Deep breaths, Lexi. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: it’s finally showtime on your own play.
To set the tone for her play, we open with a romantic and easy overture, before Lexi walks into her past self at Rue’s father’s wake. It’s immediately clear that Lexi’s play, ‘Our Life,’ will be scenes of her life reenacted from her perspective. As observant as ever, Lexi enters Rue’s living room, listening to other mourners commentating on post-funeral logistics before seeking Rue out. Lexi enters the hallway and we see our first glimpses of the play-versions of Cassie, Maddy, and Kat and once she enters Rue’s room, we see that there’s an interplay of both the play’s actors and the real Euphoria characters, as well, since our Rue is present in this moment. Lexi enters to a very subdued Rue doing drugs on her bed. Lexi reads Rue a moving poem that encourages the flows of grief. Cut to Rue in the audience watching this play out on stage, absorbing what she’s seeing.
“Wait, is this fucking play about us?” -Maddy
All of the Euphoria high schoolers are in the audience, as Lexi introduces their play counterparts on stage, and they all collectively realize that this play is actually based on real life. The absolute best reaction is Lexi’s mom, Suze, seeing Ethan playing her on stage. Generally, though, the audience reaction shots are gold and usually mirror our reactions as the viewers. When Cassie hits puberty, Lexi sees how objectively hot Cassie’s gotten, so she does the math down to the precise day until she should theoretically be just as hot. Lexi wants to be informed, smart, hardworking, and curious, but also hot. Cut to a precise 433 days later, Lexi’s physical transformation isn’t the exact chest growth she was hoping for, but insists that she’d rather not be known for her body anyway. This scene features a smooth visual trick to transition between our Cassie and the play’s Cassie in the scene and it’s supremely satisfying and seamless. There’s a thin line between Lexi’s fictionalized play and mirrored reality, so it’s the most fun when Lexi gets playful with the blurred distinction between the two.
“I feel like I’ve lived most of my life in my imagination. Taking the smallest moments and dreaming them up into something bigger.” -Lexi
In season one we got a look at Lexi and Cassie’s relationship with their father from Cassie’s perspective and, expectedly, Lexi’s is quite different. The girls would go out with their father to get ice cream and, while they enjoyed their cones, their father was stumbling drunk. Cassie was optimistic and trusting in their father, while his carelessness crafted chaos and turmoil within a younger Lexi. Lexi cries as her mint chocolate chip scoop melts and falls into her lap, the stickiness is somehow palpable to us. Then we cut to a much more pleasant ice cream moment with Lexi and Rue, younger and sitting on top of Fez’s shop. Before they start high school, Lexi proposes that they figure out the things that they don’t like about themselves and change those attributes so they can be cooler humans. Instead, younger Rue alleviates Lexi’s uneasiness about herself for the first time. Rue in the audience smiles fondly. It’s so nice to see Rue so present in the moment, enjoying herself. Lexi thoughtfully remembers how easy their dynamic used to be, before her dad left and Rue’s dad died, and it’s heartbreaking to state so simply how much trauma they’ve faced in their childhoods. ‘Memories exist out of time,’ speaks the truth for the Howard family. It seems like yesterday and a million years ago that the Howard girls danced carefree and sunny in the living room with their parents. Seeing Cassie and Suze crying in the audience to the recreation of a happy family moment is genuinely heart wrenching.
“I sometimes think about how my sister and I had so many of the same wishes growing up…and how different we became,” Lexi muses. Cassie’s life revolves around being in the shadows with Nate and his ownership of her, signified by the necklace being placed around her neck. Cassie places so much of her self worth on being loved by others, wanting to be dedicated to someone, and the power dynamics that entrance her. Nate dresses Cassie up like a doll, a behavior very reminiscent of something Cal would do. Without him asking, Cassie relinquishes all control over herself to Nate. What she wears, who she talks to, what she eats, and she won’t complain because she trusts that he knows best. It’s devastating to see Cassie so toxically submissive with Nate, but she feels a sense of peace not having to be in control of her life and the responsibilities that come with that.
Maddy and Cassie had been inseparable since they started 9th grade. Maddy watches the stage with difficulty as their former sisterhood is displayed. Maddy’s personality made Lexi nervous because of how confident she was, so, instinctually, Lexi didn’t trust Maddy. That feeling of unease continued until Maddy moved in with the Howards for three months, so they had more time to bond. As Maddy beautifully does Lexi’s makeup, Maddy talks about she actively chooses to not feel stupid in a considerate moment with Lexi. Maddy is definitely a mind over matter type of girl. Vulnerable moments with Maddy are always the most natural and, subsequently, when she talks about how her parents fight is the perfect example of that. As this scene triggers a lot, Maddy clocks Cassie leaving the theater. Cassie goes to the bathroom and begins a minor breakdown before attempting to steel her emotions away, very I, Tonya in nature.
“90% of life is confidence. And the thing about confidence is no one knows if it’s real or not.” -Maddy to Lexi
“Open the door and tell me that it was worth it. You owe me that,” Maddy’s upset frustrations throttle out of her as we’re rocketed back to the night when Maddy found out about Cassie’s betrayal with Nate. The parallels of this scene, with the now iconic ‘Maddy’s got to pee’ scene from the season two premiere episode, work really well in establishing the absolute guilt and grief Cassie feels, even though she’s clearly settled in her decisions. There’s turning back now. Maddy’s distraught processing is absolutely shattering after Nate ripped her apart for years, now Maddy has to cope with the betrayal and watching her best friend be abused the same way she was.
Since her detox, Rue has been going through it. Rue has clarity over her relationship with Jules now. Rue used to think that they were meant for each other, but, after the intervention and detox, something shifted and Rue doesn’t understand anymore how she used to believe that so deeply. On the family side of things, Rue’s mother, Leslie, is resigned to the fact that Rue is going to do whatever she wants, so if Leslie can help keep Gia functioning and that’s it, then that’s her priority from now on. While there’s a freedom there, as Leslie relieves Rue of this type of pressure, there’s also a deep cut in how Rue’s pushed her mom to her breaking point and having to live with the guilt of that.
“You broke me. Completely broke me. I give up.” -Leslie to Rue
Throughout the play, there’s brief Fez moments with Lexi off of the stage. The level of purity is off the charts when it’s revealed that Lexi’s been talking with Fez every day for the last couple of months. Fez naturally cares so much about Lexi and her play, wanting to learn as much as he can about it and how it affects her. Always overthinking and conscientious of others’ feelings, Lexi wonders how her play will affect Cassie especially, but he says that it all depends on the intentions of the person who wrote it and Lexi’s are good. Getting ready for the play, Fez is going all out with flowers with a handwritten note, and obsessively caring about how good his suit looks, just to be sure that he’s operating on as high of a level as he can for Lexi. It’s sweet to see how much Fez cares about Lexi through all of his thoughtful effort. Interrupting his relaxed vibe is Custer walking in and acting very suspiciously with Faye. Ashtray immediately catches onto their sketchiness and plants himself in a chair with a blade, pointedly looking at Custer. Unfortunately, the last we see of Fez this week is still at his house, not having made it to the play.
“Well, that’s what I call a quandary.” -Fez to Lexi
Nate and Maddy’s relationship was the group’s first impression of love. The gaudy fur jacket and sense of long-lasting ownership were the highlights of their coupling. As Nate watches on, he does appear to be a bit ashamed and as contemplative as Nate can look. We’re transported to Nate’s inner workings, a scene where Nate is in Cal’s world of sexual control. At first Nate is in Cal’s position of power over Maddy and then Jules, but the situation takes a turn when Cal takes advantage of Cassie and then a despondent Nate himself. It’s a disturbing and complex sequence where it’s evident that Nate sees some of himself in Cal, suppressing so much of his true identity. Nate’s definitely interested in Jules more than he will ever let on. At the same time, the dynamics at play here, as well as Nate’s detached face, signal that possibly Cal sexually assaulted Nate, which could be what changed his entire personality as a 9-year-old boy. It’s a real nightmare that Nate can never truly wake up from.
Lexi really goes all out on a musical, homoerotic gym sequence where Nate and his teammates posture their faux masculinity until the audience can viscerally feel it. There’s a distinct heaviness to the air as play Maddy jokes about the team being “so gay” and the overcompensation from the boys kicks in. In a truly inspired dance sequence, the underrated Ethan playing Nate, in one of his many fantastic roles in the play, poses about while singing Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero” and is visually complimented by so. much. phallic. imagery. As the minutes pass, the audience is increasingly hyped up, but Nate is getting more uncomfortable, clutching his hands into shaking fists, up until he bursts out of the auditorium with Cassie behind him. Nate’s fuming in the hallway, seething with how ‘homophobic’ he found the scene to be, predictably, given how repressed and ashamed of himself he is. Fuming beyond belief, Nate tells Cassie to pack up her stuff and they’re done. Cassie slowly turns and quietly walks back to the entry doors. Looking through the window, Cassie is eerily calm, but her slow, heavy breaths speak of a fury ready to be unleashed towards Lexi.
To Be Continued… (in next week’s Euphoria season two finale.)