If there is one underlying theme to take from the Euphoria special episodes it’s that you never know the pain someone else is hiding. Part 2, titled “F*ck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob,” enters on the distraught, distantly focused Jules (Hunter Schafer) against a beige backdrop. A therapist (Lauren Weedman) says the trigger words, “So why’d you run away?” A splash of color in Jules’ eye reveals the events her eyes have witnessed in East Highland through her first year in the city over the lyrics of Lorde’s “Liability.” This overture of images over Jules’ pupil becomes a hint for fans that there are two sides to every story, as the focus shifts from Rue’s viewpoint in the first special to spotlighting Jules’ experiences now. Where Rue (Zendaya) told Ali (Colman Domingo) that she blamed Jules for all that had happened in the first special episode, we discover that Jules harbors some resentment about Rue as well.
Jules returns to from her memory to tell the therapist, Dr. Mandy Nichols, she doesn’t want to talk about why she left for the city, admitting it was not well thought out and mostly reactive. Immediately a parallel to Rue’s similarly reserved discussion in the diner can be made. The therapist, like Ali, navigates the conversation to something that Jules wants to talk about—going off her hormones; feeling as if she’s drawn a conclusion that her idea of femininity comes from what men consider to be idealistic feminine traits and trying to appeal to that aspect of male desire. Calling men simple and unimaginative, Jules thinks about the person she is versus this exemplified persona they see and says she feel like a fraud.
Episode writers Sam Levinson and Hunter Schafer dive deep into some Carl Jung archetype philosophy rather quickly while wading into Jules’ psyche. There’s a lot of instances of the persona here, Jules acknowledging that there’s a million layers of personality traits she’s stolen from others that have curated the displayed persona she presents to the world, guarding her actual self. She then speaks to the terrifying nature of the female hierarchy systems which seemingly dig into the flaws of someone upon first meeting them, placing a value on the person and acting toward them in the appropriate manner—a reason for the layers. And then there’s the heart of this discussion in the anima/animus, the image of the perfect significant other we have in our minds.
Over the course of Season 1 viewers watched as Nate (Jacob Elordi) toyed with Jules by creating the false identity of Tyler, a.k.a. ShyGuy118, before revealing a mountain of blackmail when she finally went to meet him. Jules reveals her complete physical and emotional attachment to the fantasy character during the course of her therapy session. Tyler was the animus of Jules’ unconscious mind and finding out it was all an illusion is something she’s not finished going through yet. Jules may want to give up on men “philosophically” or otherwise and I don’t think anyone would blame her, but to her this may be a defeat, having said in an earlier episode, “If I can conquer men, I can conquer femininity,” and now conceding, “My entire life I’ve been trying to conquer femininity and, somewhere along the way, femininity conquered me.”
Continuing to consider what she might be like without the hormones, Jules compares her fears of broadening or thickening in the process to the beauty and strength of the ocean. She says she prays to the ocean and cites her feminine transition as a spiritual awakening that promotes vitality, a both comparable and contrastable remark to Rue’s take at the diner. Rue, looking for instances of spirituality from Ali, references the beauty of the ocean but unlike Jules considers not sticking around for much longer whereas Jules continues to say that being a trans woman has always been about staying alive, suggesting thriving over surviving unhappily.
The conversation has been drifting around Rue for a while; Jules already musing “no girl had ever looked at me the way Rue did…It kind of reminds me of the way a mom would see you.” Her thoughts focus on the way Rue would look through the layers of Jules’ persona and straight into the real her, but the doctor has some not-so-subtle Freudian transference inclinations. It struck me that in the first season there was never much mention or reference to Jules’ mother, and as the therapist seeks to test those waters she’s met quickly with resistance.
But Jules does begin to dive into Rue and it’s really where the episode breaks off and becomes more than just an opposing mirror image of the first special episode. The episode brings us back to moments of Rue and Jules from the first season to glimpse the pieces we didn’t get to see; all of the hidden moments that Jules had been keeping inside, locked up in herself and not dealing with. Jules infers that the events of the last six months may make her seem melodramatic and then unveils a giant wave of psychologically and emotionally heavy events and she ultimately blames Rue for it, though never says it specifically.
Rue’s sobriety takes center stage in Jules’ breakdown of events, citing that Rue’s dependency was an increasing strain on Jules’ availability as she selflessly puts her friend’s needs ahead of her own. There’s this increasing pressure and heightened need Jules feels to protect Rue. Jules fights her way through guilt-ridden tears from having perhaps lost her best friend by leaving to take care of her own mental needs, and in that realizes the relationship has to work both ways.
The show then moves into Jules’ house through a series of flashbacks, first focused on Rue then focused on Jules’ mother (Pell James) in an almost Terrence Malick like way, but Levinson thankfully spares us the Tree of Life space montage for a far better approach. The flashbacks show Jules on the outs with her mom, as her father (John Ales) attempts to get Jules to see her now sober mother. Jules continues to deny a visit to her mom through her father, referencing how bad her mother was over the course of her addiction. It’s a bit of an eye opener, especially given the affection and support Jules shows Rue with her struggle. Jules says she was afraid to tell Rue any of this for fear that Rue would think she felt the same way about her recovery as Jules felt about her mother’s.
It’s another parallel to the diner scene conversation between Rue and Ali where they talk about redemption. Rue feels she cannot be redeemed in the eyes of her mother after punching her in the face and Ali tells her that she doesn’t get to decide that but the best she can do is try. Through Jules we see the duality of Ali’s words, Rue not being judged and Jules’ mother remaining unforgiven. Though Rue never hurt Jules in the shadowy way Euphoria infers her mother has, we see how the actions Jules takes to avoid her mother and not allow her to make amends causes her mother to fall down the same rabbit hole of depression and unworthiness of redemption Rue speaks of and while preparing for the Halloween party Jules overhears her dad on the phone talking of her mother’s relapse. The doctor begins the transference analysis, supporting information that Jules does in fact feel the same way about Rue as she does her mother. The evidence suggesting that both people who truly ever saw Jules under all of those layers, were also both incapable of seeing how their addictions impacted Jules.
Jules switches gears after that realization and focuses on the love and pain she experiences through her online romance with Tyler. Sexual fantasies of Tyler (Jayden Marcos) in a strikingly familiar apartment to the one we saw in Rue’s domestic fantasy at the beginning of the diner episode are intercut with memories of Rue from the first season where Jules nonstop kisses Rue in the bed the same way Rue did to her in the fantasy. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of wanting that animus of Tyler and the actual love she felt for Rue that blindsided her, and one that speaks to Jules building her individuality around conquering femininity. The image of Jules wearing a pink dress, sitting on a blue bike in a dark orange grove that looks like a hedge maze may seem like a rather Lynchian “blue rose” tactic, but it may have more to do with her individuality than we can know at the moment, especially considering the short burst of a woman standing in a hospital gown the moment before it.
The final part to Jules’ therapy session involves heartache in realizing the difference in fantasy versus reality. She speaks of loving Tyler and having this fantastic imaginative affair over text with the new eyes that the perfect love was all lie initiated by Nate. Through a dark fantasy sequence, we see the Tyler fantasy warp into a rape scenario as Rue enters the bathroom to get high on oxy the same way she did in the first special. Jules seems torn between letting go of her perfect man and her love for Rue, and before Jules can make that decision Tyler’s face had become Nate’s face and Rue had overdosed in the bathroom. The events of Jules discovering Nate posing as Tyler and Rue kissing her were so immediate that it left Jules no time to grieve the loss of her Tyler relationship, and because of that she’s forced to let go of it now. I wonder how that will translate in Season 2, and could foresee an interesting love/hate relationship between Jules and Nate in the reminder that he is the corporeal Tyler.
Rue’s opening sequence from the first special episode concludes with the revelation it was Jules’ nightmare all along. Jules comes home excited and looking to celebrate after leaving in the first part to sell her clothing designs. The apartment is empty, the door to the bathroom is locked. Jules panics and begins screaming and banging on the bathroom door where an unconscious Rue cannot hear her. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling to see a person care so vividly about a loved one’s well-being and feel unable to help, and Schafer unleashes her amazing talent on teary eyed viewers in this scene. Where the first special asked viewers to sympathize with struggling addicts this one unleashes the immense worry and excruciating horror of being an addict’s loved one.
When Jules’ dad finds her after running away to the city, Jules stands in the bathroom refusing to come out and go back to East Highland. Sobbing incessantly, her father’s appeal is finally met and Jules leaves the bathroom, as she leaves the camera pans down, we see Rue’s body on the bathroom floor. The imagery is shocking, but a couple of things can be gathered by it. One may be the obvious idea that Jules may not want to go back and face Rue, thinking that her abandonment may have triggered Rue into a relapse—which did happen, but we don’t know yet if Jules knows. The other thing I can theorize is that Jules is worried this might be Rue’s fate because something similar happened with her mother.
The second of the two-episode Euphoria specials wraps up with Rue visiting Jules in her room before going to meet Ali at the diner, tying the two episodes together. The two reconcile quickly without ever saying much to each other. Both are hurting and we now understand why Rue’s next step is visiting the diner bathroom before sitting down with Ali.
There was so much to unpack in Euphoria’s special episodes, but I would consider them both essential viewing for fans of the show. At first I didn’t know how I felt about the hidden plotline missing from the main story, but the more I thought about it in terms of how Jules was more a sidekick to Rue, it made sense. This kind of deep character building by the writers and actors continues to go unrivaled in one of the best shows on television. Schafer’s Jules continues to go underrated, but after her performance in “F*ck Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob” needs to be put on Emmy and Golden Globe consideration lists. Euphoria presents Jules as relatable through showing the vulnerability of loving with her heart on her sleeve. In an interview with Daniel D’Addario of Variety Schafer said, “There need to be more roles where trans people aren’t just dealing with being trans; they’re being trans while dealing with other issues. We’re so much more complex than just one identity,” and that really encompasses the concept of this episode. Still no word on when we can expect the next season of Euphoria, but these intense stripped-down episodes have been well worth it.