Euphoria is back! Euphoria is back! Euphoria! Is! Back!
Let’s dive into the season two premiere and the long-awaited Fez episode, Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door.
Fezco developed himself quite a complex reputation in the first season of Euphoria. He’s an enabling drug dealer, but he also deeply cares for Rue, who he calls his family. Fez is violent when necessary, but usually to protect himself and those he loves. He’s constantly struggling with attaining, showing, and navigating power. Fez has always been one of the most intriguing characters, so it’s a delight that he’s finally getting his main character moment in the premiere episode.
Born to emotionally and physically abusive parents, Fez moves in with his drug dealing Grandma, “Fezco’s Grandma was a motherfucking G”, as Rue narrates. She was a boss, both literally and figuratively, who took control of her narrative, her power, and any situation she found herself in. I mean, the woman knew what she was doing having a ‘KITTY’ license plate. Growing up with his Grandma, Fez learned the tricks of the drug trade, the ins and outs of how to read people, and priceless life advice. Navigating a new living environment and a new baby he took on as his brother, affectionately named Ashtray, showcases just how caring and adaptive Fez can be.
“Your mama had a pure heart, but your daddy always took advantage of that.” -Fez’s Grandma
As a brilliant character trait, Grandma is constantly dolling out wisdom-filled one liners. The one that stuck with me the most was, “Don’t ever fall in love. It’s one instinct that you can’t trust.” Do I think this foreshadows Fez’s scenes with Lexi this season? I hope so, but the betrayal implication has me stressing.
Once Fez’s Grandma collapses and he takes over the business, Fez instantly matures out of pure necessity for his family’s survival. Fez may not be eloquent, but he sure knows how to business deal. He took on the vast responsibilities because he had to no matter how hard and complicated things got.
The aesthetics of the entire opening sequence give off Coen brothers energy, specifically The Big Lebowski, as the smooth easy-going music combines with the violent, surreal nature of the drug deals. It’s like the music’s saying, their lives may be rough, but their vibes are smooth.
Rolling up to their first meeting with big time drug dealer, personally lowkey Laurie, Fez and Ashtray take the lead while Rue, functional enough while high to sing most of a Tupac song, is directed to remain chill and inconspicuous in the backseat. Clearly, that’s not going to happen. For real, though, you want to remain lowkey and yet you park your car in the middle of the throughway of a parking lot and leave the car on. Where is the logic there, Fez?! Being undercover for only about two minutes, results in the entire crew being forced to get naked for a wire check as ‘Right Down the Line’ provides a silky, surreal uneasiness.
It goes from machine guns and strip searches to soothing rock songs soundtracking a business scene, as if this is all routine and maybe it is for them. With their merchandise acquired, the trio process the situation in the car. Well, really, Rue acts as if the entire dangerous situation was like a video game she just experienced in real life, pointedly remarking about how much of a powerhouse Laurie appears to be. “How many female drug dealers do you know?” Rue does have a point there, it seems.
Cut to a classic overwhelmingly claustrophobic Euphoria house party, one of my favorite settings on the show. The music is pulsating courtesy of the show’s fantastic music supervisor, Jen Malone, and we get our first taste of the new color palette and lighting scheme. As soon as Jules enters the party, the lighting and camera focus in solely on Rue’s reaction, letting the rest of the party fade to black for just a moment. The fluorescent-esque hues intertwine with the spotlights honing in on specific characters. While it’s a bit jarring at first, it feels like a lighthouse shining its light on you, an unexpected brief glimpse of you in the moment, catching you unguarded. If the first season’s color palette created intrigue and wonder in Euphoria’s world, season two’s sunbeams, yellowed hues, and extreme close ups craft a rawer sense of the characters, a means of no escaping or hiding from the audience anymore.
As Rue avoids Jules at the party, a supremely drunk, emotionally lost, packaged-powdered-donut-starving Cassie interacts with an all-too-smiley and suspiciously inquisitive Nate at a convenience store. They bond over their misaligned, failed relationships before he drives with Cassie to the New Year’s Eve house party. As the beers continue to flow, Orville Peck’s ‘Dead of Night’ ramps up the tension as Nate heavy weights the gas pedal. Cassie’s truly been through so much since last season, so it’s understandable that she’s seeking escape in drinking, in recklessness, in talking with someone not healthy for her. As the speedometer increases, the harder she grips her seat and she’s unbelieving that she got herself into this uncertain situation. Nate’s inviting glances, encouraging Cassie to test him, meet Cassie’s resisting uncomfortable ones. Once her spilled beer takes away the tension on the tight rope she was walking between fear and exhilaration, Cassie revels in the recklessness without abandon, eyes now overtly staring in want and not in fear.
“Because I keep making mistakes and not learning from them.” -Cassie
Now at the party, Nate and Cassie bang in the house’s apparent one bathroom. It’s your average high school reckless hookup, until Maddy slams on the door desperate to prevent a UTI that’s visceral for the audience at this point. This entire extended sequence is a wild tension builder, one based in a bit of humor (wash your hands, bro!) mixed with the fear of getting caught by someone they both care about. Nate’s primarily focused on hiding the hookup from Maddy to avoid drama. Cassie’s terrified that Maddy will find out about her friendship betrayal. Scantily clad Jack Torrance is about to break the door down, the music is throbbing, Cassie is about twenty seconds away from a meltdown before she’s hidden in the bathtub. Cassie somehow holds it together while Maddy spends some extra time flirting with a guy in the bathroom. It’s the inaudible moments of Cassie in the bathtub, hiding for her life as she knows it, that makes the scene unforgettable. The pure disgust on her face when the dirty wash cloth lands on her face will haunt me for weeks. It’s the scene’s conclusion of Cassie almost being caught that truly brings it home, though, because if it weren’t for Maddy’s inherent focus on herself she would have cared enough to look in the tub.
When Cassie finally discretely escapes the bathroom, McKay is there waiting to talk to her, their incompatibility finally addressed and closed. What’s most curious about this situation, other than McKay shaming Cassie for her personal decisions yet again, is Nate’s reaction. As soon as he spots McKay again, Nate becomes aggressive and possessive of Cassie with a homoerotic inclination towards McKay. Nate is disturbing for many reasons, but the way he almost seems like a typical trashy guy and then flits to deeply horrific actions makes him all the more unnerving. Nate gets such a deep satisfaction from making others uncomfortable.
Lexi and Fez’s meeting is the absolute highlight of the episode. Finding themselves on the couch together, Lexi and Fez engage in classic party small talk, opening with lines about Rue and moving onto small compliments that mean a lot to quite reserved Lexi. Lexi didn’t have a lot of shining moments in season one, as Cassie was the focus of their household, but Lexi is such a rich, engaging character. Seeing her super book smart self interact with Fez, who’s more on the casual side of everything, is such a satisfying intriguing dynamic. Fez is genuinely curious about Lexi’s life and they progressively move closer together on the couch as the night goes on, talking more, playfully bantering more. Fez’s subtle, natural advances towards Lexi are definitely appreciated by her and it’s not because she’s aggressively wanting attention, but rather it’s clear that Lexi appreciates the softness within Fez. Fez ends his sweet time with Lexi by hyping her up, calling her out on her self-doubt talk, and getting her digits. Here’s to hoping he puts them to good use. I know he loves Lexi’s milkmaid braided crown as much as I do.
Fez interacting with Rue’s friends is everything I never knew I needed. I love how they’re writing him into their collective group’s environment more rather than having him in his own separate space. Fez and his cozy cable knit sweaters this season will be my undoing. The getaway call to Ash is made, pointed meaningful eye contact with Lexi is achieved, and he beats the life out of Nate. The way Fez approaches Nate with such neutral holiday niceties and then gives cocky playboy Nate the beatdown of his life, one that some would say he’s deserved for a long time now, is truly pristine. Damn is right, Rue.
The premiere also reintroduces the fun friendship between Kat and Jules that was put on the backburner as soon as Jules met Rue in the first season. It’s nice to see them connect again and I hope that continues throughout the second season. Seeing them together gives Rue more reason to pull away, however, back to hide in Fez’s car where she tries heroin, presumably for the first time. Looking for a soft place to land, Rue finds new drug-happy friend, Elliot, to do some more drugs. When the high comes, though, even Rue can tell her pulse is down. They’re both high and he’s gaging how much life she has left to her and, thankfully, manages to get her up again with some Adderall before she goes into cardiac arrest. It’s a stimulating juxtaposition to have Rue’s high actually bring her down with Kat and Jules radiating freedom on the dancefloor.
“There it is. There’s my heart. Hello, heart. I thought I lost you.” -Rue
Kat and Ethan were my favorite romantic connection in the first season. Their immediate love proclamations in the premiere make me wonder how they dove into such deep love so fast, considering it’s only been two weeks or so since we last saw them in the Euphoria timeline. It’s not a complaint, but I want them happy together and I hope that’s not too much to ask on a show like this. (Prayer circle for an upcoming Ethan episode, please.)
In a fiery lit blaze, Jules finally spots Rue, angst filled glances exchanged. They feel so far apart and disjointed. Knowing how much she effects Rue’s sobriety, Jules knew the answer to when Rue relapsed before the question was ever asked, but it’s evident how much the truth hurts her anyway. The unintentional power she has over Rue is not something Jules asked for and the responsibility that comes with it is a lot for her to navigate. Finally able to talk about her feelings, a very high Rue is upfront about her rough patch and how she does actually want to be with Jules. There’s so much passion and darkness hidden within the lighthouse lighting, until their kissing reunion happens and relief floods through everyone’s veins.
What happens when you give Rue everything she wants? It appears that’s what season two will explore first.