Euphoria wraps up its second season in a final episode that is violent, emotional, and occasionally even farcical. Writer/director/creator Sam Levinson begins with last episode and arguably this season’s tensest storyline with Fezco (Angus Cloud) about to go to Lexi’s (Maude Apatow) play, but Custer (Tyler Chase) wants to have a little chat aka the police are on his door step to get him and Ashtray (Javon Walton) for the murder of Mouse way back in the season premiere. Since last episode, Ashtray has known what’s going on and immediately slices Custer’s throat in a move that causes Fezco to backhand him for this act of violence and then help him arrange the evidence so Fezco can take the fall. However, this doesn’t end up working out. Walton’s wordless, glance-heavy approach to acting has been one of the highlights this season, and Levinson mines so much emotion from letting the camera linger on him and remind the audience that he’s a kid facing death.
After the violent opening sequence, Sam Levinson goes idyllic and gives us one last look at Lexi and Fezco’s relationship as a kind of what it could have been. Apatow and Cloud continue to have fantastic chemistry even if they’re just chatting over the phone, and even their differences make for both entertaining and real conversations. For example, Lexi mentions her abhorrence of guns while Fezco mentions how they’re necessary for protection, and you can see the kind of violent people he has had to deal with in the tension in his face. But on the flipside, Fezco’s life goal is to have a farm like Little House on the Prairie, which Lexi has never seen, and they bond over this innocent (If problematic in its treatment of Native Americans.) show, and they have realize they have shared values like curiosity, empathy, and caring about their families. The season finale of Euphoria Season 2 is dark and violent, but there is room for sweetness like Rue’s (Zendaya) reaction to Lexi’s play and asking to spend time with her as well as Rue giving Jules (Hunter Schafer) a forehead kiss. (But that seems more like a goodbye than a reconciliation especially with how little screen time Jules has gotten in the back third of the season.)
However, these moments are few and far between and mainly center on Rue healing through art and conversation from the trauma of her addiction and father’s death. This episode is mostly drama-filled beginning with the aforementioned murder and flowing into Lexi’s play, which completely goes off the rails with Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), Suze (Alanna Ubach), and Maddy (Alexa Demie) all jumping on the stage. Mentioning that she’s a villain in her monologue is on the nose, but that’s Euphoria trademark at this point, and Levinson and Sweeney unleash the horror film monster inside the high school cheerleader, who played the victim even when she was sleeping with her best friend’s boyfriend. Cassie’s monologue is cringeworth and even veers into racist territory when she compares her treatment in Lexi’s play to Afghan women being beheaded. She completely lays into Lexi for just being an observer and not taking chances in life, which causes Suze to intervene and shows how self-centered Cassie is because Lexi was trying to keep the family together. Combined with Fezco not showing up, Lexi is in a real down place, and Maude Apatow uses more passive body language to show how overwhelmed she is by her sister’s actions.
But the messiness doesn’t stop at the Howard family enacting their dynamic on stage, but gets even wilder when Cassie uses the names of the characters in the play to allude to her situation leading to a verbal confrontation with Maddy. After a short lull, the play restarts, and of course, it’s a scene based on last season’s infamous carousel “ride” leading Cassie to assault the actress playing her. Maddy jumps up on stage to take Cassie out, and she ends up slapping and hitting her head against the wall with cellphones filming everything. Most of the episode focuses on the more substantial Rue and Fezco plotlines, but there’s a little coda where Sam Levinson includes a shot of Maddy using a Coke can as an ice pack and has her basically tell Cassie that this is just Round One, and that she doesn’t sympathize with her because she was dumped by Nate (Jacob Elordi) last episode.
And speaking of Nate, there is a resolution to his and his father Cal’s (Eric Dane) plot this season. After dumping Cassie, Nate gets in his car with a gun, jump drive, and a bottle of beer hell bent on something with Levinson cutting between him driving and Fezco, Ashtray, and Faye (Chloe Cherry) getting ready for their door to get kicked in. He ends up finding his dad and a bunch of queer people squatting in one of the Jacobs construction sites. Returning to patriarch mode, Cal’s voice deepens and gets more serious as he wants to find some kind of peace with his son.
However, that doesn’t happen as Nate reveals that he saw Cal’s stash of sex tapes growing up and had traumatic dreams of Cal having sex with him. Sam Levinson firmly points the camera at Nate’s angry face while Cal mentions that he does feel happier, which is the opposite of how Nate wants him to feel. So, that’s why he plants the jump drive on the scene as East Highland’s police come in and arrest Cal while Nate strides out. However, there are a few shots of him looking back with the blue and red on his face that might be regret or his dad’s reputation getting irreparably damaged. Or maybe he knows running the family business is out of question now. Cal is a pedophile, and it’s good to see him face justice. However, there’s zero evidence that Nate will try to break the cycle of toxicity in the Jacobs family with him pointing guns at people to get his way and straight up saying to his dad’s friends that he hurts people to get what he wants.
There’s still the dangling plot thread of Rue owing Laurie money, and it seems like the last two episodes wrapped up her storylines with Leslie, Gia, and Ali. But the season two finale is the most hopeful Rue’s story has been in a long time with Zendaya’s giving an emotionally vulnerable performance in her reaction to the play. Sam Levinson weaves in flashbacks from her father’s wake to actors on stage and the audience that Rue is watching from, and she ends up beaming at its ending: an awkward candid photo of Rue, Lexi, Cassie, Maddy, and Kat at the wake taken by Suze. The play inspires her to reconnect with Lexi, who has provided contexts and a narrative for what she’s feeling. The most touching scene in the episode (Along with Lexi dedicating the play to Fezco) is them hugging and empathizing over their dads with this scene bridging over to a voiceover mentioning that Rue was clean for the rest of the school year. Because they don’t know what’s going on with Fezco and Ashtray, these scenes seem like a bubble of hope that will probably get burst next season. But it’s nice to see Rue grow as a character, and even though Jules being relegated to the sidelines is unfortunate, it could symbolize that she’s moving on from that relationship to new ones.
However, not everything with Rue works in this episode. She gets Elliott (Dominic Fike) to ask forgiveness for telling her mom that she’s using drugs, but then also thanks him for getting rid of them and kickstarting her path to sobriety. Elliott is still using drugs so he’s probably not the best friend for Rue, which is something he alluded to in the season two premiere. However, instead of just having this short encounter, Elliott plays a whole acoustic song co-written by Zendaya and series composer Labrinth with lyrics referring to Rue growing apart from her friends. Fike has a fine voice, but this scene drags on , and the themes in the lyrics are explored in further depth during the play. Plus the play is more powerful because of Lexi and Rue’s long friendship, which is strained, but has potential. The scene is redundant and would be better off as a DVD extra (If those still exist.), especially since the fate of Jules and Rue’s relationship ends up being told in voiceover. The pacing and placement of the scene is way off, but an incisive acoustic ballad for recovery and separation makes sense in contrast with the highly choreographed, postmodern pop “All for Us”, which played when Rue relapsed at the end of season one.
However, the most heart-rending parts of the Euphoria Season 2 finale is the SWAT raid on Fezco and Ashtray’s house. It’s already been set up by a soft minor tone score from Labrinth, gaps in conversation, and heavy breathing from Angus Cloud, Chase, and Cherry. (Walton is always the stoic.) But when it happens, Euphoria truly becomes the crime drama set up in this season’s premiere. Fezco immediately surrenders, but Ashtray holes up in a bath tub with a machine gun and shoots back at the SWAT team injuring Fezco in the process, who is pleading for the police to take him alive because he’s just a kid. Firing a semiautomatic might seem cool and badass, but by inserting shots of Ashtray’s completely overwhelmed face, it grounds his last moments as he keeps firing and never surrenders. Also, Levinson puts in some of the Rue voice over about how her father’s death seemed like a movie and was unreal on shots of Fezco being ziptied and carried out by the police.
The crime plotline seemed like another show than Euphoria for much of this season, but by centering it around characters fans care about like Fezco, Ashtray, and scene stealer Faye, it ends up adding a lot of tension and danger to the show. The shootout is utter carnage and tragedy with bullets flying indiscriminately and destroying Fezco’s grandmother’s house and legacy as well as Ashtray’s life before it really started. Most of the other parts of the episode deal with Rue’s continued grief over her father’s death, and this plot will eventually give Rue and Lexi something to grieve at in the third season because Sam Levinson focuses on the moment, and not other characters’ reactions to Ashtray’s death and Fezco’s arrest.
Elliott’s musical interlude went on for far too long and Jules along with Kat were forgotten, but “All My Life, My Heart Has Yearned for a Thing I Cannot Name” is heartbreaking season finale centered around griefs, both old and new. After missteps trying to make him sympathetic, Levinson shows real consequences for Cal Jacobs and plunges Nate into even more darkness. He uses the power of narrative to help Rue contextualize her life and have Cassie continue to ruin her life through Lexi’s play. Also, Lexi’s arc is probably the most compelling one this season with her going from the sidelines to the literal spotlight, and Maude Apatow being a charisma-filled, yet vulnerable leading lady. Finally, from the first scene of season two, Sam Levinson colored in the world of Fezco, the drug dealer with a heart of gold, and turned what started as a Tarantino-esque fever dream into cold, sad reality.
Compared to season one, Euphoria isn’t as effective giving the main ensemble their own journeys, but Rue’s struggles with addictions and journey to hope continue to be compelling and harnesses Zendaya’s unparalleled skills as a performer whether she’s the center of the story or reacting to art about her character’s life.