This post contains spoilers for Euphoria season 2 episode 2. Read our Euphoria season 2 episode 1 review here.
There is not a hint of New Year’s resolutions in the aftermath of the raging bash that left Nate (Jacob Elordi) requiring a trip to the ER in the eventful Euphoria premiere. Instead, the path to self-destruction is the one favored by most. This week picks up in the immediate aftermath of Fezco’s (Angus Cloud) violent outburst that appeared to be unprovoked. However, the audience and most of the attendees are clued into Nate’s predilection for causing trouble. Now, he is engaging in another dangerous game involving his ex and her best friend.
Not one but two new Euphoria love triangles shift to the foreground, with the opening montage focusing on Nate once more. After taking time to depict Fez’s past in the season 2 premiere, it is somewhat disappointing to return to pathologizing the villain of the series. Instead of his backstory, this montage shows flashes of a future Nate envisions with Cassie (Sydney Sweeney). The hot and heavy sequence taps into the signature shock tactics, which is accompanied by Rue’s (Zendaya) voiceover reiterating the toxic elements of Nate’s relationship with Maddy (Alexa Demie), which we watched play out during the first season. It is also a reminder of his abusive father Cal (Eric Dane) and the season 1 blackmail plot involving Jules (Hunter Schafer).
Jules is an unknowing participant in the second love triangle, which sees Rue fumble Elliot’s (Dominic Fike) introduction when they run into him on the first day of school. Yes, Rue and Jules are officially back together and making out in public, however, Rue’s distraction levels cause her to miss an “I love you” from her girlfriend. This is an immediate red flag and while there is definitely flirty energy between Rue and Elliot, it seems more likely that she is trying to keep her excessive drug use under wraps. Either way, Jules makes a teary beeline for the bathroom and the crosscutting of different groups is a stylistic high point.
Switching from Jules to Cassie leads to a quick catch-up of her spiral since she slept with Nate on New Year’s Eve. Suffice to say she didn’t follow Maddy’s advice regarding her single status. “You love to be loved,” Maddy tells her bestie before that fateful night; it doesn’t take an expert to know Cassie falling hard for Nate is going to end in more tears.
Meanwhile, Maddy’s babysitting gig throws up a potentially interesting interaction with guest star Minka Kelly playing the super glamorous mom, Samantha, whose designer-packed closet Maddy spends her time trying on. She almost gets caught and the jewelry drawer is left open, but for now, she is in the clear and safe to live out her Sharon Stone in Casino dreams.
The love triangle is a teen staple (yes, even the gritty A24 produced teen series ticks these boxes) and the bad boy allure of Nate is a tale as old as time. So far his characterization is very much steeped in his messed-up relationship with his dad, another trope that lacks nuance in this case.
“You don’t know how much power you have,” he tells Cassie when he catches up with her in the construction site after she’s fled his car. He is still sending “I love you” texts to Maddy while hooking up with Cassie on the side, and while he explicitly mentions the betrayal element he also doesn’t stop — booze is not a factor this time either.
Threats also come naturally to Nate and he warns Cassie to refrain from mentioning their liaisons in text messages. Nate’s father is also flexing his muscle around these teenagers. Cal gets Fez’s identity out of Cassie without too much trouble and when Lexie (Maude Apatow) goes to warn her new friend she cannot get the words out. After seeing drug addict Faye (who is now staying at Fez’s), she misreads this as romantic and her silence is tinged with jealousy — and Cal is scary. This visit doesn’t result in another barrage of violence but it does cause Cal to confront his son about what prompted this attack. Nate infers that it is to do with the video of his dad and Jules — a disk he no longer has — and the saga that began in season 1 continues.
Meanwhile, Jules is having a pretty wholesome night bowling with Maddy, Kat (Barbie Ferreira) and Ethan (Austin Abrams). Ethan is very much on the periphery of what was meant to be a date and so far the audience is being held at an arm’s length. He is sweet and attentive, which doesn’t bode well for a character on Euphoria. Kat’s vivid fantasies showcase the cracks in her new romance and she lies about her sex life to her friends. A highlight of episode 2 is when a cavalcade of influencers infiltrates Kat’s bedroom to yell at her to “love herself,” as if her self-loathing is something that can be cured by candles, pithy catchphrases and a facial. It is such a fleeting moment (too much time is dedicated to Nate in these opening episodes).
Power and self-esteem are entwined, and adolescence is rife with feelings of inadequacy and testing boundaries. Amid the overly stylized sequences is a glimmer of an insightful conversation and yet the aesthetics take center stage. Sometimes this works but it is also a distraction when we could be digging deeper.
It is worth noting that Rue sees Cassie running toward Nate’s car and no doubt this observation will come into play, although for now she simply shrugs and goes on about her business. She has her own treasure trove of secrets and Ali (Colman Domingo) can see through her attempts to look sober. This is another case of a compelling dynamic and one that was explored in more detail in the specials. However, for now, Ali is an additional obstacle.
There is a danger the narrative will become repetitive. These love triangles might be new to Euphoria, but it is a tried and tested plot device. Boundaries are already being pushed and hearts are definitely going to get broken. How much Rue’s drug-taking will impact the outcome is still unclear and her descent continues.