‘Euphoria’ Special Episode 2 Tells Jules’ Side of the Story With Tragic Reverie
In a stream of memories and fantasies “Euphoria” briefly returns yet again. This time it’s Jules’s turn to give us her side of the story. We are still waiting for the second season of the HBO drama which had such a brilliant first round. After shooting was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, creator Sam Levinson crafted two chapters as special episodes to continue the narrative of his Gen Z requiem. The first, “Part 1: Rue – Trouble Doesn’t Last Always,” reunited viewers with Rue (Zendaya), who we had last seen relapse into drugs and despair after her beloved Jules (Hunter Schafer) left her at a train station, seeming to leave for New York. A striking work of introspection, that episode had Rue spending Christmas discussing everything from love to revolution with rehab sponsor Ali (Colman Domingo) in a somber diner. But was it all in her head? Had she died in the season one finale in the throes of relapse?
This second special, “Part 2: Jules – Fuck Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob,” seems to answer the question but first takes a major journey through the inner state of Jules, who is spending her own Christmas speaking with a therapist, Dr. Mandy Nichols (Lauren Weedman). The ensuing conversation takes on a confessional tone. Jules admits she’s been pondering stopping her hormone replacement therapy, particularly because of the deep thought she has been giving to the very notion of femininity. It is after all still a culture where what is feminine is still defined much by what males deem attractive. Like a torrent Jules opens up about the role of addicts in her life, starting with her mother, who is revealed to have made an attempt to re-enter Jules’s life. But she was quickly shunned by her skeptical daughter. And while Jules confesses she truly loved Rue, her mind has been wrapped up in the intensity of fantasy relationships, like the one she had through sexting with Tyler, who turned out to be Nate (Jacob Elordi) pulling off a catfish move. As for New York, it was never allowed to happen by her father, and Jules was already plagued by nightmares of what would happen if Rue had come along and relapsed without proper attention.
A rich and baroque episode, “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob” is a much more layered and visceral hour than the previous special. While the Rue section was almost purely monologue, performed with great force by two excellent actors, this one returns to the more feverish and visually inventive spirit of the show. This too is a conversational 48 minutes, but intercut with Jules’s dialogue with Dr. Nichols are flashbacks, dream sequences and sexual fantasies. Some moments have a youthful poetry, as when Jules describes admiring the beauty and strength of the ocean, and we see her on a shore, overtaken by a wave. As with the first special episode, this one was also shot under strict Covid-19 safety regulations, so it is confined to specific moments and locations. Rarely do we leave the therapist’s office or apartment settings. Yet this allows Levinson’s great strengths as a writer and Hunter Schafer’s potency as an actor to really glow. The dialogue is essentially a psychological portrait. Jules, like all of Gen Z, lives a life linking reality to digital fantasy. She tells Dr. Nichols sexting with the fake Tyler profile was the best sex she’s ever had, because it was all in her head. We cut to intense and dark fantasies involving Jules in a darkened bedroom with her ideal of Tyler, when in reality she was masturbating alone in her own room. Glimpses of Rue are there, looking over it all like a guilt-ridden specter. Labrinth gives these moments an evocative, operatic force with a music score that feels inspired by the work of Zbigniew Preisner.
If Rue got an addict’s lament, Jules’s side of the story is a lover grappling with choices and things that were left unsaid. She had never mentioned to Rue the situation with her addict mother returning home, and admits feeling the weight of being responsible for Rue’s own sobriety, in the sense that it was Jules’s presence that would block potential relapses. It’s the kind of emotional weight a high schooler might not be ready for, especially when still exploring sexuality and identity so intensely. Some young romances suffer from the tragedy of having met too early. Jules reflects on how Rue was the only girl to look at her without judgement, who seemed to just love her for her. When Rue first kissed Jules she froze. It wasn’t a fantasy, but real. But it all came to a head at that train station, and now Jules suffers the heartbreak of wondering if she threw away the one person who mattered. With these moments in the dialogue, Levinson also taps again into the more universal themes of “Euphoria” that go beyond topics of being a teenager. We are all haunted by certain decisions or endlessly wonder about life’s what ifs. Jules could have run off with Rue, but she also had a nightmare of finding her overdosed on a bathroom floor. As Walter Benjamin once wrote, “the only way of knowing a person is to love them without hope.”
And now for that final moment in the episode that seems to answer a question “Euphoria” fans have been endlessly debating: Is Rue alive? After the therapy session Jules sits alone in her room as it rains outside when suddenly, Rue walks in. The scene is charged with the feeling of both looking jolted and attempting to find the right words. Rue is on her way to see Ali, meaning we are watching events prior to the meeting in the first special episode. She admits she misses Jules, who tries to apologize for what happened at the train station. But Rue may not be ready to face it all just yet and wishes Jules a Merry Christmas before briskly leaving the room. Jules can only lay back and lose herself in a cascade of tears. Yet there you have it, Rue appears to still be around.
We may have to wait a little longer for a second season of “Euphoria,” but Levinson has delivered two great episodes for now that also stand strongly on their own. “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob” is both a memorable portrait of Jules’s inner self while continuing the overall narrative involving Rue with that moving twist at the end. To be young can be a trial, and to endure it while being damaged and in love makes the experience a survival course. “Euphoria” may be visually exhilarating but its real force comes from its depth. This latest chapter leaves us hoping the next, fuller offering of this show will have just as much truth in every frame.
“Euphoria” Special Episode Part 2 begins streaming Jan. 22 on HBO Max and airs Jan. 24 at 9 pm. ET on HBO.