TV

Euphoria reaches jaw-dropping crescendo with heartbreaking Rue twist and long-awaited reveal

Gary Grimes February 7, 2022
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Zendaya in Euphoria

Zendaya in Euphoria. (HBO)

We’ve just passed the halfway point of Euphoria season two and, at last, this slow burn has exploded into a blazing inferno. Warning – suicide, drug addiction.

This week’s Euphoria episode, “Stand Still Like A Hummingbird”, begins with Rue ferociously attacking her younger sister Gia, suspecting that she’s told their mother she has been smoking weed.

In between Rue’s barks, her mother manages to inform her that smoking weed is the least of her worries – the jig is up, she knows Rue’s relapsed onto opiates, and that suitcase holding $10,000 worth of drugs with the intent to sell beneath her bed? Yeah, that’s gone now.

Echoing her blistering words to Jules in the car last week (“I can’t fucking stand you”), Rue spits venom at both her mother and sister as she quite literally tears their home apart in search of the suitcase, at one point going into full hulk-mode as she uses her entire body to kick down the door of her sister’s bedroom. Sadly, it’s probably the most alive we’ve seen Rue all season, driven by the desperation of her withdrawal symptoms and the terror that lies in her upon realising that without the suitcase, she’s in 10 grand of debt to Laurie, the chilling and monotonous drug lord, with no means to pay her back.

She’s eventually stopped in her tracks by the sound of Jules‘ voice coming from the kitchen, telling her they flushed the contents of the suitcase down the toilet. It has now all become painfully clear to Rue what’s happened – Elliot told Jules that Rue has been using, Jules told Rue’s mom, and together they decided the best course of action was to dispose of the drugs. It’s a shrewd move on Jules’ part but, of course, neither she nor Rue’s mum understand the severity of the potential consequences she may now face. Not be cruel, but we do have to question the judgement of an adult who discovers that large a quantity of Class A narcotics in their daughter’s bedroom and doesn’t pause to think about the potential safety implications binning them might impose on themselves, and the rest of the household…

Unsurprisingly, Rue immediately turns on her friends, labelling Elliot as a drug addict himself and accusing Jules of being a vampire who sucks the life from everyone in her orbit. It’s an utterly, spine-tinglingly sensational performance from Zendaya who uses every second of this opening brawl to remind us all why she is the star of Euphoria. In these 10 minutes she traverses between being possessed by the demon of her withdrawal symptoms to a whimpering mess apologising in tears on the floor, and back again several times over.

She is perhaps most affecting however when she lands somewhere in the middle of these two states – calm and quiet, gently delivering obscene cruelties to her nearest and dearest, with an malevolent smirk across her face that assures them there’s no line she’s unwilling to cross now.

She’s eventually coerced into her mother’s car under the guise they are going to the hospital so she can dry out. Slumped in the back of the vehicle, Rue paints a harrowing picture of the suicide she claims she was considering attempting next month – at the beach, lying on the sand and simply letting the waves slowly take her out to sea.

Upon realising she’s in fact being taken back to rehab, she bolts from the car and finds herself running through moving traffic to terrifying effect. Shout out to Storm Reid, who plays Rue’s little sister Gia with brilliant subtly throughout both this episode and Euphoria in general. By understanding the power of being silent is just as great as the power of a tortured scream, she makes her your heart break even harder for this family.

Fast forward a couple of hours, after waking up on the side of the street Rue begins a tour of the suburbs in search of any narcotic that might ease her pain. First stop, the home of her old BFF Lexi. She cautiously opens the door, but before she can get into it with Rue the pair are interrupted by her oblivious and scene-stealing mother. Rue manages to slip off to the bathroom but it seems the Howard household’s medicine cabinet doesn’t stock anything that would satiate her, so she leaves empty-handed, save for a pair of gold earrings she swipes, presumably to pawn – we guess she has to start chipping away at that 10 grand somehow?

When Rue emerges from the bathroom she’s greeted by her mother and sister, plus Cassie, Maddy and Kat who were also hanging out at the house before she arrived. Her mother begs and pleads with her to come with her in the car but Rue refuses, telling the group it’s just not realistic that she could stay clean long-term. “You don’t have to,” Cassie offers. “You can just take it one day at a time.” This piece of well-meaning, if unsolicited, advice is not well-received by Rue who interrupts the intervention to ask Cassie one quick question: “How long have you been f**king Nate Jacobs?”

It’s the moment Euphoria fans have been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Cassie begins to fall over her words and tries to deflect from the truth by dismissing Rue’s accusation as the deranged ramblings of a drug addict, but Maddy knows her best friend too well and sees right through it. She reacts in quintessential Maddy fashion, pointing her gleaming acryllic nails in her so-called best friend’s face and delivering a searing, expletive-ridden rant before chasing her up the stairs. Kat fails to diffuse the situation, telling her friends: “Not here!” Poor Barbie Ferreira is left with less than 10 words to say in this episode, but boy is she going to deliver them with all the gusto of a child determined to prove themselves after being cast as Shepherd #7 in the school nativity play.

The Nate/Cassie cat is out of the bag, but we’ll have to wait until next week’s Euphoria to see how things progress as this episode is all about Rue, who has once again done a runner. Subsequent stops on her tour include a trip to Fezco’s, who promptly kicks her out when he catches her attempting to steal his grandmother’s meds, a haphazard burglary of a random neighbour’s house, and a full-brown Fargo-style police chase in which Rue and the cops clamber over multiple back yards through broken glass, cacti and even literal flames at one point as Rue mounts a blazing barbeque to hop over a wall.

She ends the night at Laurie’s who is surprisingly welcoming, telling Rue: “You know, it’s funny, when I first saw you I thought: ‘This girl’s gonna be in my life for a long time.'” Rue offers her a handful of stolen jewellery and $2,000 in cash (taken from the stranger’s home) to bide her some time, to which Laurie says she appreciates but she’s not running a pawn shop. She tells Rue she can see she’s in the depths of withdrawals and understands the hell she’s experiencing because she herself was once addicted to OxyContin.  Martha Kelly delivers these lines with an eerie calmness that feels simultaneously unnerving and yet oddly maternal. The fact she’s wearing a t-shirt that says “It’s A Jungle Out There” is the cherry on top of the cake.

Any feelings of motherly love are soon dissipated when she seems to vaguely suggest Rue could always turn to sex work for money, suggesting: “It’s one of the good parts of being a woman, even if you don’t have money you still have one thing people want.” She then takes Rue to her bath to get her cleaned up and ends up injecting her with morphine to help ease the pain. It’s the first time Rue has taken a drug intravenously in Euphoria and we can’t help but fear this might be the beginning of a whole new world of horrific misadventure for the troubled teen.

An extremely graphic scene of Rue’s skin being pierced by the needle is interspersed with flashbacks of Rue delivering a devastating eulogy at her father’s funeral which reminds us that at the centre of the monster she has become is an innocent young girl who is struggling to cope with her grief. Zendaya gives us her best impression of Britney at the end of the “Everytime” music video as Rue slumps into the bathwater, eyes closed, childhood memories of her dad swirling around her head. The next morning, Rue escapes from Laurie’s padlocked apartment through a window and realises she has nowhere left to go but home to her mother.

And so ends a genuinely riveting and extremely necessary episode of Euphoria. We’re left more engaged in both the show and especially the character of Rue than we have been in weeks. Thankfully, next week looks set to keep up the pace as, judging by the episode trailer, Maddy’s stolen DVD of Cal Jacobs having sex with Jules is finally coming into play as she plans her revenge. In ‘Kat Watch’ news, it also looks like she may even be getting a full scene to deal with her flailing relationship with Ethan – remember when he was an actual character and not just an extra with a name?

More: Euphoria

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