TV Review: Euphoria Special Episode 2- Jules
The second special episode of Euphoria that acts as a bridge between its first season and delayed (Due to Covid-19) second season focuses on Jules’ (Hunter Schafer) character, her relationship with Rue (Zendaya) and her parents as well as other things like her gender, the toughness of moving to East Highland, and how she feels like she builds stronger connections with folks online that in real life. The entire episode is framed in a therapy session that her dad, David (John Ales) wanted her to attend after she took a train and ran away from home in the final episode of season one. It blurs the lines between reality and fantasy quite a bit, and director/co-writer Sam Levinson brings a lot of Euphoria’s visual and musical trademarks into the episode with a synth-meets-sacred score from composer Labrinth and a pair of powerful needle drops from Lorde and Billie Eilish, who released a new track “Lo Vas A Olividar” with Rosalia just for this episode.
The colorful nature and the non-linear narrative that Levinson and Hunter Schafer, who is credited as a writer on “Jules” matches the titular character who wants to go to New York and study art and has amazing taste in fashion and makeup. One of the first shots of the episode is a colorful flashback montage of all of Jules’ major moments synced to “Liability” by Lorde with the poignant lyrics creating reminders of the hurt that she has been and has caused in the past year. It sets up Jules sidestepping talking about running away and instead talking about gender, and how she is tired of having it be defined by men and crafting her gender presentation to be desirable to them. She talks about going off puberty blockers and her previous fears of dysphoria and puberty’s “deepness” and “thickness” when now those things reminds her of the ocean.
Sure, the metaphor is a little cheesy, but a quick reminder that these are high school students, and it also is an opportunity for Levinson and Schafer to make a little magic in a flashback sequence. With Labrinth’s score soaring, they show us Jules at her freest frolicking in the waves at her grandmother’s house and letting them wash over her as she lies in the sand without a care in the world. This feeling is also connected to how she feels about Rue, who makes a few appearances in flashbacks, dream sequences, and one heartbreaking one in the present as she bikes over to her episode. The way that Jules talks about Rue is a real highlight of this episode as she talks about how Rue saw her real self beneath all the parts of different people that made up herself and compared to how a mother looked at a baby before that child can make any kind of memories. Levinson conveys this emotion visually through a recurring image of Rue and Jules staring into each other’s glittering eyes: Zendaya and Hunter Schafer get a lot of power out of one look. This episode is full of intimate moments between them, like Jules showing Rue how to inject her with estrogen in one scene where they’re sleeping over.
Jules’ new therapist, Dr. Nichols (Lauren Weedman) tries to make connections out of this tangle of emotions and makes a painful, yet true one when she realizes that Jules’ fear and anger about Rue’s addiction is like her anger about her mother’s addiction. We don’t know where Amy (Pell James) is in the present, but there are some flashbacks like when Rue’s dad basically ambushes her by bringing her mom to make amends as part of an AA program. You can see the tension in John Ales’ face as he’s playing a character who wants to save the woman he loves, but doesn’t want to lose his only daughter. Amy overhears that Jules hates and doesn’t care about her so she leaves without saying goodbye, and later, we hear David on the phone about how she’s back at a psychiatric hospital after going on a bender. So, this is why Jules flinches, and Schafer’s lips quiver every time Dr. Nichols brings up her mother, especially when she’s trying to make a positive connection.
The other thread of conversation that Jules and her therapist have is about online relationships, especially her failed virtual relationship with Tyler, who turned out to be Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi), an abusive football player, who blackmailed Jules with her own nudes so he wouldn’t have to face consequences for assaulting his girlfriend in the previous season. Jules still dwells on the texts and sexts she sent to Tyler (Jayden Marcos) and talks to her therapist about the openness and vulnerability she feels in online relationships. This is shown visually during elaborate dream sequences where she fantasizes about having sex with Tyler in her fantasy New York apartment with sensual red lighting and Labrinth’s score building to a climax. But, instead, there’s a bass drop, the lights cut out, and Tyler’s face is replaced by Nate’s as she returns to reality. The relationship between Nate and Jules is one of the scariest parts of Euphoria, and his sweet, catfish texts as Tyler continue to haunt her as she thought she had a real connection with him.
The best and toughest scene in “Jules” is seeing and listening to the story of Jules and Rue’s first from her perspective. In the first season, the scene is shot from Rue’s perspective, and she initiates the kiss before backing off and running away because she didn’t know if Jules liked her like that. However, this episode reveals that Jules was already in love with Rue, and this was the first time she had ever kissed a girl so she was hesitant about making a move. The flashback drives home one of Jules’ key fears: that she will lose Rue. We see her frantically calling Rue and trying to express her feelings to her, which is mirrored in the present day by her missed calls and texts plus their quick, awkward encounter at the end of the episode. Through therapy, Jules can start to rebuild her sense of self and even have conversations about things like going off hormones and being a trans woman. However, she wonders without Rue if it’s all worth it, and the final shot of the episode with the rain pouring down on Jules’ window really captures the pain of losing a friend, and it being your fault while leaving things open ended for the upcoming season.
Although it sticks to one location just like “Rue”, “Jules” is far from lo-fi with Sam Levinson and Hunter Schafer unleashing a plethora of fantasy sequences, artsy flashbacks, and musical tracks to show Jules’ state of mind during a difficult time for her. From watching Euphoria Season One, I definitely knew why Rue loved Jules, but this episode nails how much Jules cares for her with Schafer covering her face in close-ups because she loves her so much and is afraid she is going to lose her. This episode also does a good job of finding a throughline between its Jules’ relationship with Rue and her mother and also talks about online relationships and being trans in a very nuanced way with smart writing from Levinson and Schafer.
These special episodes have shown that Euphoria has two of the most emotionally vulnerable actors on any TV show (Zendaya, Hunter Schafer) and have whetted my appetite for the upcoming season, which hopefully have the same level of insight to go with its visual and musical panache. Also, fingers crossed for a Lexi flashback!
Overall Verdict: 9.2