- Sam Levinson
- Running Time
- 449 minutes
- Sundays 10pm
- HBO, HBO Canada
For our individual episode reviews of season one of Euphoria, click here.
Euphoria is a masterful, coming-of-age teen-drama created by Sam Levinson (writer and director of last year’s indie hit Assassination Nation), produced by indie-king A24 and starring Zendaya, as well as a load of newcomers.
From the get-go, Euphoria received plenty of attention as it was advertised as an extremely graphic view into the modern-day lives of teenagers. For viewers familiar with Assassination Nation, this completely checks out. What was particularly intriguing was its NC-17 approach given its subject matter and age of characters. While many viewers will surely be offended, or *triggered* by the content displayed here but because of this, as well as so many other factors, make this the best series in recent memory.
Something became very apparent within the opening minutes of the first episode of Euphoria where Zendaya’s character Rue narrated the story of her childhood (which she also did for a different character in each subsequent episode), this series didn’t seem to care if it’s suggestive content will offend anyone. From the setting of Rue being born mere days after the 9/11 attacks to the display of her drug addiction leading to an overdose, it was clear that this series isn’t afraid to be held back.
Thanks to Euphoria‘s writing, its demonstration of how “everyone has dark things happening within their lives” crafts a brutally-honest world the show takes place in. Another impressive aspect about this first season was its ability to remain entertaining during every single scene. A big issue with television in general is series that are incapable of keeping the viewer’s attention throughout their seasons with some too long for their own good and some with story arcs that aren’t interesting. One of the biggest compliments that can be given to this series is that not a single one of its roughly 7 or 8 story arcs were the least bit boring. Given its ability to tell realistic stories of struggles in teen lives that deal with issues such as drugs, violence, sex, and more to personally hold my interest.
However, a series’ writing can only get you so far without good actors, and this first season of Euphoria includes some genuinely terrific performances. Zendaya’s Rue was truly the stand out, creating an impressive character arc that is emotionally draining to watch all season long. The way she manages to portray a character who is roped into doing some undoubtedly awful things, yet have the audience root for her is absolutely worth commending. Schafer, who plays Rue’s transgender love interest named Jules is an absolute breakout here. She is obviously going to get a ton of work after this show and she is definitely on her way to becoming a huge star.
Similarly to how Zendaya’s performance of a drug abuser aspiring to become sober is ultimately moving, the same can be said about Cloud as Fezco. The media is always so caught up in making drug dealers scary, or the bad guy, but the way Cloud portrays the heartfulness of the writing in his character is wonderful. Other performances in this first season of Euphoria that were deserving of shoutouts were Demie and Elordi as Maddy and Nate, the popular couple who are in a truly toxic relationship. The way in which Maddy and Nate were written to explain all the things they have gone through which would motivate their actions works incredibly well.
Tackling a high school setting in TV or film can be difficult, given the fact that most directors and writers are older than that age, Levinson being no exception. However, Levinson understands how teenagers act, think, and feel, given the relatable nature it’s great to say the series exists in. Furthermore, Levinson had opened up about the previous drug addictions he dealt with in high school as the show premiered in June. It’s incredibly important that such an upsetting, difficult and serious subject be portrayed in a real, honest fashion. Levinson achieved that success given his background, within Rue’s drug-addicted character, as well as what appears to be most of Euphoria‘s other characters as well.
Another issue with most television is the lack of visual flair that many series have nowadays. Euphoria has some true talent behind the filmmaking. It’s hard to think of a single scene over all 8 episodes where the direction came off as “boring”. Every single episode and every single scene remain consistently interesting visual-wise. Where the big setpiece(s) within each episode featured drug-infused camera movements, casual conversations are also shot beautifully, with an amazing depth-of-field technique used to highlight the character who’s speaking’s profile.
Given the circumstances each character must deal with at the end of the second last episode, it was concerning that the season finale may not stick the landing but ultimately it did. Instead of highlighting a specific character’s upbringing during the first sequence of the last episode of the season, the entire episode was masterfully edited to constantly be jumping back and forth in timelines, to satisfy each and every loose end the show had to tie up before the end of the season. While the editing is fantastic in each episode, the final sequence of the season easily takes the cake for being the most impressive. Though it was incredibly powerful, it will also be very hard to forget. It will definitely be tough to wait until the next episode.
Euphoria is something incredibly personal. Between its god-tier filmmaking techniques, to the masterclass in creating an environment that feels completely honest, it will go down as one of the best series that this reviewer has ever had the pleasure to have laid eyes on. While its graphic and serious subject matter isn’t for everyone, it’s still incredibly important that a lot more teenagers give this show a watch, as I feel like a better person knowing it isn’t just me feeling like I’m all alone in the world.
The way Euphoria tackles being a teenager is simply like no other given the lack of restraint the filmmakers were allowed thanks to the open-ended platform that is HBO.