Nate’s still laying on the floor. His face is drenched in his own blood, though his teeth somehow remain intact. Nate dreamily gazes up at a teary-eyed Cassie.
“Nate Jacobs was in love. But it was complicated.”
After Fez beat him up at the end of the season premiere, Nate’s friends get him to the hospital. There’s a fantastic juxtaposition of Cassie and Maddie on each side of the gurney being ushered along a hospital hallway. A jittery nervous wreck of Cassie who’s wobbly in her heels and covered in Nate’s blood. Maddy on the other side, walking with steady purpose and not even a bit of blood on her. It’s hard to say whether or not Maddy knows about Cassie and Nate at this point. Personally, if I were Maddy I would find it odd that my best friend was this concerned about my abusive ex-boyfriend, but maybe that’s just me.
“With Maddy, it was always a game. Cassie was the opposite.”
As Nate comes in and out of consciousness, he romanticizes a future life he could have with Cassie. To Nate, Maddy represents drama, darkness, a chase that turns him on. Cassie is filled with light, softness, and open emotions. As the sensual “Live or Die” by Lil Xan and Noah Cyrus entrances us, dream-future Nate and Cassie embrace warm passion, admiring lounges on bear rugs, and promises of children. A life filled with their loving relationship and Cassie’s pregnancy. A life without familial toxicity, while colored like a California-beachy old film. Interrupting all of the sunshiny moments, Nate has reluctant flashes of an erotic Jules, Cal’s predilections, and a sequence mirroring the act of him getting beat up. As Nate’s body spasms, his movements are intercut with both his view of Fez during the assault and a dreamy Cassie giving birth to his child. When Nate finally opens his eyes, Cassie gives birth, a baby cries signaling what you’d hope would be a new rebirth for Nate. Unfortunately, this is Euphoria and Nate is in fact still Nate, so the damn smirk on his face erases that hope for us all.
It’s the first day back at school after the new year and the spotlight singles out Rue and Jules seeing each other in the hallway. Once their eyes connect, their worlds widen and literally lighten up. Rue finally has everything she ever wished for: Jules and drugs. Without Jules’ knowledge, Rue has been hanging out and doing drugs with new friend Elliot at his house. When Rue introduces them at school, it’s so evident to Jules that this is something Rue wanted to keep separate from Jules, a possible crush, and straightaway it definitely upsets a very pale-faced Jules. Jules has very toned-down outfits and makeup this season so far. It’s an interesting dynamic, because she’s visually more covered up, but her makeup is comparatively very bare-faced. Long gone are the days where Jules would have pastel-hued eyelids with her now being in more of a depressed state than the survival mode she was in during the first season.
“You know you’re like a dream?” -Rue
“I didn’t know you were such a romantic, Rue.” -Jules
Since winter formal, Cassie’s been dealing with low grade depression. She wants to go full on abstinence mode, most definitely grasping to escape the love-loathe-depression cycle that she’s currently on. Cassie is fantastic at verbally acting like she’s her normal self, but physically looking her current reality state: love (or lust) sick for her best friend’s ex-boyfriend and worn out from being toyed with. See, Maddy and Nate are still super friendly and Maddy’s boasting about her super sweet texts from Nate after the New Year’s Party, while Cassie’s getting breadcrumbs from him.
“Because you love to be loved.” –Maddy to Cassie
Though season 1 Maddy didn’t want to work a day in her life, season 2 single Maddy knows she has the power and knowledge to get a job to sustain herself, so she babysits for a kid Theo. While Theo is for sure a cute kid, Maddy’s in love with the family’s lifestyle, taking in every quiet moment she can to play dress up in the mother’s stunning closet. A lust for a life of luxury is fulfilled within Maddy even if only for a short while. Watching Maddy have a decadent try on haul of her dreams allows her to briefly live in the many futures and different people she could become. It’s a really heartwarming sequence, which is a rarity for Maddy.
In a school bathroom hangout, the girls hype up Kat and Ethan’s “healthy, non-abusive, wonderful relationship,” as Maddy puts it. While Kat smiles and admits how sweet Ethan is, even in the season premiere, it was clear that Kat wasn’t feeling it as much as Ethan was. Ethan’s your typical, endearing high school boyfriend, but Kat’s extensive sexually creative mindset from her fanfiction writing makes the reality feel like a disappointment. Kat wants more Dothraki savior and less innocent teenage boy. Kat wants a man that she’s created in her head. It’s ripping her to shreds how guilty she feels over their dynamic not being enough, since she knows it should be.
Kat and Ethan aren’t mutually connecting and it’s triggered a lot of self-reflection on Kat’s part as to why she doesn’t love him back. Though no one is saying it, Kat, it’s understandable since you two have definitely only been dating for a month at a maximum. Kat’s depressed over the entire situation, making pros and cons lists to try and sort it all out, but she can’t think of any cons. Though, it should be noted that Kat’s listed pros are the bare minimum for a significant other. Kat realizes that her not being able to come up with any cons could mean that she’s in fact that problem, so she hates herself even more. Like anyone who’s an internet-minded person, Kat relies on makeup tutorials on YouTube and a giant tub of Goldfish to numb her pain. Watching these videos leads to another surreal visual interpretation of her internal struggle to acquire self-love, even though she genuinely hates herself to the core. It’s a starkly sad and overwhelming sequence with all of the stereotypical YouTubers imposing their standards on her. Last year’s confidence wasn’t real and it’s deeply sad to hear Kat finally admit that.
Stressed out about her bowling date with Ethan, Kat invites Jules and Maddy to join. They’re having a blast as a trio, while Ethan’s off to the side just observing in a neutral way. Ethan’s never been the center of attention type, but rather someone to support a larger personality. Maddy and Jules grab some food while watching Kat and Ethan be lovey with each other. Maddy admires their connection, but doesn’t know if something so wholesome could ever be enough for her without the darkness. There’s something in Jules that identifies with Maddy’s admission, but, later, Jules does adamantly advise Maddy to not get back together with Nate. The way Maddy longingly thinks about her reunion with Nate makes it feel like an addiction for Maddy, something that she might not be able to stop herself from doing.
“I wish you could see yourself the way the rest of the world does.” -Jules to Maddy
After being released from the hospital, Nate refuses to tell Cal who beat him up. Nate keeps Cassie eager for more, though, remarking how Maddy would only be mad at him but would murder Cassie for her betrayal. Still on Nate’s side before anyone’s else’s, Cassie’s naively coerced by Cal to admit that Fez was the one who assaulted Nate. Lexi’s furious at Cassie for ruining Fez’s life with that admission. Since their encounter on New Year’s, Lexi has been trying to understand the Fez’s conflicting complexities. For once in her life, a guy cared what Lexi had to say, asking her so many questions that it was disarming for Lexi. However, after he was sweet with Lexi, Fez went and beat up Nate without anything more than a glance in her direction, knowing it would impact her view of him.
Lexi’s always defined herself by her passive qualities, always afraid to speak up and be courageous. Cue a super vibe of a song “Haunted” by Laura Les fueling Lexi’s ride to Fez’s to warn him about Cal knowing the truth about New Year’s. Lexi psyches herself up to see Fez again. Lexi’s dressed up and beaming from the inside out, but when she sees Faye, Lexi wimps out reading too much into the situation. Seeing how much effort Lexi put into seeing Fez again and how he lit up when she walked into his store, it’s clear the two of them are interested in each other. In walks Cal and I’ve never seen tension like this over a guy picking up a package of spearmint gum and Flaming Hot Funyuns. “She tell you who I am?” Cal nods to Lexi as he ominously asks Fez. The score does a perfect job heightening the tension and anticipation as we’re expecting Cal to pull a gun out and not the money he, thankfully, does instead. Fez spends the rest of his night on high alert, putting the extremely high Faye to bed with a blanket only a grandmother could knit. It’s a delicate gesture of Fez’s innate care for others and how he holds onto the people and the things that are the most meaningful to him.
Rue blows off dinner with Jules and her dad for a drug session at Elliot’s, including a smooth dance moment to “Right Down the Line” by Gerry Rafferty. Though the situation is not ideal, there’s an ease to Rue when she’s smoking with Elliot. Rue ruminates on how no one else really understands how drugs are the only way she can be her true self without the shyness. Rue thinks that the drugs are what allowed her to finally be emotionally open about how much she’s loved Jules since she first saw her. Elliot’s immediate questioning and then praise of the admiration they share is worth noting, as he clearly likes Rue as more than just a friend.
“What’s a bigger feeling than love?” -Elliot
“As soon as I saw her, I was just immediately afraid to lose her,” Rue admits. Only people who have experienced deep, bone-hurting pain like Rue has would say something like that. When the people you love leave you it stays with you and alters how you approach all future relationships. On Rue’s way to NA, she sees Cassie running to Nate’s truck, but she’s high beyond belief when she gets to the meeting, so who’s to say if she will remember sighting or not.
When Cassie hops in Nate’s truck, eager for their reunion, the energy has changed between them. There’s less crackling sexual tension and it’s more nerve-wracking, because Cassie feels like she has something to lose now. Nate brings Cassie to an abandoned in-progress housing development and tells her that they can’t hookup anymore, no matter how much he likes her. For the first time, it actually sounds like Nate’s being honest about being sorry. Beyond upset, Cassie gets out of the truck, racing away to hide.
“You don’t know how much power you have.” -Nate to Cassie
Nate races after her, less mad and more concerned than you’d expect from Nate, and somehow manages to find the exact house that she’s in. Nate’s entranced by Cassie, unable to resist her after the chase enticed him again. It would be nice to know if Nate worshipped more than just Cassie’s body, but, alas, that’s how he shows his affection for women. Later, Cassie arrives back home, only viewed in slim beams of light, flitting between visibility. You can never see all of her at once. A relationship that is definitely lived in the shadows.
When Nate arrives back home, Cal confronts Nate about why Fez beat him up, so Nate flips the power dynamic. Nate tells Cal that Jules told Rue who told Fez that Cal is a pedophile, so it’s a believable threat, though a lie Nate crafted. Cal instantly breaks down his walls and attempts to apologize about not knowing her age or that Jules was Nate’s classmate, but Nate points out that Jules didn’t know she was being filmed either. Cal then wants to know if Nate has the video and we close on Nate’s face. A face of someone who knows that they have leverage.