet none of these were explored past their respective episodes.

For example, in season one, episode six: “The Next Episode,” college footballer and Cassie’s boyfriend Christopher McKay is assaulted in his dorm room before getting intimate with Cassie. It was never truly answered if the incident that took place was of a sexual nature or not, yet it was evident that McKay was violated in some way. The aftermath of this incident is never brought up again, and it’s almost as if the writers forgot about this scene completely. This isn’t the only storyline that has disappeared into thin air.

Along with McKay’s never-again-mentioned assault, other plotlines that haven’t been developed include a backstory behind Nate’s (missing) second brother, his father Cal’s abusive tendencies, Cassie’s decision to abort her child with McKay and Nate’s passionate kiss with Jules – a scene that led viewers to question his sexuality. It’s unclear if these scenes were simply included as fillers or if they genuinely held meaning, and it seems as though it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Throughout the entirety of season one, we witness Kat’s character arc develop beautifully, as she gains control of her looks and her sexual prowess. This development, to many fans’ disappointment, is never mentioned again. In season two, her character seems thrown aside, with barely any lines and an existence simply fit to complain about her boyfriend and their relationship. In an Instagram story published by an insider account (@deuxmoi), Barbie Ferreira, who portrays Kat, and showrunner Sam Levinson allegedly got into an argument that resulted in Ferreira walking off the set. Levinson then began cutting several of her lines and scenes in the new season, reducing her character to nothing more than a whiny teenager.

This isn’t Levinson’s only issue as the head writer of “Euphoria,” apparently. Levinson and actress Sydney Sweeney, who plays Cassie, have also gotten into disagreements in the past. In the second season, viewers witness many scenes in which Cassie is topless and almost full-frontally nude. According to Sweeney in a recent interview with the British newspaper The Independent, Levinson wrote most of Cassie’s scenes to include her in the nude. She detailed that she was uncomfortable filming excessive amounts of nude scenes, as it often leads to her character being oversexualized.

Don’t get me wrong; “Euphoria” is a great show, and I will keep tuning in every Sunday night to keep up with the drama and the existing storylines of the show I used to love so much. There’s something so addicting about it all, and maybe it’s my teenage self wishing my high school experience was as interesting as this. Unfortunately, it’s not the once-perfect show it used to be. Many cast members don’t get along, Levinson has seemingly lost his steam as a writer and this new season seems to have no direction. It’s hard to imagine these complex storylines wrapping up in the four remaining episodes, but there is still hope with each episode being an hour or more. No matter what unfolds in the last few episodes, though, one thing is clear; and that’s the fact that viewers will have a great soundtrack to listen to while their anticipation builds.

Ashviny Kaur can be reached at [email protected]