Euphoria S2E3 — “Ruminations: Big and Little Bullys”

Jules holds a light in front of her
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

The following contains spoilers for Euphoria S2E3, “Ruminations: Big and Little Bullys” (written and directed by Sam Levinson)

I have to admit I’m not entirely sure if I’m supposed to be rooting for anyone on Euphoria at this point. Rue would be the obvious candidate—the one you pull for despite all of her self-destructive behavior, because you can’t help but care for her anyway—but S2E3 undermines that sentiment rather self-consciously through her slideshow, as she virtually taunts us for caring, suggesting it’s really because we want to feel better about the world.

That may be fair, and I’ve always lauded Euphoria for how it presents addiction in its ugliness, neither depicting drug use with a glamor it lacks nor suggesting some kind of easily available out. Euphoria recognizes the existential dimension, and it’s there again in S2E3 as Rue praises the way getting high can take you outside of time. It’s a quest for transcendence, or nothingness, that’s at play. Anything but the average ordinary everyday run of things…which is unbearable.

Rue stands in silhouette in front of a window
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

But at the same time, there’s a reason the right choice is sometimes to cut an addict out of your life, not because you don’t love them but because you do. It can be too much to see them destroy themselves, and their relationships—including, perhaps, with you—and forgiveness can start to seem too big an ask. Or maybe you can forgive, just not trust this person any longer, no matter how long it’s been. There’s a reason Ali’s daughter won’t talk to him, and she’s not wrong.

The way Rue treats Ali in S2E3 is, however, to my mind, her biggest offense of the hour. Here’s a man who wants to relate to her in the truth, who is willing to be there for her with compassion no matter how low she goes, but she throws it in his face.

Addiction is ugly. It might be better to not watch it.

Ali leans towards Rue, talking
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

Jules seems to be looking past Rue’s drug use, or in a kind of denial about it, which is not to suggest that I want her to lay down some kind of ultimatum, as though I think that would be helpful, but rather just to note something sad about where she’s at on her own journey. She loves Rue, because of course she does, but if Jules is one to root for we have to recognize that her success in life probably will rely on breaking ties with this whole situation.

And that would be heartbreaking.

Jules reclines against a bulletin board at school
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

Euphoria S2E3 opens with scenes from Cal’s youth, which didn’t do much for me if I’m honest, but I do continue to be struck by how fundamentally decent Cal seems to be when it comes down to it. We see it again in his interactions with Fezco—that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone or wreck anyone’s life, just to protect his own and somehow take care of his son.

Of course, there is the fact that his sexual behavior includes statutory rape and filming people without their consent, and I don’t mean to look past that. It’s just that as much as it feels like he would be or should be a sleazeball, he never quite seems to be that.

Cal sits in a chair, bloodied
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

Nate, on the other hand, I have no sympathy for. He’s giving Cassie the runaround, and the end of S2E3 sees him reconciling with Maddy, but as much as Euphoria has presented Nate Jacobs as a complex character I find myself struggling to care at this point. He’s not actively threatening Rue or Jules at the moment, which I’m glad for, but I’m not really sure where his story is going.

Kat sits at a table, holding chopsticks
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

Kat also feels a little bit like a sidenote in S2E3, as we touch base with her relationship with Ethan without getting much movement in her story. That’s a shame insofar as there is a dynamic here that Euphoria began to explore in an intriguing way last week—Kat’s sweet relationship and its discontents. I hope we get more of that as Season 2 progresses.

Lexi is putting on a play, which may or may not be based on the lives of the people around her. That’s certainly the impression one gets from her fantasy sequence, which makes it seem likely that she’s headed for a kind of unforeseen disaster, failing to realize how thinly veiled her characters are when it comes down to it.

Lexi lies on a sofa with a hand under her head
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

Rue’s got a briefcase full of drugs from Laurie and a “genius” plan, which seems destined to go poorly because she is an addict and her whole motivation was in getting free drugs. Laurie makes clear that she’s serious about selling Rue to human traffickers if she has to in order to recoup her funds.

Let’s hope Euphoria doesn’t get quite that dark.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

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