TV

Heart-stopping Euphoria finale changes the show as we know it – for better or worse

Gary Grimes February 28, 2022
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Zendaya

Zendaya in Euphoria. (HBO)

Euphoria‘s season two finale was the best and worst of the show – in some parts genuinely thrilling, in other parts, a little haphazard in its storytelling.

But hey, as Lexi’s stagehand, Bobbi, told her: “It could have been worse. It could have been boring.”

Credit where credit’s due, Euphoria has been far from boring this season and its finale episode was no exception. Picking up where we left off last week, Lexi’s play is somehow still ongoing but the seat that she saved for Fezco remains empty. He’s been held up in his apartment by Custer who says they need to talk.

Custer, who is working with the police, tries to goad Fezco into admitting to the murder of Mouse. He doesn’t get very far in his efforts however as Faye manages to warn Fezco by motioning him to remain quiet and then blabbering that she thought that Laurie (aka Rue’s creepy drug lord) was responsible for the death. She needn’t have bothered with this charade as it happens, as Ashtray jumps up and stabs Custer in the neck, much to the surprise and horror of Fezco who is left with no choice but to finish the job and figure out how to a cover up his little brother’s crime.

Back at Euphoria high, Cassie is about to explode. The shot of her steaming the window on the auditorium’s door as she stares in at her sister’s play, nostrils flared and ready to attack, was maybe one of the season’s most exciting moments. Resolved that enough is enough, she reenters the theatre and confidently strides towards the stage, stomping her stilettoed heel on the Our Life playbill as she goes. Cassie’s classmates are agog as she ascends to the stage to interrupt the play and attempt to reclaim her narrative.

Suddenly, what was once a staged version of the various traumas endured by the Howard family becomes a show-and-tell starring the the real family, as Cassie hunts down Lexi from backstage and drags her, both literally and figuratively in front of the curtain for a public dressing down.

“You’re just a f**king bystander,” she declares to Lexi in a manic monologue, in which she claims she’s simply being villainised by her sister for living life and feeling things to the fullest extent. It’s a marvellous display of oblivious narcissism. “If that makes me a villain then so f**king be it,” Cassie wails. One audience member in particular who is not interested in this unscheduled intermission is Maddy, who shouts from the audience that “Hallie” (based on Cassie) is a “c**t”.

Lexi and Cassie’s mother – perhaps the most iconic of Euphoria characters – has now also joined the cast on stage. She attempts in vain to diffuse the situation but gets distracted by praising Ethan for his portrayal of herself. Before long, a full-blown brawl has broken out between Cassie and the actress playing Hallie, at which point Maddy feels the need to get in on the action, telling Kat: “This bitch needs to be put down.” She climbs the stage and dives right in to beat her ex-best friend to a pulp, eventually running Cassie out of the auditorium in terror, with Kat helplessly trailing them both.

As predicted, Rue is on something of a redemption tour and, in a flashback, we see the first stop is her old buddy Elliot. She stops by his house to tell him she forgives him for snitching on her relapse, admitting that he probably accidentally saved her life. She acknowledges that she has a lot of ‘I’m sorry’s to deliver but this might be her only ‘I forgive you’. She may well have lived to regret this reconciliation as Elliot responds with the most chilling five words a man with a guitar can utter to you: “Can I play you something?”

A solid four long minutes pass of Dominic Fike performing an original song, written by Labrinth and Zendaya. Moral of the story here is never linger for too long in the bedroom of a boy with a Nick Cave poster. Elliot also admits he is still using drugs which probably doesn’t bode well for these two sustaining a friendship in the long term, but for now they’ve made amends and found a sense of closure.

Back in the Euphoria High auditorium, as Lexi wipes her tears backstage, Rue offers a show of support to her old bestie by getting the crowd to chant her name in support. Reassured by the sound of it, Lexi gets the show on the road once again and we watch as the last act of Our Life seems to mostly focus on the lost friendship between the two girls.

Rue seems to be thoroughly moved by the whole affair, later telling Lexi she felt it was the only time she’s been able to look at her own life without hating herself. Fair enough, we guess, but was nobody else struck by how messed up it is to repurpose the eulogy somebody delivered at their father’s funeral for a high school play without their consent? Ultimately the play marked a turning point in Lexi and Rue’s friendship as it helped them find each other once again. Rue really needs a friend who isn’t her ex-girlfriend, her sponsor or a drug dealer so we’re relieved to see this friendship be rekindled.

Euphoria finale cements Cal’s downfall

A relationship we feel less optimistic for the future about is that of Nate and his estranged father Cal. We last saw the quarterback storm out of the school after breaking up with Cassie following the homoerotic portrayal of him in Lexi’s play. It seems the experience triggered something in him and now he is on a mission for revenge on the person he sees as the root of all his problems, his father. He arrives at Cal’s workplace, where he has seemingly been living since walking out on his family, to find his father kicking back with a group of new friends as “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue plays (OK, Euphoria, we get it – he’s queer!).

Nate tells the group of layabouts about discovering his father’s collection of sex tapes as a child and how the experience caused a recurring nightmare in which his father tries to have sex with him, which from last week we know continues to this day.

Shocked and embarrassed, Cal begins to try to explain himself, telling his son that he knows he messed up and begins to say sorry but Nate interjects: “I don’t want your apology, I just want revenge.” Nate then reaches into his pocket, first pulling out a gun before then pulling out maybe the only thing more terrifying to Cal than a revolver – a USB stick holding “everything” – presumably, video evidence of his statutory rape. Cal spots the red and blue lights of police cars peeking through the windows and realises his son has turned him into the police. Nate leaves as the police enter, directing them to where they can find his disgraced father.

OK, now here is where we struggle a little bit. Of course, it’s satisfying to see a villain like Cal meet his maker, but only episodes ago we saw Nate go to extremes to retrieve the DVD of Cal and Jules from Maddy – in an experience she will probably spend the rest of her life telling therapists about – supposedly to protect his own interests and the reputation of the family business he hoped to take over. Now, after witnessing a dance sequence set to “I Need A Hero” by Bonnie Tyler, he feels compelled to throw it all away and send his father to prison? What was the point of Maddy ever stealing the DVD only to have it taken back with relative ease before she even told anyone she had it? Why did Nate risk his own life by breaking and entering her home and holding her at gunpoint to retrieve it? We can only assume this essentially abandoned plotline was the result of one of the season’s many rewrites Euphoria showrunner Sam Levinson has spoken about.

Police showdown ends in tragedy

Concurrently to Nate’s showdown with Cal, the police have now busted into Fezco’s home after their informant has been murdered by Ashtray. Fezco begs Ashtray to let him take the fall for the murder but the stoic, silent child instead locks himself in the toilet with a selection of firearms and a full blown shoot out ensues between the police and Ashtray, with Fezco sadly shot in the crossfire. In the end, it looks like Fezco will probably survive the wound but how will he cope with the death of his young comrade – and will he go down for Custer’s murder?

This whole season could be summarised as a tapestry of various cat and mouse stories, with nearly all characters on the run from someone or something, most often the cold hard truth. So when all is said and done, who were the winners and who were the losers of Euphoria’s second season?

Winners

  • Rue – Despite a rough couple of months, she’s ended the season sober (though not by choice), reunited with her old best friend Lexi, forgiven by her sponsor Ali, and somehow, in spite of her vicious verbal attack a few episodes ago, still looked at affectionately by Jules.
  • Lexi – She’s finally stepped out from her sister’s shadow to mostly rapturous applause. Sure, her love interest is currently bleeding out in a police van but something tells us there’s still hope for Lexi and Fezco’s Little House on the Prairie fantasy to come true.
  • Lexi and Cassie’s mom – The true MVP of the season, the woman lives her best life no matter what obstacles her daughters put in her way and, for that, we have to salute her.
  • Maddy – She took a serious beating this season from both Cassie and Nate but, in the end, we think she got the last laugh. “Don’t worry, this is just the beginning,” she tells her former best friend with a knowing smile when Cassie reveals she was dumped by Nate. We think, with a bit of distance, she’s realised that although she’s been betrayed by two of her closest allies, at least she’s no longer dating a bona fide sociopath.

Losers

  • Cal – Disgraced and about to go to prison for possession of child sexual abuse images and probably a myriad of other sexual misconduct crimes. Enough said.
  • Cassie – Dumped by her boyfriend, mortified herself in front of her entire school and has essentially no friends left.
  • Kat – It’s like Barbie Ferreira is The Little Mermaid and Sam Levinson is Ursula, the evil sea-witch who steals her voice leaving her as little more than a beautiful mute. Fingers crossed these two can resolve their differences and this character can be restored to the greatness we enjoyed in season one.
  • Jules – Similarly to Kat, one of the show’s most enigmatic characters played by one of the strongest actors in the cast, this season was reduced to being practically an extra at times. When she was on screen, the character lost a lot of the fight that made her so interesting to begin with. We would really love to see Jules exist without Rue a bit next season.
  • Fezco – Shot in the stomach, grieving the death of his quasi-little brother and potentially facing jailtime for a crime he didn’t commit. Most importantly, who is going to look after his comatose grandmother if he finds himself behind bars?

Euphoria will return for a third season. You can stream all episodes so far on HBO Max in the US, and Sky and NOW in the UK.

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