by Paul Deeter
"He liked that she was hairless. He liked that she was a virgin. He knew he had anger issues, but so did every guy. He couldn't trace it back, it was just who he was and who he would always be."
Who's Nate Jacobs? He's the star quarterback at school. He's buff, over 6 feet tall and clean shaven. Traditionally, he's a handsome young man, but he's far from beautiful inside. Nate was only 8 years old when he discovered a stash of physical pornography in his Dad's drawer. These discs contained videos of him hooking up with young, mostly underage and often transgendered lovers and participating in rough sex. It was enough to scar him for life. And it probably did. Following this discovery he decides to pump iron, have sex and get the poison of weakness out that he imagines as his father's deepest secret. Oh and Dad? Jules who was hooking up with a list of strange men at motels turns out to have adding to that list with Nate's father. This is established in the pilot, but it doesn't hit home until the second episode when we see this pattern has existed as long as Nate's dad has been having affairs. But neither of them really know Jules, and the secret is safe... for now.
So Nate Jacobs, perfect quarterback football player on the surface, is mad. Like really mad. When that long-term girlfriend of his Maddy (Alexa Demie) hooked up with that random party-goer, Nate took notice enough to stalk him out by following him to his work. He gets information on this guy, and before too long he's at his house beating the ever-living s*it out of him. Part of this is on Nate's perspective of jealousy, but another part is by the lie perpetuated by Maddy: that she blacked out at the party and was taken advantage of in the pool on that night. And despite not truly blacking out, Maddy was hooking up with a 26 year old man. Nate finds all this out and beats him, blackmails him and even showers in his apartment before leaving him a bloody pulp on the floor. It's enough to make any viewer shiver. Nate is a psychopath and he's on the war trail. But this episode is not entirely about Nate.
There's Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira), who hangs out with a group of plastic seeming high-school girls as a slightly overweight outcast, insecure in the face of their promiscuity. Peer pressured by not just her friends but some horny teenage boys as well, she feels it's time to have sex. And in episode one when we hear she loses her virginity to one of those horny creeps, it seems like that's that. But in this episode we're not alone in knowing this hookup happened, the whole school finds out when a video of her sexual act is released. Her realization starts with shame, but turns pretty brilliant when she flips the table on the boys to say she wasn't the girl in the video. She threatens them with the fact that its underage pornography and tells the boy if he doesn't believe her, look it up. "I'm not looking that up!" This begins Kat's arc, a teenager who flips her shame for being exposed into control of her idea to use that attention positively. Her sex positivity starts her foray into camming, and while its refreshing to see that not every character in this show is suffering from some form of sexual incompatibility or worse violence, its still underage behavior. The show doesn't do much to remind us that from the early episodes unfortunately, and it all feels kinda skeezy. In the latter arc of the season, when it all comes to its unfortunate conclusion, the show clumsily admits: "yeah it was bad behavior all along." But this is that weird grey area the show flirts with; it often catches itself in a rut of celebrating sex positivity without concerning itself with the actual issue of a teenager acting this way on the Internet to strangers.
But let's circle back to our lead Rue who is starting a positive relationship with Jules, perhaps the only one in the whole series. Wildly non-sober and enjoying life with Jules she has the scariest run-in during the entire episode (even including the assault by Nate.) When she arrives unannounced to the local drug dealer Fezco (Angus Cloud) character's apartment for refills, she is stuck in a deal between this otherwise harmless friend and some very scary drug pushers. This sequence is terrifying because it dangles the very possibility that Rue could get hurt (or worse) at the hands of these strange men. These dealers coke her up with an unknown substance and leave her vulnerable. This added to the fact that Zendaya plays our lead so innocently, despite her addictions. This scene is great because it shows that Rue is flirting with a dangerous game, and the drugged out life of these teenagers is right on the edge of truly heinous criminality.
In an episode of actual assault and the unknown threat of it, Euphoria plays a dangerous game with the viewers. If there was any confusion from the first episode that this was a cautionary tale, it's clear in this episode. We are not here to have a good time, and neither are our characters.