by Paul Deeter
Before Season 2 (will it?) finally comes out, let's go back in depth of the monumental a24 series Euphoria. Euphoria is an 8-episode show with 2 additional special extras of a series containing drama, diversity and dick-pics. Euphoria is available on HBO.
Zendaya begins the pilot of the first season of Euphoria describing the day she was born to the day our show begins. She is born during the towers falling of 2001 with her parents glued to the TV and out of touch from the purest moments of childbirth as our central character Rue (Zendaya) enters the world and narrates her journey from there on out. Parents distracted, Rue looks up and at them with initial concern and the impending millennial feeling of displacement. It was only natural that Rue would grow up to become OCD-inflicted, potentially bipolar diagnosed and drug addicted girl that she is of present. Rue is our subject and a reflection of the viewers it's intent to attract for this series by a24, a film production industry with a finger to the pulse of highly-acclaimed movie releases. Euphoria is an a24 series down to the bone and it wants you to know from the get-go that stylistically its establishing itself unlike anything else on TV. And specifically HBO. HBO has its reputation for harboring some of the biggest and most award-winning shows on television (It's More Than You Imagined. It's HBO.) Euphoria fits right into the picture by making its case for a truly adulterated and extremely graphic series, to its fault and benefit. Euphoria is not for the faint of heart, and the first episode tells you to buckle in, it's gonna be a ride.
After establishing Zendaya as our lead (fresh out of rehab but never sober) stumbling through high school as a troubled teenager amid a whole lot of them, we meet various other characters on additional journeys of their own. Worst of the worst is Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi) the monster of the men, a football quarterback (figures) who's breakup with his long-term girlfriend sends him off the deep end from episode one on. His revenge for his girlfriend's act of getting back at him, which involves her hooking up with a random guy in a swimming pool in front of an entire party, begins with him lashing out at the new girl: Jules. Jules has been transitioning since the age of 13, with a supportive father and a mother who's not in the picture. Jules gathers the attention of Rue at said ridiculous party, with her reaction to Nate's insults ending in Jules brandishing a knife and catching all the guests off guard with her wily response. Jules is established as a fiery presence shortly after we see her on one of her meet ups with strange, above-age men at a local motel. At only 17 she's on the wrong track with older men and this dangerous behavior will lead to a twist later in the series involving one of the teenagers' parents.
The only other notable characters from the pilot are McKay (Algee Smith), who's an honest to good football player among a group of r*pe-culture peers who see sex as a conquest. In a scene where they all gawk over nudes of a girl and shame her for her "slutiness", Rue (who's our narrator lest I forget to mention) comments this bright line of wisdom: "Unless your Amish nudes are the currency of love." Everyone's doing it, even the ones who aren't saying so, the issue here is that everyone in the show is underage, and the context is behind the curtains they're all doing it far before any of them should. Specifically, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) is the hot girl at school who has a sexual history and plethora of leaked nudes at 17, and this is an early warning sign of her character. But Jules and Cassie and McKay aren't troublesome just troubled, and the show tries to excuse their youthfulness despite falling into slightly voyeuristic behavior itself. Here's the main criticism of the series: it's very graphic. This is not a show that is supposed to appeal with sex or nudity or glamorized drug use. This show intends to punish the viewers instead, or at least I think so, in my defense for the extreme excess the show participates in. It's flashy and ridiculous at times, but its a cautionary tale for younger audiences (who probably shouldn't be watching it.) Again critically while this show is pretty solidly appreciated by masses, there's a common issue brought up that the show doesn't really appeal to an audience outside of scared parents who probably really think this stuff happens. At least, I don't think it does, but maybe I fall into the prudism the show tries to attack.
There's a few other characters, including a local drug dealer and aspiring cam-girl that will establish themselves as the series continues as bigger spokes in the wheel of the show. We'll get to those later, as I don't intend these reviews to entirely be recaps of the events in them. But in the root of things, this show is a look into the fishbowl of the Gen-Z panic of not finding purpose and needing just about any high they can get to ride out the trouble. Rue is an addict, and ever since her initial overdose and following release from rehab, she is never sober. a24 depicts these sequences of her drug use as scary as possible, spinning hallways, hallucinatory blackouts and such. It's a nightmare, as it should be depicted, and despite existing in a climate of tons of Degrassi clones and samey teenager trope series, Euphoria is about as unique as anything a24 has established so far, and the ride's just begun. Strap in.