Last night, HBO debuted on their channel (after sneaking it on HBO Max a few days earlier), a special new episode of the breakout series Euphoria. The first season was a blast, winning Zendaya an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama Series, while filming of the second season for creator Sam Levinson and his company was delayed by COVID-19. Levinson didn’t let coronavirus and the pandemic stop his creative juices from flowing. Not only did he create a film for Netflix with Zendaya called Malcolm & Marie, but he also followed a strict protocol to direct a special episode of Euphoria. Designed to fill the gap between seasons, it’s a scaled-down episode that is one of the hugely effective.
For those who didn’t know, this is how the first season on Rotten Tomatoes is described: “The drama series follows the lives of a group of teenagers engaged in sex, parties, and substance abuse. Rue (Zendaya) has left rehab but has no plans to stay clean. Jules (Hunter Schafer) is a transgender girl who has a hard time adapting. Nate (Jacob Elordi) struggles with sexual insecurities. Chris (Algee Smith) struggles to adjust to college life, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) seems to be stuck with her past, and Kat (Barbie Ferreira) tries to explore her sexuality. In Season 1, the children go through many challenging events, but despite the difficulties, they learn to deal with what life throws at them. For that particular episode, this is the description, also by RT: “Rue celebrates Christmas after Jules left her at the train station and relapsed in the first of two special episodes.” Directed by Levinson, the episode features Zendaya a bit of Hunter Schafer and Colman Domingo, who memorably made a brief appearance last season.
This particular episode focuses on Zendaya’s Rue and Domingos Ali. As we learn more about Ali, it’s mostly a long conversation between the two, not just about addiction and drugs, but about life. He tries to break through and get through to her while she resists. It’s as heartbreaking as it is intellectually stimulating. For a show so often focused on style and camera movement, watching these two flawed people is almost entirely content. If you haven’t already felt for Rue, I’m sure you will now, although she will also be very frustrating for you. From top to bottom, Sam Levinson’s filmmaking or acting, everyone goes way beyond that.
Different from season one, and probably different from season two, but special in its own way, this is a captivating hour of television with brilliant acting by Zendaya and Colman Domingo. Zendaya won an Emmy Award for her work in the first season and she continues to shine here. It’s vulnerable work as we’ve expected from here in this series. What makes it so unique is that all of the flash and style is largely removed here, focusing on acting and solo acting. It’s one of the best episodes in the series, other than none.
Looking ahead, season two is likely to be more noticeable than season one, although COVID and the changes in the way things are turned can change that. Right now, this first special episode is an excellent return on characters we care about. At its core, Euphoria does an epically good job. Count me for more once it’s safe …
Make sure to check out the special episode of Euphoria that is now airing on HBO and HBO Max!
(Photos courtesy of HBO)