Euphoria Season 2, Episode 1 Recap: Hitting Where It Hurts

picture of Euphoria cast at the season 2 premiere. photo by HBOMax

Like seemingly everyone else, I watched the season two premiere of Euphoria Sunday night—against all odds on the sketchy interface that is HBO Max—and was once again drawn back into its wild world. Some say the show is an unrealistic portrayal of teenagers, but I think much of what the characters wrestle with hits home for teenagers and brings us former teenagers back to the anxiety-filled time that was high school. If the first episode was any indication, we are in for another season of glitter-covered, bloody-knuckled chaos. Warning: spoilers ahead!

What Season One Gave Us

Like any good show-watcher, I did a dutiful rewatch of season one in preparation for season two’s debut, and found a lot of deeper themes revolving around gender that often get buried underneath the shock of the show. Namely, an antiquated view on sexuality and purity culture. First, there’s toxic Nate’s obsession with Maddy being a virgin—a clear depiction of purity culture at play—and Maddy takes that even deeper. She’s willing to lie and play into Nate’s demands of purity—and violence!!— to achieve financial stability she never had—a dangerous trade-off far too many women have made with awful men like Nate. We also saw purity culture play out in Kat’s transition from shame about being a virgin to shame about being a cam girl; as she gained confidence in her anonymously sexual, online life, she grew more anxious in her real life, afraid her secret life as a cam girl might get out. Our ever sweet and ever sad Cassie arguably gets punished from purity culture the most. She holds so much shame about her past relationships, her reputation, and even her abortion, and constantly flits between seeking approval and shedding tears. Honestly, Sydney Sweeney deserves all the awards purely for the amount of time she spends crying as Cassie, something I think any high schooler who has been slut-shamed can relate to.

The focus on purity culture bred another dark but prevalent plotline: violence against trans people. Jules’ background episode was one of the hardest to watch, showing her mother surrendering her to a psychiatric hospital when she was just 11, leading to an inevitably traumatizing time. Jules then gets lured into a cruel blackmail-catfish-revenge porn situation with none other than Evil Jock Boyfriend. It’s clear Nate targeted Jules, who is new at the school and vulnerable,  for his violent, toxic masculinity as he wrestles with his own sexuality because she is trans.

What Season Two, Episode One Gave Us

Season two kicked off with a bang, or should I say punch? The stress sweat I had while Cassie was hiding in the bathtub from Maddy was REAL, once again proving Nate is trash. But what I liked most about episode one was more of our dear, neighborhood drug dealer, Fezco. We finally got his backstory and dare I say: he is the feminist hero we need. Bear with me. 

Not only was Fez seemingly in agreement with Rue’s demand for gender equality in the drug dealer space—I wonder if there is a wage gap there, too—but he credits his success and work ethic to his grandmother. A grandmother who had to juggle caretaking responsibilities of Fez and Ash when both of their mothers abandoned them, all while running her drug empire. We don’t know whether she ignored her health problems while trying to balance all that was on her plate, but we do know that the medical care she received and the mounting bills Fez has to pay are huge economic factors into why he feels compelled to continue running her drug ring. And how could we overlook the budding romance that was Fez hyping up shy Lexi, moments before beating the absolute mess out of Nate. Nothing says romance like beating up a misogynist, abusive bully! 

What I Want For Season Two

I’m looking forward to more episodes produced by Zendaya, and a Rue and Jules reunion. I need Lexi’s backstory—probably a different side of the same coin to her sister Cassie’s story. I’m here for unlikely heroes like Fez, and I want to see the evolution of Cassie and Maddy’s friendship. Episode one starts with a big fracture in their closeness that we know will bubble under the surface and eventually spill over. If you’re sucked into the Euphoriaverse with me, keep an eye out for my weekly recaps this season!