Euphoria, starring a phenomenal ensemble cast led by Zendaya, is an intense window into the challenges of drug addiction. Rue (Zendaya) is a high schooler who has just gotten out of rehab—but that doesn’t mean she has any plans to ditch her fatal habits. Director Sam Levinson collaborated with A24 and somehow made a show about drug addiction that is beautiful but not overly romantic. The story follows a modern-day group of high school seniors as they painfully navigate relationships, sex, blackmail, and, of course, the internet.
In the ultimately unsatisfying and ambiguous season finale, many ends are left loose. What happened to Fez after the robbery? Are Cassie and McKay going to work it out post-abortion? What is Maddy going to do with Cal’s video? And most importantly, what happened to Rue after Jules took off on the train?
There is an insatiable hunger within each character for intimacy. Euphoria is the very thing they are chasing. Rue said it herself: “Every time I feel good, I think it’s gonna last forever.” Much of the older generations criticize Gen Z for living their lives online. In Euphoria this may reign true, but underneath all of the indulgent sexual encounters are teenagers looking for something more than what’s in front of them.
Really, the only satisfying part of the season finale was Kat and Ethan finally confessing their feelings to each other. Topped off with a sweet kiss and BTS’s track “Euphoria,” the scene feels ripped out of a John Hughes movie. Before her confession, Kat had been participating in her own online sex chat business. Who knows if she’ll ever reveal this to Ethan—but whether she decides to or not, it was wonderful to see Kat realize she is worthy of love from someone who genuinely cares for her.
At the beginning of the episode, Rue is just recovering from a kidney infection induced from not being able to get up and use the restroom for days because of her depression. When Jules comes to visit her, she asks Rue if the depression spiraled because she’d left for a short time. Throughout the season, Jules has had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that Rue’s sobriety rides on their platonic and sometimes romantic relationship.
While Rue clings to her, Jules partakes in other relationships. Most of the time it’s hard to tell how Jules truly feels about Rue. Although ambiguous, we see a lot of tender and intimate moments between these two. They often find themselves laying in bed face to face. Sometimes kissing, but most of the time holding each other in silence. Through this relationship, Rue finds what she perceives to be a safe space. The painful unattachment Jules has from the romantic aspects of the relationship results in her ultimately leaving Rue behind at the end of the season.
Before this heartbreaking event, though, Rue confronts Nate at the dance. In this short yet intense conversation, Nate tells her that she’s spending her time with someone that’s going to leave her and not remember her in ten years. Rue’s thrown into a bout of insecurity and desperately seeks validation, asking Jules if she’s in love with her.
We all want to believe that love is real when we believe we’ve found it. Although a recovering drug addict with a seemingly hardened heart, Rue is no different. She’s been chasing Jules for the entire season, even when Jules was obsessing over a stranger on a dating app.
After she’s abandoned by Jules at the train station, viewers watch as Rue relapses and is launched into a musical scene that’s still up for interpretation. Labrinth’s track “All for Us” is sung by Zendaya as she’s lifted and tossed by a gospel choir clothed in robes the same color as her dad’s sweatshirt. Many have speculated that this scene is a metaphor for Rue’s death; after all, she did relapse right after a rough kidney infection that left her hospitalized. On top of that, she’s lost the thing that made her want to stay alive and sober.
Her sung words, “After all, dreamers are selfish when it all comes down to it,” may be a jab at Jules for leaving her stranded in suburbia. Her next string of words, “I hope you come back to remind me who I was when I go disappear into that good night” could be an indication that without Jules, Rue does not see herself as being stable or whole.
Euphoria follows no structure that television has seen before, and we can only expect more from season two. The sentiment that Rue proclaims to Jules, let’s get out of here, sums it all up perfectly. After a short 8-episode season with unanswered questions, we’re left wondering where everyone went and where they’ll be when it picks up again.