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Euphoria, somehow, turns the violence up a notch as love triangle drama reaches boiling point

Gary Grimes February 14, 2022
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Maddy. (HBO)

“Say what you want about Christians, at least they believe in forgiveness,” Rue tells us in the opening monologue of season two, episode six of Euphoria, “A Thousand Little Trees of Blood”. Warning – violence.

Forgiveness, and how far we’re willing to bring ourselves in order to offer someone else forgiveness, is the central theme to this week’s episode. In this instance, Rue is waxing lyrical about the unconditional love and forgiveness she’s received from her poor tortured mother, which she chalks down to the fact her mother grew up in the church.

When we meet Rue again after last week’s earth-shattering night on the run from her family, she’s staring at a Jolly Rancher sweet, too weak to even untwist its wrapping. She’s in the darkest pits of withdrawals now, with little medical assistance as we learn that the hospital simply gave her some pain meds and sent her on her merry way – the in-patient rehab facility her mother hoped to admit her to is full for the moment, but they hope a spot will open up next week.

Now, of course, Rue’s mother is just one of an ever-growing list of people from whom she badly needs to seek forgiveness. Next on the list is her old sponsor Ali, a bridge she burned a few episodes back when she made a casually cruel rejoinder, using his admission of drug-fueled violence towards the mother of his children to push him away. Now it’s time to repent, so Rue gives him a call and issues a feeble apology which he graciously accepts and informs her that he will be over to cook her and her family dinner that evening.

Rue explains to the audience how much she regrets “reducing someone’s life to a moment, an ugly moment, and punishing them for it”. She concludes: “That’s what cops do.”

Funnily enough, across just town someone else is learning what it’s like to be defined by one ugly moment in their life: Cassie. Or rather a series of ugly moments, with Nate, we guess. After Rue let the cat out of the bag about Cassie and Nate last week, both characters, as well as Maddy, are left spiraling.

Nate, at first, is blissfully unaware of the havoc wreaked by Rue on her path of destruction the night before. He’s got his own problems which include a puddle of piss in his front hallway left by his father, and a drunk mother still reeling from the revelation that her husband’s been cheating on her with both men and women for years. It doesn’t take Nate long to put two and two together however, once he sees he’s got 38 missed calls from Cassie – and zero from Maddy.

Whilst Cassie’s family are hiding all knives and sharp objects in their garden bushes for fear she might hurt herself (fears which are later realised when she casually attempts to stab herself with a cork screw), Maddy is pensive, taking a moment to silently plot her revenge and figure out how she might best utilise her secret weapon – the infamous DVD of Nate’s dad having sex with Jules.

We’re treated to a wonderful overhead shot of Maddy laying on her bed, surrounded by the saccharine pink frills of her childhood bedroom, slowly drumming her manicured nails on the DVD case. As she contemplates what to do, she stares up at the ceiling with all of the suggestive juxtaposition of a teenage Britney Spears photographed in her underwear, clutching a Teletubby teddy for the cover of Rolling Stone. 

Next we visit Jules and Elliot who ar- actually, never mind. Rue’s not in the mood to narrate anything to do with these two after they betrayed her by telling her family she had relapsed.

Maddy later confides in Samantha, the bizarre older woman with a penchant for drinking with teenagers whose son she babysits, about Cassie and Nate. She’s horrified to learn her new older friend once did exactly what Cassie did to her best friend. That girl never spoke to Samantha again so things aren’t looking great for Cassie. After enjoying a bottle of rosé and a swim, Maddy drives herself home – side note, but why is this show so obsessed with showing its teenage characters drink driving? It’s one of the show’s most consistent motifs and it always jars.

She arrives home to find Nate waiting in her bedroom with a gun. We guess at this point he feels he has nothing to lose in this relationship, as he knows Maddy well enough to know that she’ll never forgive him for humiliating her in this way.  With nothing left to salvage between them, he’s resorted to holding her at gunpoint to retrieve the DVD. Although she resists at first by trying to play dumb, Nate takes things up a notch by holding the gun to his own head while he pins her down on the bed. This is finally enough to tip her over the edge and she admits that it’s in her purse.

She’s left shaking and whimpering on the bed and we have to say, this turn is a real bummer. However, we’re choosing to have faith in Maddy’s ability to bounce back – after all, you can’t keep a good girl down and we find it hard to believe that she, knowing Nate like she does, would not have made a copy of the DVD as back up. We live in hope anyway.

Meanwhile, when Cassie’s not trying to self harm, she’s fixating on the specific timings of her dalliance with Nate, insisting her own innocence on the basis that Maddy and Nate were not technically together at the time she began sleeping with him – she would never do that to someone. Lexi and their mother – who continues to steal the show every second she appears on screen – try their best to help her realise that she’s missing the point that she f**ked her “best friend’s” ex-boyfriend, thus breaching one of the most implicit but sacred rules of friendship. “I’m NOT the bad guy!” Cassie screams, to which Lexi replies: “You’re not the good guy?”

Nate has now moved on to his next stop, pulling up to his old pen pal Jules’ house where he asks her to join him in his car. After first refusing and hangining up, she reluctantly runs through the pouring rain to his car once he tells her it has to do with her and his father. In a surprising move, he gives the DVD to her for safe keeping (another side note: why do this group of teens exclusively refer to it as a “disk”? They might be Gen Z but they surely at least remember Blu-ray?).

It’s a lot for her to take in – the existence of such a DVD, the fact that Nate’s watched footage of her fellating his father, and this uncharacteristic act of kindness in him giving it to her. She suspects, as do we, that he must have an ulterior motive although what exactly he has planned remains to be seen. Something tells us that of everyone involved, Jules might somehow sadly end up the most injured party in this mess.

It was a great week for Kat Watch as we were graced with an actual full scene in order to facilitate her break-up with Ethan. Barbie Ferreira was on top form as the confused teen, obnoxiously bitching about Cassie to Maddy on the phone whilst Ethan and the diner waitress wait for her to remember her manners. It was also another great example of the sort of irrational solidarity you hope your best friend will show when you need them to hate someone on your behalf. “Yeah, she’s a c**t,” Kat concludes about her childhood friend whose home she was hanging out in 24 hours ago.

It’s finally curtains for Kat and Ethan. After catching her in a bizarre lie about having a “terminal brain disorder”, it’s actually Ethan who puts the final nail in the coffin, much to Kat’s relief we imagine. Ferreira is masterful at playing the neurotic, gaslighting girlfriend, acting incredulous that Ethan would even accuse her of lying about something as serious as… what she just lied about. He’s had enough of her beating around the bush and deflecting so he tells her it’s over and walks out. It looks like she finally got what she wanted, but only time will tell if it was the right decision for them both.

We’re two episodes away from the finale and there are still a lot of loose ends which look set to catch fire as we hurtle towards the season’s conclusion, namely: Lexi’s doomed play, her budding romance with Fezco, Rue’s recovery and outstanding drug debt, Faye’s links with the rival drug gang which look set to spell serious trouble for Fezco and Ashtray, and (we hope) Maddy’s revised retribution plans for the once again united Cassie and Nate.

Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk) or Women’s Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk). Both charities run the 24-hour, freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline, 0808 2000 247. The US National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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