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Euphoria season 2 spoiler-free review: The kids are still not alright

After a lengthy hiatus, Rue and co are back.

Zendaya as Rue Bennett in the back of a car at night in Euphoria season 2 episode 1
Published: Sunday, 9th January 2022 at 4:00 pm

Note: review based on episode one only.

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A star rating of 4 out of 5.

The cast of Euphoria warned us that the show's second season is a darker affair, and they weren't kidding. Somehow, its creator and writer Sam Levinson has managed to dial up the intensity, and then some, which is guaranteed to ruffle the feathers of conservative watchdogs around the world.

That might have something to do with its two-year absence from our screens, bar a couple of bridge episodes, during which time the many, many unsettling moments that occurred in its debut season have dulled slightly. But it certainly feels like the teens at the heart of this narrative will face even greater hurdles in the drama's second instalment, which kicks off with a scene that is one of the most audacious displays of the year (we say that with confidence right now, in January).

To go into any detail would be to spoil the cinematic spectacle, but you'll be mesmerised and repulsed in equal measure.

It also gives us a crucial window into Fezco's world, drawing back the curtain to reveal the drug dealer's origin story. Some of the character arcs in season one were half-baked and lacked crucial context, which is unsurprising when you consider the size of the ensemble, but Levinson has gone some way to addressing that in the opening scene.

The first episode picks up in the immediate aftermath of the bridge episodes, which unfolded over the festive period, with the central cast gathered at a New Year's Eve house party.

Rue (Zendaya), Jules (Hunter Schafer), Nate (Jacob Elordi), Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), Maddy (Alexa Demie), Kat (Barbara Ferreira), Lexi (Maude Apatow), Fezco (Angus Cloud), McKay (Algee Smith) and Ethan (Austin Abrams) are all gathered under one roof, which makes for some truly delicious drama interspersed with two standout grisly moments that unsettle and may prove difficult to watch for some. While its critics have long accused Euphoria of fostering bad behaviour, many viewers have expressed relief that they're able to watch safely from the sidelines, shielded from such scenarios.

Rue, as we saw in her standalone episode, was still using drugs following her relapse at the end of season one, and that remains the case. She's visibly anxious about running into Jules, with much still unresolved between.

Jules is brimming with skittish energy as she casts her eye over the throng of revellers in the hope of spotting Rue; their heady romance, even with its troubles, was the soft underbelly of Euphoria's first season and was a welcome respite from the brutality elsewhere. It remains to be seen what Levinson has in store for them, particularly given the introduction of a new character (Dominic Fike) who has a fizzy, chaotic quality to him and will clearly impact Rue, as well as adding an interesting dynamic to her relationship with Jules.

Dominic Fike joins the cast of Euphoria

Dominic Fike joins the cast of Euphoria

As Jules throws some shapes with Kat on the makeshift dance floor, Nate glares menacingly at her from across the room, his rigidity belying a fury that seemingly has no off-switch. In the series' first instalment, he uncovered the footage of his father Cal (Eric Dane) in a motel room with Jules, which Maddy possibly swiped from his bedroom and could use to her advantage at any moment. That strand of the story looks set to rumble on in season two following a fresh complication that is thrown into the midst of Nate and Maddy's tumultuous relationship.

Cassie, who feels everything as fully and deeply as one possibly can, is trying to "focus on herself" rather than boys, and stop making the same mistakes, but she quickly abandons that resolution and falls head first into a fresh dilemma that sets up one of the season's central and most compelling storylines. Cassie knows she's playing with fire, but being a teenager has never been synonymous with treading carefully.

Kat, a fan favourite, is under-served in the premiere. We get a glimpse into her relationship with Ethan, which Jules playfully describes as "disgusting" as the pair lean in to kiss one another, but that's largely it. We'll be watching with interest to see how Kat's arc will develop following her journey into camming in the show's first chapter, and how that will affect her newfound romance.

Barbie Ferreira as Kat yelling at a bowling alley in in Euphoria

Fan-favourite Barbie Ferreira is under-served as Kat in the Euphoria season two premiere

If you enjoyed season one of Euphoria, you will enjoy this. If you didn't, you won't. It continues in much the same vein, both exhibitionist and bombastic, but also introspective and tender. There is much in there that is surface level, designed to send your jaw hurtling to the ground, but this is entertainment, baby! A little bit of that never hurt anybody, and it takes care in other ways to ensure that it's not an empty vessel.

It's beautifully made, once again, and that gulf between what is happening and how it often looks creates the familiar discord that worked so well in its first outing. There are also several moments of grim humour that will elicit laughter.

"Shit's gotta change," asserts Rue as she muses on the dearth of female drug bosses.

"I swear my boyfriend doesn't tell me anything," groans a woman who is readying to inject herself with heroin when our protagonist informs her that it's New Year's Eve.

For those who have been patiently waiting for Euphoria to return, it will not disappoint, giving viewers plenty to talk about, and teasing plenty more to come. If it wasn't airing weekly, we'd happily tear through all eight episodes of this propulsive drama in a single sitting.

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Euphoria airs on Sky Atlantic and Now from Monday 10th January. For all the latest news, visit our dedicated Drama hub, or find out what else to watch with our TV Guide.

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