Euphoria Special Episodes: Trouble Don’t Last Always
If you’re reading this, chances are you already caught Euphoria back when season one aired in 2019. Everything was set to begin filming season two when Covid struck. Taking extra precautions due to the pandemic, HBO and A24 were able to create two specials on a more intimate set. Combined, they make two hours of some of the best television writing in recent memory. Carrying an episode entirely on dialogue is not an easy feat, but they nailed it.
Part 1: Rue
This special episode of Euphoria begins with Rue and Jules, together at last. They’re sharing a small apartment, and are in love. Rue sees Jules off to school and immediately heads to the bathroom to use. The feeling of elation seeing one of our favorite TV couples further evaporates when it’s made clear none of this is real. It’s Christmas Eve, and Rue is at a diner with her sponsor Ali. The only thing real is that Rue is still using.
The conversation that follows between the two could easily be broken down and turned into an entire dissertation about addiction. It’s real, it hurts, and it’s all so painfully accurate. Ali quickly calls bullshit on Rue’s claim to not using and assures her that sobriety is her greatest weapon in this unfair world that dealt her the shorthand of being an addict. Ali makes the observation that one of the worst parts of having the disease of addiction is that the world does not see it as a disease. She then reveals she never had any desire to get clean.
The camera pans to the outside of the diner (a wonderful homage to Edward Hopper’s painting, Nighthawks). Ali makes a phone call to his daughter. You can hear the strain in his voice, this is a relationship that is still in the process of serious mending. Rue puts in her earphones and Moses Sumney’s “Me In 20 Years” starts to play. It’s beautiful and it’s haunting. It’s now permanently on my songs to cry to playlist.
Rue laments her relationship with Jules; all the plans they made, being together forever. Ali laughs at her childish romanticism. She wonders aloud if perhaps this is punishment for being a piece of shit. For hitting her mom. For threatening to kill her. Ali tells her that drugs change who you are as a person. He goes on to discuss the vicious cycle many addicts find themselves in; that every time you do something horrible, you think why bother changing? You’re a piece of shit, beyond forgiveness. This is a self-defeating stance, and he says this punishment is both too harsh and too easy.
Ali talks about his rock bottom, and sends a warning to Rue. For some people, there is no rock bottom. Each time you hit another rock bottom, you will lose more of yourself until you don’t even recognize who you are. This is an absolutely terrifying thought. Rue seems nearly unmoved. Once she reveals she really has no intention of being around for that long, we know why. She continues to explain how ugly the world is, and she can’t even bear to witness it. But she makes it clear, if anything, she wants people to know she tried.
Episode Part 2: Jules
Euphoria special episode 2 opens with Jules is in a therapy session. There is a close-up shot of her eye. We see hundreds of flashes from the last season in its reflection. The good and the bad, Rue and Nate. She then blurts out she wants to stop taking her hormones. She explains to her therapist that she has framed her entire womanhood around being pleasing to men. She now realizes she is not interested in them and finds what they want to be boring and uncreative.
As in season 1 of Euphoria Jules’s self-criticism is so ingrained into her psyche, she feels she would be lost without it. She states “my entire life I’ve been trying to conquer femininity and somewhere along the way femininity conquered me.” It should be noted that Hunter Schafer, the actress who plays Jules, co-wrote the episode with showrunner Sam Levinson. She continues on how severe criticism amongst women is, which I think every woman on the planet can relate to. Rue, however, was not like that. She was the first person to truly see her. Not the million layers that are there for everybody else. That is something special.
In this episode of Euphoria, Jules continues to speak very candidly about her experience transitioning and what being trans means to her. She was scared of puberty because she always thought of women being small and delicate, and puberty was this metamorphosis that would make being feminine unattainable. She feels differently now. Jules compares it to the ocean, which is broad, deep, and strong. It can be all of these things and still be “feminine as fuck.” So can she.
The conversation goes back to Rue, and how Jules felt like her sobriety was completely dependent on her availability to her. There is a shot of them in the backseat together, and Rue is high. There is another shot of a woman passed out in the backseat of a car. We realize this is Jules’ mother, and everything is beginning to make more sense. A flashback to Halloween and her mom has come over to make amends. Jules refuses to see her. The following week she relapses. I have nothing but compassion for Jules, who feels she needs to bear the weight of both her mother’s and Rue’s sobriety.
Then, of course, the whole Nate/Tyler disaster is up for discussion. Jules begins to talk about how many of the most profound relationships of her life have been online. She says maybe this is the draw for her; none of it is real. It’s all fantasy. She suggests perhaps why this is why she falls in love so easily; most of it is in her head.
Jules is now in her bedroom and there is a knock at the door. It’s Rue! I may have audibly gasped here because it’s the first time in the specials they are together in “present time.” Both are on the verge of tears, and confess to missing one another. Jules apologizes for the train station. It is simply too much for Rue to bear, she says Merry Christmas and rushes back out the door. There is no grand gesture, no proper reconciliation. They each have an insurmountable level of difficult shit to deal with. I think of what the waitress Miss Marsha said in the first Euphoria special and god damn, I hope she’s right. “Baby, trouble don’t last always.”