Euphoria Season 2: the glamorisation of sex, drugs and problematic teens continues on ★★★★

By Jessica Pretorius

If season 1 of Euphoria was a ballsy display of drugs, love, and youth in general, season 2 is its older sister. The new season still deals with the themes of addiction, sexuality, friendships and family dynamics, but at the same time has introduced more humour while also taking on a slightly more serious tone. One thing is for certain though: it’s no longer (and never really has been) a teen drama, it’s a show about teenagers for adults. 

For those of you who don’t know, Euphoria is an enormously popular American TV series, written and directed by Sam Levinson, starring Zendaya as drug-addicted Rue. It follows a group of friends and their parents, siblings, and drug dealers as they navigate a tumultuous adolescence in a suffocatingly suburban setting. The cinematography is beautiful, gloomy, and remarkably intimate, and the soundtrack is similarly brilliant. It’s one of the first shows I’ve seen that speaks so truthfully to ‘Gen Z’ culture, but it’s difficult to remember these characters are supposed to be 17. Season 1’s pilot included an overdose story and a creepy dating-app booty call, just to give an example of the type of content you’re likely to see. 

In Season 2, these themes continue, and we watch as friendship and families fall apart and Rue’s struggle with drug use becomes even more dangerous. I enjoyed the way that season 2 meant some characters, namely Lexie (Maude Apatow) and Fezco (Angus Cloud), finally had their position in the limelight, but unfortunately that seemed to come at the expense of other characters, with Kat (Barbie Ferreira) and Jules (Hunter Schafer) acting mostly as supporting characters. The episodes of season 2 are intense and often challenging to watch, yet most of the episodes are lightened with humour, including a hilarious school play that makes fun of the show’s main characters. 

Euphoria has been particularly ground-breaking in its exploration of important and dark themes, for example Zendaya’s portrayal of drug withdrawal is phenomenally exceptional but painful to watch. Similarly, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) and Maddy’s (Alexa Demie) interactions with the emotionally damaged Nate (Jacob Elordi) sheds light on relationship concerns that many young people face. However, although the show is entertaining and very engaging, the problematic elements cannot be ignored. I couldn’t help but cringe sometimes at this season’s portrayal of the beautiful, blond Cassie. While I understand the identity issues her character is meant to highlight, her downward spiral feeds into a problematic trope of manic, desperate females, and by episode 7 I was genuinely quite disturbed by the portrayal of her commitment to Nate. 

Euphoria’s Season 2 is very entertaining, and I’m hoping for a Season 3. Although the show sheds light on some very real issues, I do think that sometimes Sam Levinson dramatises and (worryingly) romanticises these issues. Whether intended or not, a combination of gorgeous cinematography and beautiful actors makes these often-disturbing themes, like drug addiction or borderline abusive relationships, seem interesting in a way that’s reminiscent of the UK show Skin’s beloved Effy Stonem. I could entirely see how a younger viewer would interpret having a drug addiction and severely problematic relationships as quite an exciting experience.

My name is Jessica and I’m in my second year studying International Relations with Spanish. In my spare time you’ll find me reading my book, reading the news, going to galleries or going to gigs. If you have any thoughts/ questions/ suggestions about my piece please get in touch via email ( j.pretorius@lse.ac.uk) or instagram (@jessprett)!

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