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euphoria

Earlier this month, Google News paired two headlines in my feed. The first, from The Guardian, read "Coming down: why has shock teen show Euphoria become such a drag?" The second, from Variety, said "'Euphoria' Season 2 Viewership Is Up Nearly 100% From Season 1". You might see this as evidence that audiences are getting dumber, but since I don't agree with the Guardian's take, I'm inclined to think viewership is up because people have caught on to the show. Not sure why this would be ... Season One was what we once called a "water cooler show" that everyone wanted to talk about. I don't know where those 100% more viewers came from. I know that I am pretty much the only person I know who watches Euphoria. I haven't convinced any of my friends to tune in. But the virtual water cooler is on fire over the series.

Creator Sam Levinson wrote and directed every episode this season, so you know who to praise or blame. Euphoria is so erratic ... let's just say it, the show is a mess ... that you find yourself praising and blaming simultaneously. Levinson is fearless about showing off, and that over-the-top feeling is one of the best parts of Euphoria, except when it's the worst. You won't be bored watching the show ... Levinson won't allow it.

Unsurprisingly, some people criticize the show for glamorizing drug addiction, to which I say, what show are they watching? Yes, there is plenty of glitz and glam, but it's largely external. The addicts in the show are essentially miserable, and you'd have to be an idiot to want to live their lives. Rue, the central character played by Zendaya, is even worse off for most of Season Two. There is nothing about her life that would make you think "I want to do drugs". Even the fact that she is played by Zendaya, a fashionable, popular, beautiful actress, doesn't make Rue's life appealing, because Zendaya, who deserved becoming the youngest-ever winner of a Best Drama Actress Emmy, is remarkable at turning down the glam. In fact, this is often an easy way to awards recognition: be glamourous, but play an unglamorous part, and people will mistake it for acting. Except that Zendaya truly is amazing. As if to ensure she gets Emmy consideration again, an entire episode of Season Two is devoted to Rue scraping bottom (and Zendaya delivers).

One problem with Season Two is that some popular characters are largely abandoned for no apparent reason. Hunter Schafer, who plays trans character Jules, a sometimes-love partner of Rue, isn't around nearly enough for me in Season Two, and other fans can say the same about their own favorite actors/characters. A few characters are given more to do, and the actors gobble up the opportunity. Best is Sydney Sweeney as Cassie, the girl with big boobs and a slut reputation. Sweeney does great work with a character that could be a stereotype.

The season climaxes with a two-episode combo where Cassie's sister Lexi puts on a school play about the lives of her, her family, and her friends. There are plenty of outrageous scenes, as Levinson blends the characters in the play with their "real life" counterparts ... it gets confusing at times, but it mostly works, and after almost two seasons of listening to Rue's narration (and her subsequent unreliable point of view), it's interesting to see these people from the perspective of a different character.

Levinson also did something unusual during the long COVID break. He shot two episodes that were shown between the two seasons. Both episodes were basically two characters in a simple setting (perfect for COVID filming), and they completely avoided the overkill that usually makes Euphoria such an extravagant mess.

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