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TV/Film “Euphoria” hits its breaking point in Episode 4

Jan. 31, 2022

“Euphoria” hits its breaking point in episode 4

Maya Page

Spoilers ahead.

Euphoria never fails to shock, and Season 2 Episode 4 is no different. But I finished this episode more appalled than amazed. Of course it had its impressive, entertaining moments, but “You Who Cannot See, Think of Those Who Can” is defined primarily by its absurdity—which is in some moments a joy to watch, and in others, painstakingly difficult to sit through. While this episode delivers on Euphoria’s characteristic awe-inspiring visuals and memorable soundtrack, the plot and characters once again fall flat.

As always, Sam Levinson throws us into the deep end with the episode’s opening sequence—how could we stop watching after something as alluring as last week’s butt shot? This episode opens on Jules going down on Rue, which I both love and hate to see. Yes, they’re finally doing it, but Rue is also so high on opiates she can’t feel a thing; she says Jules might as well be licking her ankle. What’s better is the ensuing sequence in which Rue and Jules recreate classic paintings and iconic film scenes among the likes of The Birth of Venus, Ghost, and Titanic, as Rue basks in her love for Jules. My personal favorite was their reproduction of Brokeback Mountain, featuring a mini horse and a dramatized makeout that provided much-needed comic relief for this episode.

After reveling in the delight of the film recreations, Rue and Jules’s sex scene brings us back to the desolate reality that is Episode 4—and it only goes downhill from here. When Rue fakes an orgasm, we discover that while Zendaya’s acting is admirable, Rue isn’t much of an actor herself. Jules goes to Elliot for advice following the disaster, and something has noticeably shifted in the trio’s dynamic since the last episode. Jules and Elliot have grown closer, leaving Rue as the outsider. As they do unspeakable things to each other’s hands, it becomes clear why: the chemistry between Jules and Elliot trumps whatever he and Rue may have had. It isn’t too surprising that Hunter Schafer and Dominic FIke might be involved in the real world, too.

The tension between Rue, Jules, and Elliot is perhaps the most satisfying part of this episode. There are small instances of gratification, such as when the attraction between Jules and Elliot reaches its boiling point and they finally kiss, but otherwise we’re left begging for more. While some of the other character arcs feel stalled, the Rue/Elliot/Jules triangle truly makes some progress this episode. 

We can’t forget the continuation of their sexy game of truth or dare, which definitely induced some butterflies for me. I almost went so far as to say that “I called it” last week when I theorized a possible threesome, but things come crashing down pretty quickly when Rue tells Jules she can’t stand her, and later Elliot tells Jules that Rue has relapsed. Jules still hooks up with Elliot in the wake of this devastating news, which is both sad and interesting—it could definitely evolve into a tense dynamic next episode. The pressure and release of this situation leaves me feeling teased every time.

The tension between Maddy, Nate, and Cassie is a lot less pleasurable—in fact, it’s bordering on torturous. In Episode 3, Cassie reaches her breaking point internally, and in a fantasy she tearfully confesses to her affair with Nate and screams that she has “never, ever been happier,” an instance I was disappointed to discover was only imagined. It’s such a satisfying moment that the line has even become a TikTok sound with tens of thousands of videos. Honestly, the anticipation of whether Maddie is going to find out is getting too drawn out, and I’m starting to care less. 

Cassie does break in this episode, but her meltdown doesn’t offer the satisfying payoff of a confession like the one she imagined in the previous episode. She just gets wasted, vomits in the hot tub next to Maddy, Nate, and all their friends, and sobs as her mom drags her away. We finally see Cassie stand up to Nate earlier in the episode—they get into a screaming match and she calls him out, telling him he’s generally terrible for Maddy. Side note: this fight scene is…not well written. Nate and Maddy’s dialogue also feels somewhat over the top and inauthentic. But I digress. Cassie holds her own while arguing with Nate, which we haven’t really seen her do at all this season. She’s learning not to let people walk all over her, which fans have been lamenting since Episode 1. 

Even more absurd than Cassie’s breakdown is Cal’s. I struggle to believe that a grown man would behave this way for the reasons that Cal goes off the rails. What happened to Cal last episode isn’t particularly revolutionary; yes, he learned that Nate has had feelings for Jules, and accidentally revealed his affair with her to Fez and Faye, but if anything should’ve set him off, Nate’s confrontation in Episode 2 would make far more sense. Nate finally acknowledges that he knows about Jules and Cal’s tapes, and that Maddy has the tape of Jules—but Cal essentially pretends it didn’t happen. 

Ruining his life seems unnecessary. First he drives while drinking, swerving between lanes and leading many viewers to anticipate a car accident. When Cal doesn’t die, he takes every other opportunity to destroy his life. His heart-wrenching flashback last week won over countless fans who had little respect for him before, prompting many to wonder if we’d see a redemption arc from him. Returning to the gay bar where he and Derek had their romantic moment together could’ve been a satisfying, sweet moment about Cal beginning to accept his sexuality. It could have even been an opportunity for him to decide to repair his relationships with his sons.

But Cal goes the route of a scorched-earth policy. He gets banned for life from the bar, barely makes it home, pisses on the floor, and lets himself hang bare both physically and metaphorically. He destroys any chance at a positive relationship with his sons and Marsha by revealing his affairs in a blunt, obscene tirade that essentially blames his children for all his struggles; he obliterates any chance of moving forward productively. It’s a truly disappointing and overdramatized arc for Cal. 

Another disappointment is that this episode ignores the characters who aren’t involved in the love triangles (or Cal). Levinson should’ve expected that viewers would crave more between Fez and Lexi after the first two episodes hinted at a flirtation between them, but the two probably have less than a minute of screen time combined. Not to mention Kat, whose relationship woes have progressed in no way whatsoever. All she gets this episode is a short discussion with Maddy, who actually gives some solid advice—that Kat should go for what she wants, not what she thinks she should want. With the way the love triangles are gearing up for disaster, it’s doubtful Kat will get more than some surface-level development. 

The episode isn’t completely without redemption, though. Continuing this season’s fixation on surrealism, the episode concludes with a stunning glimpse into Rue’s psyche through a church scene—possibly her own funeral. Labrinth is an ethereal presence singing in the church as Rue hugs him and reminisces on how much she misses her father. The religious imagery of this dream sequence is fascinating because Rue isn’t religious, meaning her only connections with church have been through rehab and NA. Her relationship with Ali is pretty specific to that environment, so this scene might convey a desire to have Ali’s guiding, fatherly force back in her life. 

The final line of the episode, also part of this fantasy, is Jules as an omniscient voice saying “since before we ever existed.” I can’t begin to imagine what this might signify, though its dreamy existentialism suggests a turning point in Rue’s character arc or her relationship with Jules. I have faith that next week’s episode will be more fulfilling than this one—and it’s bound to be momentous.