Serving us trauma with a side of glitter, Euphoria captured our attention during its 2019 premiere. With its just out of reach storylines—– you know, minus the week-day house parties and hard drugs—flashy outfits and even flashier cinematography, it’s safe to say season one left us all wanting more. But what started off as the perfect entree to a lavish dinner, seems to be ending with an overly ambitious dessert.
By now, even those who haven’t seen the show know what season two gave us: nudity, more nudity and, did I mention, even more nudity? Between the completely unnecessary flashes from male characters and seemingly endless footage of Cassie Howard (Sydney Sweeney) naked, my digital footprint is in need of some serious deep cleaning. And this isn’t a baseless, prudish claim either. In an interview for The Independent, Sweeney herself spoke about asking for fewer nude scenes with the show’s creator, Sam Levinson. And while the actress’ requests were fulfilled, the fact it even occurred raises questions on the oversexualization of the characters in Euphoria.
With the broad array of mature topics, and the utter lack of school work getting done, it’s easy to forget that the show takes place in high school. Ultimately though, the topics at hand, albeit somewhat exacerbated, are relatable to teen audiences. Sexuality, body image, toxic young love—these are all major aspects of the high school experience that were captured effortlessly in season one. Yet, season two takes these issues and perverts them completely. While intimate scenes between Jules Vuaghn and Cal Jacobs certainly made my skin crawl, they helped to introduce Jules’ struggle in feeling secure in her femininity as a trans woman; every sexual scene or moment was added intentionally. In season two, they seem to appear in a fervent, steamy and utterly excessive mess, adding virtually nothing to the story.
Whatsmore, this hyperfixation on sexual relationships, distracts from potential development of the show’s characters. Previously, characters like Maddy Perez, Cassie Howard and Kat Hernandez were depicted as it-girls of sorts, each with their own issues hidden behind a confident, glamorous front. But as season two continues Cassie’s battle with self-love and male validation through her physical relationship with Nate Jacobs, it simultaneously neglects Perez’s own storyline while struggling to include Hernandez’s altogether.
And this is further emphasized with the aforementioned neglect of Hernandez’s character. Having initially represented the younger generation of late bloomers raised by the internet, Hernandez’s ongoing struggles with sexuality and self-discovery struck a chord with a large demographic. But once again, this issue is completely overshadowed by other characters’ storylines; in abandoning Hernandez’s character, the show has also lost some of its pertinence toward its audience.
Perhaps even worse than the lack of character development is the focus placed on male validation. While this issue is highly prevalent for both queer and straight individuals, its inclusion in Vaughn and Rue Bennett’s relationship is a cause for concern. See, Bennet’s struggles with addiction is the seed for the rift in her relationship with Vaughn. The show’s inclusion of Elliot, a new character this season, re-introduces Vaughn’s struggle with male validation– something the character already resolved last season. While it’s true that self acceptance doesn’t happen overnight, having Elliot become a romantic interest for Vaughn sours the show’s opportunity to highlight its only queer and interracial relationship. Instead, it can be seen as a poor and harmful representation of the LGBTQ+ community considering Vaughn’s statements in season one that clarified she was no longer attracted to men.
All this aside, season two does necessitate some praise. For one, the opening scene in episode one can only be described as iconic. A deep dive into the backstory of a fan favorite, Fezco, this episode played back into the show’s strengths. Aesthetically, the scene is stunning but plot-wise, Euphoria does what it does best by delivering a flashy adaptation of a universal experience, in this case the establishment of a chosen family.
Another character that viewers are pleased to see getting more screen time this season is Lexi Howard. Witty, grounded and a bit socially awkward, Lexi Howard balances out the mayhem happening around her, tethering back the relatability factor some viewers may have felt with Hernandez. And perhaps best of all, the expansion of her character has consequently hinted at the beginnings of a romantic relationship between Lexi Howard and Fezco. Though they live in two completely different worlds, their shared rationale and unique charm potentially makes them the perfect pair—their budding feelings drawing us all back for more.
In the end though, this is only the start of the show’s journey into a new chapter of each character’s life. While it may have missed the mark a bit so far, Euphoria continues to have us all tuning in for more.