‘Euphoria’: Special Episode Review

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Eddy Chen/HBO

After the season finale of “Euphoria”, protagonist Rue Bennett (Zendaya) is seen to be back to her old ways, doing drugs in order to escape reality. Her relationship with Jules (Hunter Schafter) was at the forefront, and left with almost no clarity.

When the two special episodes were announced back in October, two questions came to mind: From a human aspect: How was everyone involved going to be able to pull this off? And from the story aspect: Where does Rue go from here?

Eddy Chen/HBO

Euphoria is a fast-paced show, with certain distinctive stylistic choices in terms of the way it’s filmed and edited, as well as a certain energy that is given off by its characters and music selection — Surely an ongoing pandemic would bring a temporary halt to their style. Yet even with most of these elements being less pronounced in this special episode, its writer and director, Sam Levinson, delivered.
The episode is focused entirely around Rue, as we see how she is coping after having not boarded the train with Jules in the final episode of the first season. We find her eating pancakes with her supporter Ali (Colman Domingo) at a mostly empty diner on Christmas Eve. And as much as Rue claims she is happy and content in this moment of her life, Ali can tell that that’s not the case. And despite him being the self-proclaimed “crackhead trying to do a little good on this Earth before (he dies)”, we start to see more and more of his character throughout the episode, and learn about how he is just looking to navigate his own wrongdoings, not just as a man, but as a father.
The nearly hour-long conversation between the two of them goes into addiction, life, death, God, social unrest, and much more, in what is one of the more authentic works of television we may see in 2020. We are shown that the reason Ali is such a real friend to Rue is that he is honest about his limits — “I don’t know all the answers and I won’t pretend to.”
The lasting impact of the episode is found in the part during which the two discuss sobriety with a waitress in the diner named Marsha (Marsha Gambles). The most valuable thing she says isn’t about the length of her sobriety, but about how she learned something her grandma would say to her when she got sober: “Trouble don’t last always.” She also recalls how she couldn’t date at the beginning of her sobriety because she needed to focus on getting better. The two desires simply can’t go together. It’s a message Ali hopes Rue takes to heart.
The prospects of what exactly Rue proves to have learnt from this conversation with Ali is a bit bleak, but it only adds to the drama that nobody thought we would be getting any more of this year, due to all of these COVID-19 circumstances. It just builds more anticipation for the second special episode, which will air in late January.

Eddy Chen/HBO