After A Wild Season, “Euphoria” Ended With A Whimper

We talk about that underwhelming season finale. (Lots of spoilers.)

Tomi: Let’s talk about that finale.

Shannon: This was the episode another wildly uneven season of Euphoria was supposed to be building toward, and it was such a letdown! I mean, it was so bad. This might be the point when I have to stop watching.

I’m over the metaness of it all. This show really suffers from feeling so obviously *constructed* rather than like the lived reality of real people, living in real time.

OK, from the top: I’m really glad they didn’t kill Fez, as a lot of people feared they would. Somebody did have to die, though, and I guess it makes sense it’d be Ashtray. But there’s something about that choice that feels a little sloppy and unsatisfying?

It’s sooo goofy that Maddy inexplicably waits to beat Cassie up for the finale. If this was a show that cared more about story than about spectacle, she would have ripped her hair out seconds after Rue first mentioned seeing Cassie and Nate together.

Lexi’s play did not need to take up two full episodes. Also — kids beat each other up onstage, and the show goes on? This is a school production, right? Yet we haven’t seen a single faculty member, even when a brawl breaks out? Do the children run this school?????

Besides Ashtray, the only other thing that really *happens* in this episode is Nate turning his dad over to the cops. Kind of a nothingburger. Nate has been careening toward violence all this time — why is he suddenly pulling back?

What’s annoyed me most of all about this finale: We don’t circle back to Laurie and the missing suitcase. I hate that Sam Levinson, the show’s creator, decides to pick up storylines and put them down at his leisure. Maddy will confront Cassie when it’s the most melodramatic possible moment; Rue will just choose to ignore a gigantic plot point. I could believe that Laurie would just decide pursuing Rue isn’t worth her time, but if I were Rue, I’d certainly be worried either way.

Tomi: I agree with you, Shannon. I found the finale so overwrought: The camera lingering on Fez’s note to Lexi as he’s being dragged away by the cops; Nate bringing a loaded gun to tell his dad that the cops are already on his way; the random Dominic Fike music video toward the beginning. The finale had a lot of the worst parts of Euphoria, IMO self-seriousness, dreariness. I was unmoved.

Shannon: I was laughing at all the memes of people skipping over Elliot’s musical interlude, though.

Michael: I completely agree with y’all. While I was definitely entertained while watching last night’s finale, it was all spectacle. What I disliked most were the random ways certain characters just started behaving unlike themselves, Nate being one of the most puzzling. It doesn’t make any sense that he’s suddenly decided to turn over a new leaf without there being any serious reckoning for the things he’s done in the past. Sure, his dad’s messed up, which in turn rubbed off on him, but are we supposed to forget that he pulled a gun out on Maddy? Cassie’s confrontation at the play with Lexi was too much and the scene kind of dragged a bit. Also Rue just up and decides to be drug-free for the rest of the year? So much of the writing felt like a retcon of the characters we’ve come to know over the past two seasons. I’m not against characters developing but so many of the changes seemed to happen out of thin air.

I will say I absolutely LOVED Elliot’s song and hope it’s available to stream ASAPtually.

Ashtray’s death felt in line with how his character would go out — with a bang, but it was disappointing in terms of the story. He’s a hothead and a literal child who's been raised to be cold-blooded, but offing his character seemed like an easy route to take because he wasn’t one of the main characters. It’s also difficult to be an Ashtray stan considering how he’s callously extinguished enemies and perceived foes throughout the series. To be clear, his death is sad and shocking, but it didn’t rip my heart open. He was a complicated character, and my feelings reflect that. I was more affected by how this tragedy will forever change Fezco. That was his little brother!

Tomi: All right, let’s talk a little more about this play. What do you think were Lexi’s intentions with it?

Shannon: This freaking play, man. What’s funny is Lexi clearly was not expecting to put herself in a bad art friend situation. She expressed some concerns to Fezco about how her sister would feel about seeing herself represented in all her beautiful, extremely messy glory, but I don’t think she’s prepared for how freaked out people can get when you write stories clearly based on them. (I would know.) But she clearly thinks she has something to say and convinced a bunch of people to bring her vision to life, so you know what, good for her!

But where did the absurd budget for this thing come from? Was it a school-sanctioned play, and if so, how was Lexi allowed to write so much about sex and drugs? I also love (by which I mean, I hate) that the whole production is its own Euphoria episode in perfect miniature: Lexi’s doing the voiceover instead of Rue, there are lots of character portraits but nothing really happens, aesthetics over story, a giant nonsense dance number at the end. Who would have thought Lexi writes plays exactly the same way Sam Levinson writes television? 🙃

Michael: I thought the play was fantastic. I don’t think Lexi wanted to malign anyone. The play was true to herself and her point of view, which was great, especially since Lexi’s often in the periphery in terms of characters. It definitely got under people’s skin and was a little provocative, but that was to be expected. The production has clearly soured the already not-so-great relationship between her and her sister but hopefully Cassie comes around eventually to see that this was simply an outlet for Lexi to express herself and hone her talents.

Tomi: Are we fans of Fexi?

Shannon: I love them. I’m a sucker for odd couples. I totally understand the attraction on both their parts. And the actors are so cuuuuute.

Michael: Yeah, I love them too. I think them being an unlikely duo is what makes me fall for them even more. It’s also nice to see a softer side to Fez, especially since the season premiere showed us how violent his upbringing was. It’s refreshing to see him in this light. And with Lexi being one of the most rational characters on the show, it’s cool to see her let her guard down a bit and explore being with a bad boy.

Tomi: Let’s talk about Lexi’s sister, Cassie. Why do you think Cassie decided to start sleeping with Nate in the first place?

Shannon: I recently wrote that Cassie seems to have major daddy issues, which is why she keeps ending up in these disastrous relationships with boys. She was in a bad place emotionally and a really hot, tall guy who’s an expert manipulator paid her some attention. I don’t think she’s the type to thrill at the affair aspect of it — some people would get off on sleeping with their best friend’s guy. For Cassie, I think that’s just a horrible, horrible, horrible coincidence, and she just wasn’t strong enough emotionally to choose friendship over male attention.

Michael: I think that comes through a lot in Sydney Sweeney’s performance too. Even though Cassie doesn’t seem to understand how fucked up it is to sleep with your best friend’s ex, I sympathize because the performance is so complex. Sweeney really captures the messiness and confusion and oblivious devotion of an unfortunate situation like this with a lot of nuance.

Tomi: A number of actors this season, including Sweeney, Minka Kelly, and Chloe Cherry, who plays Faye, have talked about asking Levinson if they could cover up in scenes that initially required nudity. Do you think there’s too much nudity on the show?

Shannon: I didn’t notice as much of it this season — presumably because the actors had these conversations! — and thank god. I think nudity has its place, of course, but in a TV show by and about teens that’s already extremely sexual (you need only to look to Euphoria High memes to tell you everyone’s barely wearing clothing anyway). I’m glad the actors were able to advocate for themselves.

Michael: The nudity definitely seemed gratuitous at times, but it feels like the show pulled back a bit more as this season unfolded. I think Euphoria straddles the line between being titillating and voyeuristic. That said, I’m glad it seems like Levinson was open to listening to the actors' concerns if they felt they were revealing too much.

Tomi: Zendaya is on her way to Emmy #2 no doubt. In Episode 7, Rue’s mom Leslie (played by Nika King) basically gives Rue her blessing to keep doing drugs, saying she’d rather have one daughter than lose two. What do we think? What are we to make of her parenting generally? I know there have been some memes about how a Black mother would react to their child’s drug use.

And are there any decent adults on the show?

Shannon: Zero. Except for Ali, kind of. And the thing is, that’s true to a lot of young people’s experiences. There’s plenty of not-great parenting out there, from neglectful to abusive, and I’m glad that Euphoria is delving into some of the many traumas of the nuclear family.

Michael: It’s hard to say anything definitive about Leslie’s parenting because we still don’t know much about her. What’s clear is that she loves Rue more than anything, but the drama she’s endured because of her daughter has begun to wear on her. And not only that, it’s beginning to affect Gia, Rue’s younger sister, whose grades have been slipping. I think Leslie is in a tough spot because she realizes while trying her hardest to save one other child, she could potentially end up losing both, and so she makes the difficult decision to invest more in Gia’s well-being in the hope that she doesn’t make the same mistakes as her sister. I’d say Leslie, along with Ali, are examples of decent adults. They’re doing the best they can to steer Rue in the right direction with the tools and resources they have at their disposal. With Leslie, this is a mother’s unconditional love and with Ali, it’s his life experience.

And sure, a lot of the adults are pretty messed up on this show, but that feels true to life to me. So many people don’t heal and overcome their trauma so they cope by self-medicating or indulging in dangerous behaviors until they succumb to their vices. No D.A.R.E., but, in a way, the adults seem to illustrate the kind of future that awaits the messy teens if they’re unable to clean up their act.

Who’s our favorite new couple? Do we approve of Jules and Elliot?

Shannon: The fact that the two are dating in real life is charming to me. And both Hunter Schafer and Dominic Fike are so good in these roles. I know their relationship on the show has been controversial, but I’m actually a fan of how their dynamic has unfolded. Typically I’d be pissed off that a guy is coming between two girls — we’ve seen it too many times — but I think the extent to which Schafer has collaborated with Levinson on Jules’ gender journey gives her interest in Elliot more weight and depth. I have a couple of friends who are super pissed that Jules would cheat on Rue, but Rue is such a wreck right now, has blamed Jules for relapsing, and is not giving Jules what she needs sexually, emotionally, or otherwise. Elliot is hot and cool and seems to really see Jules. I’m totally into it!

Michael: I 1,000% approve of Jules and Elliot. If Rue had her life together and wasn’t lying about her drug use and pushing away the people who truly want the best for her, there’s no doubt in my mind Jules would still be there for her. I think the dalliance between Jules and Elliot happened in a pretty organic way, and I’m curious to see how it develops over time.

What is going on with Kat this season? There have been rumors that Barbie Ferreira, who plays her, and creator Levinson have butted heads, and she hasn’t exactly come out and debunked these rumors.

Shannon: This is such a bummer to me. I love Kat and I love Ferreira. Her only plotline this season has been disliking her boyfriend so much that she pretends to have a traumatic brain injury — her character doesn’t feel in the thick of things at all. If the rumors of Levinson trying to foist an eating disorder plotline on Kat this season are true, I’m so glad that Ferreira was like, Dude, no. Her character deserves a story that has nothing to do with her body.

Michael: An eating disorder storyline — though this obviously happens in real life — would seem like a lazy way to explore Kat’s story. You can tell her role has been diminished because she seems much more like Maddy’s sidekick this season, and I can’t think of any standout moments aside from the self-love parody from Episode 2.

On that note, do you feel the lack of a writers room with this season of Euphoria?

Shannon: Boy, do I. Imagine what even one (1) Black woman writer could bring to this show. It’d be major. Levinson has imbued Rue’s story with parts of his own, as someone who’s struggled with drug dependency in the past, but I don’t think Levinson is a capable enough writer to do Rue and her family true justice when it comes to how her drug use intersects with her race and gender.

Michael: I definitely feel the lack of writers room, but I don’t think I’m against it. There are times when a creator, ahem, auteur, could use a little help from others — hi, Tyler Perry — but I don’t think any of Levinson’s choices have come across as being really beyond the pale for me. Euphoria is, as Slate noted in early January, a dozen different shows, but I think that’s part of why it’s so polarizing. Sure, Levinson could probably consult others when bringing to life characters of a different race and/or background, but there’s something electrifying about Euphoria because it tends to go against what people feel the show should be doing. I may hate the decisions Levinson makes at times, but I love dissecting and talking about them even more!

Which characters do you want to see less of? Who do you want to see more of?

Michael: I think I’d like to see less of Nate, mainly because he seems to get a lot of play and airtime because he’s a good-looking (and maybe very disturbed) white boy. I’m also not sure what else there is to say about Nate and his family now that his dad is out of the picture. I want to see more of Gia. Storm Reid is such a good actor and has been criminally underused so far. Her anguish is always used as meme fodder, but we don’t know much about her beyond that.

Shannon: Totally agree — more Gia! And I’d love more of Leslie, too, to contextualize her parenting approach and help us actually get to know her. We were teased with like, five seconds of her backstory growing up in the church; I hope they’ll get back to it.

Where would you like to see the next season of Euphoria go?

Michael: Honestly, I know the show has been deemed too much for certain viewers, and while they deal with dark and heavy themes, I think it could be darker. That’s not to say I believe the show should become a slog, full of predictable stereotypes about teens and drug use, but I think the stakes could be a smidge higher. Rue’s always teetering on the edge, but she always seems to find her way back, even if it’s temporary. Fez pummeled Nate’s face at a party, but it doesn’t seem that getting his behind whooped made him radically change his behavior. It’d be more interesting to see more of the characters faced with real repercussions for their actions, things they can’t easily be rescued from.

Shannon: Yes please to higher stakes. This season the stakes were seemingly super high — Rue was nearly sold into prostitution — and yet never felt earned or real, because as you mentioned, Michael, Rue’s always OK in the end. She needs to face some real consequences. By the finale her voiceover suggests she’s grown, in some way, but have we seen any of her actions really suggest as much?●

Correction: Nika King's last name was misstated in a previous version of this post.

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