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The ‘Euphoria’ Exit Survey

Covering the highs and lows of one of the most surprising—and shocking—TV shows of 2019

HBO/Ringer illustration

Euphoria arrived in June with a voice-over from an angsty teen complaining about being born. It evolved into something much more layered from there, blossoming into a visually daring show—and showcase for Zendaya—that carefully depicted substance abuse and genuinely tried to understand what it’s like for teens to grow up in 2019. With Season 1 officially in the books, the Ringer staff divulged their thoughts on the show.


1. What is your tweet-length review of the first season of Euphoria?

Kate Knibbs: The greatest YouTube eye makeup tutorial I’ve ever seen!!!

Sean Yoo: Adolescence is extremely dark and full of terrors …

Lindsay Zoladz: Come for the 30 penises; stay for a surprisingly complex and visually audacious portrayal of drug addiction and codependency. Oh, and the eye makeup! My God, the eye makeup.

Alison Herman:

Jacqueline Kantor: Generation Z uses glitter eye makeup for any occasion and is still drinking Gatorade and Everclear.

Jackson Safon: Dazzling cinematography + great acting + a mature handling of difficult subjects = the best (non-Fleabag) show of 2019.

Haley O’Shaughnessy: So the awkward high school phase isn’t a thing anymore?

HBO

2. What was the best moment of the season?

Safon: Every time they completely abandoned the structure of the show—i.e., Rue’s lesson about nudes, and Detective Rue and Detective Lexi.

Herman: Rue’s dick pic TED Talk was an early glimpse of how fun this show can be when it lightens up a little bit.

Kantor: Maddy’s reaction after ejecting the disc she took from Nate’s room.

Yoo: Any scenes involving our lord and savior Fezco were far and away the most enjoyable. If I had to choose one, I think I would have to pick the fentanyl scene with Rue. It created extreme tension, but it also allowed us to see Fez’s protective-brother dynamic with Rue, showcasing just how deeply he cares about her. The scene opened up Fez’s character from being a friendly neighborhood drug dealer to being a legitimate friend with some foundational morals and values.

O’Shaughnessy: Rue and Lexi pulling out a list of The Wire characters to threaten one of the twins who was hitting on Rue’s little sister. “If you so much as go past first base with my little sister or try to get her high again,” Rue says, “I will call Omar. I will call Marlo. I will call Avon. I will call Brother Mouzone. I will call fuckin’ Bodie. And I will call fucking Stringer.” The best, though, is when Lexi whispers in his ear, “Or even Wee-Bey.” Troy, of course, is too young to recognize the show; maybe I’m just appreciative of the writers for pretending Rue and Lexi, 2019 high school juniors, weren’t too young for it.

Zoladz: When I, a 32-year-old human woman, felt compelled to purchase and experiment with yellow eyeshadow.

3. What was your least favorite part?

Zoladz: When I, a 32-year-old human woman, felt compelled to purchase and experiment with yellow eyeshadow.

Knibbs: I really hated the first cold open, when Rue blamed being born for all her problems. It wasn’t the sentiment itself that bothered me, as “I never asked to be born” is an enduringly annoying teen platitude, and with everything we see from Rue, it makes sense for her character to feel that way. Rather, it was the way the show presented it as ~deep~ that had me worried I was in for an exceedingly stupid ride. Thankfully, the show improved from there.

Yoo: There were plenty of uncomfortable scenes throughout the season but I really struggled through any scene involving Kat and her webcam groupies.

O’Shaughnessy: Nothing was more painful than the flashbacks of Gia, Rue’s little sister, finding Rue overdosed in her bedroom. No scene with Gia ever has her completely at ease. She’s traumatized as a bystander over and over again.

Kantor: Everything involving Eric Dane, who somehow fits the part of Nate’s predatory dad as well as he did as McSteamy.

Safon: Nate nearly beating Tyler to death in Episode 2 really took me out of it. I’m as big a supporter of this show as anybody, but after that scene I really thought hard about whether I was going to keep watching. The show intentionally pushes the boundaries of what’s realistic and what’s over the top, but that scene felt specifically unnecessary.

Herman: I’ve already complained about this on multiple platforms, but a show innovative enough to make Rue and Jules its leads has no business falling back on yet another closeted jock as a villain. “All homophobes are secretly gay” doesn’t pass muster as a Twitter insult, let alone a TV plot.

4. Who got the best cold open of the season?

Zoladz: I live for Maddy (never forget that this character’s opening line in the series is, “Do you think my areolas look weird?”) and her transformation from Toddlers & Tiaras–esque pageant princess to high school student with a surprising affection for Sharon Stone’s character in Casino did not disappoint. Rue’s introductory soliloquy in the pilot, though, feels worth mentioning in retrospect: It set up exactly what makes this show unique, and it was our first glimpse of Zendaya’s fantastic performance.

Herman: Baby Pageant Girl Maddy had some real Andrea Arnold takes on Honey Boo Boo vibes.

Safon: It’s a tie between Kat and Maddy. Using the cold opens as a way to dive deeper into the tier-2 characters was brilliant. We knew a lot about the backstories and motivations of Rue, Jules, and even Nate, but we didn’t have much to go on with some of the other characters. The cold opens for Kat and Maddy gave those characters incredible depth that helped explain some of their harder-to-understand choices throughout the season.

Knibbs: I really enjoyed the Kat cold open. As a fellow former preteen lover of high-calorie non-alcoholic slushie beverages (I was once chastised for ordering four virgin strawberry daiquiris in a day), I enjoyed the representation.

Kantor: Cassie’s did the most in adding an unexpected layer to her character’s development (which up to that point had mostly just been shaped by the men around her). Plus, it brought in the figure skating background, which set up her gorgeous skating scene in the finale.

Yoo: I’m just going to speak the potential Fez cold open in Season 2 into existence.

HBO

5. Who was Euphoria’s sneaky MVP?

Safon: Is it cheating to say Fez?

Zoladz: Everyone’s saying Fez, right? Because: Fez. But I also loved Kat. Her story arc felt a little overblown (even by Euphoria standards, “underage cam girl with a micropenis sugar daddy” is a lot to stomach), but I was continuously impressed by Barbie Ferreira’s depiction of a formerly insecure girl coming into her sexual power.

Yoo: Clear-cut MVP for me is Fez … the sneaky MVP might be Maude Apatow’s Lexi, who was the voice of reason, a reliable friend, and a supportive sister throughout the season. Plus, her Bob Ross costume was iconic.

O’Shaughnessy: Lexi shouldn’t even be a sneaky MVP. She saved her sister, Cassie, multiple times, including once steering Cassie’s boyfriend away from entering a room where her sister was hooking up with someone else. She also gave Rue clean urine for her drug test. Both of those are enabling actions, but Lexi is the one character whose selflessness never breaks. She also dressed as Bob Ross for Halloween and made a Wee-Bey reference (see above). MVP.

Herman: Assuming everyone else will vote for Angus Cloud, I’ll put in a word for Barbie Ferreira. Saddled with one of the more outlandish story lines, Ferreira sold Kat’s awkward blend of confidence and vulnerability as all too real. The script never comes out and asks whether seeking out sexual attention after years of rejection is empowering or just another way of giving men the power to determine your self-worth, but it doesn’t have to—Ferreira’s anxious, angry face already does.

Knibbs: I don’t know whether this is sneaky, but THE MAKEUP ARTISTS. I love the whimsical, futuristic looks so much that I’d still watch the show even if I hated everything else.

Kantor: Whatever happened to that friend of Kat and Maddy’s who didn’t have many lines and mostly just talked shit and vaped? If she had more time, maybe it could have been her.

6. Choose your favorite musical cue from the season.

Safon: The entire Bobby Womack, “Fly Me to the Moon” sequence nearly brought me to tears. Zendaya, Storm Reid, and Nika King did an unbelievable job of conveying the complex range of emotions that comes with a sister/daughter returning from the hospital after a drug overdose. Reid and King going from fear to reserved happiness to deep laughter all while Zendaya is dancing and lip-syncing was truly one of the most emotional moments of an emotions-inducing show.

Zoladz: Drake’s “Nonstop” worked well, because it was exactly the right amount of Drake for the series—one song. And it captures the mood of the show pretty succinctly: Euphoria was certainly not a stopwatch, but the gaudiest possible Rolex (and one probably procured by teenagers through very troubling means).

Yoo: The music was very strong all season but no moment had an impact as strong as the finale’s use of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You.”

Kantor: Labrinth’s “Vibes,” in snippets throughout the season and when Jules belts it out in the car during her visit to the city … but also the use of Jamie xx’s “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” during the first episode when Rue is stumbling through the house party. And also the use of “Blow the Whistle” in a season finale in 2019!

7. What are you most looking forward to for Season 2?

Zoladz: Even though they break my heart, more Rue and Jules. Their chemistry is something special, and their relationship across this streaking comet of a first season gestured toward all the sorts of new narrative possibilities when queer stories are told on TV.

Kantor: The much-needed Fezco cold open!!!

Herman: A Lexi episode—JUSTICE FOR GIRLS WHO SPENT HIGH SCHOOL MINDING THEIR OWN DAMN BUSINESS AND PREPPING FOR THE SAT!

Knibbs: Fez’s cold open, Ashtray’s cold open, Maddy’s outfits, Jules’s eyeliner, and more of a story line for Maude Apatow.

Safon: Every single scene that Rue will be in. Zendaya as Rue is one of my favorite characters, and one of the most compelling characters, on television in a decent while. She’s electric, magnetic—whatever overly-positive adjective you want to use, she probably is.

Also, looking forward to Maddy destroying the Jacobs family via the DVD.

Also, Fez’s cold open, whenever that happens.

If you can’t tell, I really like this show.

HBO

8. What are you dreading the most?

O’Shaughnessy: Maddy using the tape she took from Nate’s room—which almost certainly contains the video of Nate’s dad with the underage Jules—in any capacity other than to punish Nate’s dad.

Kantor: It’s expected in a show based on the main character’s addiction that there are going to be relapses. Rue’s trajectory, regardless of the speed of her recovery, will likely be difficult to watch.

Zoladz: I don’t want to see any more of Rue’s relapse! But of course we will. You had been bracing for it to happen all season, and the unfortunate truth is that it was probably the only true cliff-hanger the show could have left us with over Euphoria’s extended summer vacation. But that didn’t make it any less painful when it happened, and I hope the show doesn’t throw her in any deeper than she already is.

Yoo: Whatever vengeful shit Nate Jacobs decides to pull.

Safon: It pains me to say it, but I think there’s a decent chance that Fez dies in Season 2. The finale left things ambiguous with him, and I think he survives that encounter with “Mouse” but ... with such a likable character wrapped up in an unlikable world, my guess is Sam Levinson decides Fez’s time is limited.

Knibbs: I know that relapse almost always happens when people are trying to stop misusing substances, but I’m just really not looking forward to seeing Rue cycle in and out of rehab again.

Herman: A post-relapse Rue is going to be tough; a post-breakup Rue and Jules is going to be even tougher.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.