“Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” is a beyond stressful episode of Euphoria as Rue Bennett leaves physical and emotional damage in her wake when an intervention featuring her mom Leslie (Nika King), sister Gia (Storm Reid), Jules, and Elliot goes terribly wrong. Zendaya is an Emmy-worthy wrecking ball in this episode and burns bridges with literally everyone except Laurie, who wants to get her hooked on morphine and sexually traffick her. Writer/director Sam Levinson creates tension in this episode from a variety of pressure points from Rue withdrawing to how she says terrible things to Leslie, Gia, and Jules and finally her fear of Laurie after Jules tells her that she and Leslie flushed the drugs down the toilet. Plus she makes a little pit stop at the Howards’ house and reveals that Cassie has been sleeping with Nate, which predictably makes Maddy go psycho, and more pragmatically for Rue, it allows her to avoid an intervention while evading police, causing a car accident, and committing robbery along the way.
Unlike the bloat of the previous three episodes, Levinson’s script is lean, mean, and emotionally compelling spending almost 20 minutes on Leslie, Gia, and later, Jules confronting for relapsing in her drug use. He really pulls at the heart strings by opening with Leslie and Rue off-screen arguing while Gia is in her bed putting headphones in and just feeling terrible. Reid does a good job playing basically a kicked dog and has a great moment later in the episode when she’s just messing around on her phone trying to keep her mind off the fact that her sister is back on hard drugs and is on the run. However, once the camera focuses on Leslie and Rue, it’s a heated, close quarters battle filled with anger, sadness, tears, and the dashed off sarcasm that Zendaya delivers deadpan and is worse than yelling “Fuck you” at her mom and friends. She tells Gia that she has to be a lawyer or neurosurgeon so that Leslie doesn’t look like a bad mom after her dad passed away, and the low blows are fully on display later in her conversation with Jules when she says that Jules doesn’t actually love her, but wants to be loved. Rue also brings up how she left her behind while taking the train at the end of Season One and ultimately salts the ground of her friendship.
Sam Levinson and editor Julio Perez do an excellent job of opening up the cramped frame to show that Jules and Elliot have been listening to Rue’s outburst the whole time, and they and Marcell Rev play with foreground and background a lot in “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird”. For example, there’s a lingering shot focusing on morphine and a chipmunk knick knack while Laurie feigning motherliness to Rue in the bath tub is blurred out in the background. Unlike Leslie, Laurie just cares about her money and will do everything to get it back. Martha Kelly brings an even keel, Midwestern faux warmth to the role of Laurie, and her kind demeanor is the exact opposite of her high security dwelling with locks from the inside on all the doors and all but one window locked as well plus parrots acting as a kind of analog security system to go with her muscle that made teenagers strip down in the Euphoria Season 2 premiere. It’s a frightening environment, and Levinson directs a mini-thriller with the threat of Rue being sex trafficked looming in the background every time a floorboard creaks or the scary men that Laurie keeps around almost wake. Oh, and while this is going on, Rue is about to dry heave from her withdrawals even though it’s not as bad as earlier in the episode.
The scenes between Leslie driving Rue back to rehab and her harrowing night at Leslie’s are basically one big chase sequence broken up by the aforementioned interlude at the Howards’ house and a shorter one where Fezco gives her some tough love and physically lifts a withdrawing Rue from his house after she tries to take some of his grandma’s pills. After the raid last season, Fezco has completely separated his work as a drug dealer with his home life so his inability to help Rue makes sense. The scene at the Howards, which features Maddy, Cassie, Lexi, and the always underutilized Kat is full of drama thanks to the big reveal with Alexa Demie doing some impressive acting with her hands and obliterating Cassie with cutting remarks. However, it comes across as petty high school drama in the middle of an intervention with a suicidal drug addict, who could lose her freedom. And Leslie understands as she tries to talk over the bullshit and get back to helping Rue, who gets away.
What follows is a physical manifestation for all the emotional hurt that Rue has shown the people she loves as she steals from a random rich and angry couple’s house and then goes on the run from the police ruining people’s get togethers, yards, and of course, the aforementioned car accident. The first bit of the episode was mostly score-less, but Labrinth’s bass and vocals kick in as Rue hops fences, hides in trash bins, and eludes cops, flames on a grill, and prickly pear cacti to just name a few. Sam Levinson films this chase sequence to show how self-centered Rue is in her quest to get some pills to stave off the withdrawal sickness that has her clutching her stomach and vomiting between parkour, real life Frogger, and Grand Theft Auto sans the cars. After the fiery, yet emotionally grounded conversation/argument/intervention with her family and friends, this part of the episode is very heightened and honestly transitions very well into the world of drug kingpin Laurie. It also show that Rue has hit rock bottom and alienated all of her family and friends except for her mom, who searched for her all night and welcomes her in the episode’s closing minutes.
Along with addiction, primal fear, and anxiety, Levinson and Zendaya tap into Rue’s grief about the loss of her father. It flares up early on when she throws it in Leslie’s face and returns when she’s submerged in the tub at Leslie’s house in almost a recreation of Euphoria’s pilot’s opening scene that began with Rue’s birth. There’s a flashback of her dad holding her, her heartfelt speech at his funeral, and even her looking at Gia in the infant ward showing the bond they had from the beginning. This sequences creates sympathy for Rue that even though she’s slagged off the people she cares about most in her life that she’s still a human being who’s going through utter hell that happens to be an addict.
Heart-rending performances from Zendaya, Nika King, Hunter Schafer, and Storm Reid plus a gonzo foot chase and a tense mini-thriller that sets up Laurie as an even more sinister figure than Cal Jacobs makes “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” easily the best episode of Euphoria Season 2. Sam Levinson doesn’t shy away from showing rock bottom for an addict with he and Zendaya putting the lies, sneaking, and manipulation on the play to go with the pain and anger that Rue feels as she struggles with withdrawal symptoms, estranging her family and friends, and having to payback a chilling drug lord. Zeroing in on Rue’s addiction and how it affects everyone around her was effective and honest storytelling from Levinson, but it does make the show’s other subplots (Cassie sleeping with Nate, Lexi’s play, Kat’s relationship issues, whatever the fuck Cal Jacobs is going through) pale in comparison.
Overall Verdict: 9.3