image courtesy of IMDb
multimedia by River Hennick
“Euphoria” is defined as “a feeling of well-being or elation,” but after watching the eight HBO episodes, I seriously think Merriam-Webster needs to update their dictionaries. When I think wellbeing, I think health and juice cleanses, definitely not drug overdoses and statutory rape. But as the show wrapped up, I realized “Euphoria” encapsulates both the highs and lows of high school life, resulting in an unforgivably honest outcome.
Although Euphoria made me realize I’m never having kids because all they do is lie and snort coke, its jarring realism and unwillingness to shy away from tough topics helped me awkwardly endure locker room scenes with close-ups of legit 30 penises.
The show revolves around Rue, played by Zendaya, as she begins her junior year after spending the summer in rehab. Unlike most people who complete rehab, Rue has no intentions of remaining clean and within minutes of being home, she’s in contact with her old dealer and his eleven-year-old brother — one of the biggest plugs in town.
Enter Jules. Played by Hunter Schafer, Jules is a transgender style icon who becomes Rue’s best friend. They support one another, but at times I was questioning if their friendship was really the best idea — they both carry a lot of baggage. Rue consistently relies upon her friends for pee samples to appear clean and Jules is tied to dating apps for casual (and sometimes violent) hookups.
Scattered around the two main characters are a spectrum of minor characters navigating their own issues. There’s Nate who can’t control his anger with his girlfriend and leads a drastically different second life. There’s Kat who turns to pornography websites to make money. There’s Sydney who dry humps a carousel horse. And that’s just to name a few.
Each episode begins with a flashback to the high schooler’s childhood and highlights how they came to be. The background information paired with Rue’s insightful narration helps illustrate each character and their (not always pure) motives. I knew why Maddy chose cut-out crop tops over long sleeves and Kat loves virgin piña coladas.
Besides the memories, each episode is backdropped by a variety of music. The variety of pop hits, techno and rap sets the mood for certain scenes and brought one of the biggest parts of teen life to the show. After the first episode played Beyoncé’s “Hold Up”, I hopped on Spotify to find the soundtrack and it’s been my Mission Road playlist ever since.
The most powerful aspect of the show was its realness. There’s no shying away from uncomfortable topics like Jules being sent to a mental institution because of the gender she identifies as or Kat’s (steamy) One Direction fan fiction.
Although I had to literally cover my eyes sometimes and stopped watching it with my brother after the first five minutes, Euphoria’s blend of queue-it-right-now music, authentic stories and powerful narration left me renewing my HBO subscription for season two.