It’s been well over a year since Jules (Hunter Schafer) left Rue (Zendaya) behind at the train station in the climactic season finale of Euphoria, which premiered all the way back in August of 2019. So when production on the show’s second season was delayed by COVID-19 safety concerns, fans of the HBO smash hit were most certainly disappointed. In its place came two special “bridge” episodes to sustain fans until the highly anticipated release of season two later this year.
The first stand-alone episode, “Trouble Don’t Last Always,” premiered last December, centering around a Christmas Eve conversation between Rue and her sponsor. Picking up six months after her relapse, the episode explores addiction, race, and mental health from the familiar POV of the series’ protagonist.
Part two focuses on Jules, who is back at home after her runaway attempt at the end of season one. Similar to Rue’s conversation-driven episode, we catch up with Jules in the context of a therapy session. Released to HBO Max in January, the episode opens with a series of familiar images flashing in the reflection of Jules’ sparkling blue eye. The turbulent romance between Jules and Rue is kaleidoscopically recapped as Lorde’s melancholic ballad “Liability” plays in the background. While remaining true to the show’s poetically expressive style, we see Euphoria through Jules’ eyes for the first time. It’s a powerful opening sequence that makes season one feel more like a prologue to the 55-minute therapy session featured in the episode.
In season one, Rue is the middleman between the audience and every other character. Tinges of Jules’ character are revealed throughout the season, but most of the details come from Rue’s limited perspective on her best friend. Jules’ background can only be developed through the stories and emotions she expresses to Rue, inevitably leaving out unspoken, intimate details about her past. But in Rue’s absence, a dynamic understanding of Jules is unearthed.
The most powerful dialogue featured in the episode comes about in moments where Jules reflects on her identity. Finding herself exhausted by gender performativity, Jules tells her therapist she’s considering going off her hormones. While she does not seek to completely de-transition, Jules wants to explore the features of her gender expression that are personally empowering rather than continuing to root her femininity in what men find desirable. Jules no longer wants to box herself into a singular expression of herself; instead, she hopes to become “as beautiful as the ocean… I don’t want to stand still, I want to be alive.”
Schafer demonstrates her amazing capacities as an actress throughout the episode, blurring the line between actor and character in scene after scene. The emotional depth she achieves can most certainly be attributed to the skillful collaboration of creators Levison and Schafer, who co-authored the project during the months of the pandemic. Like in real life, the show takes a step back to disentangle the past before jumping into the next season of life. Euphoria’s creators ultimately made the best of every COVID-19 setback, adding an emotional depth that will inform our perceptions of Rue and Jules come season two.
Chloe Gibson is second year Documentary Studies and Production major who perfected their Euphoria makeup look in quarantine. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.