Euphoria Season 2 Yearbook: Rue's Inferno

"You don't decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you're an addict," William S. Burroughs wrote in his 1953 book "Junky." This week on "Euphoria," Rue finally woke up an addict.

There's so much to say about this singularly gripping and relentless hour of television. It feels, more than ever, like "Euphoria" is two shows in one. Last week, viewers were laughing about Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) making a mess of herself at Maddy's (Alexa Demie) birthday party and wondering if this teen darama is really much more than glossy exploitation. This week we're witnessing a painfully genuine depiction of addiction and withdrawal that's as unflinching as any I've ever seen before. This episode is tremendously stripped down, almost completely devoid of the series' usual cinematic tricks. It's simply Rue descending to the circles of hell, but without any pretentious Dante references. And unlike the show's many daydreams and visions, this hell is real for her.

This episode hits close to home for me. I grew up with addicts, and I love people with depression, and I've seen someone at their absolute, world-imploding, self-destructive worst. There will no doubt be memes about Maddy and Cassie this week, and continued cries for series creator Sam Levinson to get a co-writer, but all of that fell away for me while I watched Zendaya put in the bravest work of her career. Maybe it did for you, too.

If you've seen the episode, this goes without saying, but note that in addition to including in-depth spoilers for the "Euphoria" episode "Stand Still Like The Hummingbird," this recap also mentions specific instances of drug use and references to suicide that could be triggering. Please take care when reading.

Most Brutal Cold Open In Euphoria History: The Fight

The hour opens with Gia (Storm Reid). She sits on her bed as her mother (Nika King) tells Rue she knows she's using. Rue doesn't narrate Gia's feelings for us, because she isn't thinking about them. In fact, she doesn't narrate at all. She bursts into Gia's room, accusing her of ratting Rue out for smoking weed. Leslie isn't talking about weed, though. She's talking about the suitcase of opioids Rue has been dipping into since she took it from dealer Laurie (Martha Kelly) under the assumption that she'd sell the contents.

Rue is clearly itching for a fix. She's sweaty and empty-eyed, and when her mom brings up the pills, she can't even pretend to come up with a convincing lie. She tries though, like addicts do, scrambling until Leslie explains that Jules (Hunter Schafer) told her everything. This episode starts to escalate from its first second, but the close up on Rue's face in the darkened hallway when she finds out Jules knows she's using makes a little room for our quiet heartbreak.

Rue storms back into her room, looking for the suitcase that's nowhere to be found. "It wasn't mine!" she screams as her mom assures her that it'll all be okay, that they can go to the hospital. Rue grabs her phone, the two scuffle, and she chases her mom down the hallway. "I raised you," Leslie says, with power in her voice, but then she starts to cry. "I did, and you do not f****** scare me." She tells Rue she's not a good person. Rue responds with a quick blink and a smirk, then goes back into attack mode.

This blowout is nearly impossible to watch, yet also impossible to look away from. Seeing it unfold made me feel, more than anything else, pain for the young fans of the show who don't know what it's like to see someone they love or look up to turn into the worst person they've ever known thanks to addiction. Now they do. Rue tells her mom she's a f***-up, and pulls Gia back into the conversation. She tears apart the house and breaks down the door to her sister's bedroom with the sheer force of her body.

"You wish I was different?" she screams. "So do I. You f****** hate me? So do I!" She starts to cry, realizing both the extent of the trouble she's in with Laurie and the unforgivable things she's done in the past five minutes alone. "I don't want to be here anymore," she whimpers. She apologizes, but then winds herself back up, demanding once more to know where the pills are.

Hero of the Week: Jules

"We flushed them down the toilet," a soft voice says from offscreen. It's Jules. Oh, God. Jules was there the whole time. As Rue realizes this, she looks utterly petrified. By my estimation, half of being a functional addict is just hiding the negative effects from your loved ones. Now Jules has heard Rue at her most desperate and vile. "You embarrassed 'cause Jules just heard everything you said?" her mom snaps. "Don't cry. Own that s***. Own what you just said."

The look on Rue's face is pure hatred, and she carries it into the living room where Jules and Elliot sit, looking somber. It's clear this was meant to be an intervention, but it went sideways from the start, and now Rue can't stop herself from burning every bridge she can. She yells at Jules, asking how any of this concerns her. "'Cause I don't want you to kill yourself," Jules says, her voice clear and sure despite being so much quieter than Rue's.

Remember a few episodes back when Rue warned us that we shouldn't look to her for hope? Well, yeah, she meant it. Our Romeo and Juliet are drinking their poison, now. "We're f****** done," Rue spits at Jules. "There's nothing f****** there anymore. Nothing. F******. There." Rue's directing her venom at anyone who won't enable her, but as the one person who believes wholly in a Rue worth loving, Jules is an especially perfect target. Rue calls her a w****, a vampire, says she's dead to her. She tells her she's the reason she relapsed.

Jules, in the bravest act I can possibly imagine, just keeps quietly telling Rue she loves her. She's been through this before, with her mom. She knows it's the disease talking, not Rue, but you can still see her crack in two as the insults Rue hurls at her hit home. In moments like these, it takes my breath away to think that this is Schafer's first acting role. She commands the scene beautifully, rooted in a stillness that still conveys a level of warmth Rue can't handle. Rue wants her girlfriend to just let her die, and she thinks if she's mean enough, she'll get her wish. Jules has other plans.

Biggest Gut Punch: The Relapse Conversation

"I shouldn't have said anything," Elliot says when Rue finally leaves the room. "I liked Rue the way she was." Rue finally exhausts herself enough to relent. She agrees to let her mom take her to the E.R. She says she just misses her dad. Gia packs a suitcase of clothes for her.

In the car, we see the conversation the Bennett family has from both inside and out. Their discussions are bisected by shots of the car's exterior, their words silenced by the barrier of the windshield. When we do hear them, it's clear their conversation is a grim one. Five percent, Rue says. That's her statistical success rate in rehab. Her mom insists it could be higher if she works hard to get better.

So much of life is muddled, only understandable through retrospect, but every once in a while, you end up in a moment so traumatic that it's clear from the instant it happens that it will keep you up at night. Someone will say something awful, and you'll immediately recognize it as a thought that will echo around in your head for the rest of your life. This is how it feels when Rue responds to her mom's optimism by saying, "Yeah, well, everybody's mom says that, even the ones who bury their kids." You can see the words sear themselves into Gia's mind. You can see Rue's little sister break in real time. Reid captures this moment perfectly.

Rue, who is okay with the E.R. but not rehab, bolts from the car while it's stopped at an intersection. She makes a run for it, heading for an alleyway, as the "Euphoria" credits finally flash seventeen minutes into the episode.

Biggest Surprise: Rue Spills Cassie's Secret

The rest of "Stand Still Like The Hummingbird" doesn't hit quite as hard as its first scenes, which are certain to win Emmys and inspire tears. To be fair though, very few scenes anywhere on television today hit as hard as this episode's opening scenes. 

Rue makes her way to the Howard house, where the girls are gathered after Maddy's birthday sleepover. Suze Howard (Alanna Ubach) has always been a cool mom, but she's pretty much a hero here. She engages Rue in conversation, playing dumb about Rue's clearly deteriorating state, then calls her mom the second she heads up to the bathroom.

In the bathroom, Rue is sick from withdrawal, but finds a moment to pocket a pair of earrings. When she heads back downstairs, everyone is waiting for her, including her mom. They try to engage her in intervention talk, but Rue says she can't stay clean forever. "You don't have to!" a fresh-faced Cassie chimes in, with a genuinely endearing but totally misplaced sense of optimism. "Just take it one day at a time!"

I know I've said "poor Cassie" in pretty much every recap this season, but oh, poor Cassie. This is like an "X Pictures Taken Just Before Disaster" moment. Rue, who looks out of her mind with withdrawal symptoms by now, casually drops the bomb we've all been waiting for on the group. "Hey Cass, I have a quick question for you," Rue says. "How long have you been f****** Nate Jacobs?"

Her question has the intended effect. Lexi (Maude Apatow) covers her mouth in shock, while Kat (Barbie Ferreira) says, "That's, like, really bad." Cassie tries to deny, but soon starts crying, which sets off the classic Maddy reaction we've been imagining for weeks. Maddy is suddenly up in Cassie's face, waving her long, perfectly manicured nails at her as she lets her best friend have it: Cassie slept with Maddy's ex, and she's the one crying?! Maddy chases her upstairs while Rue makes her perfectly timed escape.

Wildest Narrative Choice: Rue Goes Full Ferris Bueller

From here on out, Rue's night devolves into a series of increasingly upsetting and borderline ridiculous situations. She goes to Fez's (Angus Cloud) house, but he kicks her out when she tries to steal his grandma's pain medication. "Euphoria" gets praise for its acting, cinematography, makeup, and more, but for my money, its greatest achievement is much more specific than that. The show does a phenomenal job showing the single-mindedness of addiction, and the path of emotional destruction it leaves in its wake. Rue's chasing a high that has turned her so selfish as to almost be blind to the people around her. She's opening profound psychic wounds in the people who love her most, but she's convinced it's all no big deal.

Rue ends up sneaking into a stranger's house in an attempt to find either drugs or valuables to trade for drugs. She hides under the bed and gets chased out by the terrified couple who finds her. Later, she stands in the street, trying not to vomit while a policeman asks if she's okay. She's deep in the throes of withdrawal now, and there's no hiding it. She starts running, and ends up dipping through backyards like some kind of junkie Ferris Bueller.

Even the show's score seems to think get that memo, as it morphs to something that sounds suspiciously like the music that plays while Ferris leaps over picket fences. Rue's not as graceful though. She gets chased by dogs, shatters tables, and steps on a lit barbecue grill. At one point, she even ends up hiding in a trash can. All of this might feel too on the nose for viewers, too much for one terrible night to pile on.

I thought it was at first, but then I remembered that almost every headline I've ever read about someone doing something that seemed utterly ridiculous in public was really about a drug user or person in crisis in need of help. What every story about a kooky criminal escapade at a Walmart or a gas station bathroom doesn't mention is that the criminal at its center has someone who loves them. When addiction becomes unsustainable, it's easy to lose all sense of dignity, but even someone at rock bottom deserves to be seen with humanity. These bizarre scenes put our beloved protagonist through the ringer, but they also hammer that point home.

Scariest Rock Bottom Imaginable: Laurie's House of Horror

Finally, Rue arrives at the last place we want her to be: Laurie's front door. The unnervingly even-keeled drug dealer lets her in. "Ruby Bennett, I'm so happy to see you!" she declares, fully ignoring Rue's half-dead appearance. Kelly plays Laurie like a "Breaking Bad" villain, someone who's so calm and friendly that they somehow go full circle and begin to seem like the most sinister person imaginable. She pours Rue a drink as she talks about her own history of opioid abuse, and explains that addiction causes cell death in the brain. Eventually, you simply don't feel as much. "The silver lining is the things that don't feel good don't feel as bad anymore," she reasons.

Rue's so miserable she's barely paying attention, but Laurie slips some truly stomach-churning implications into their conversation. She says it's great to be a woman, because you always have something to offer if you run out of money. She seems unfazed by the fact that Rue has neither the pills nor the cash, only a handful of stolen jewelry. When they first met, she quickly appraised Rue, clocking her as an addict and filing that information away for later use. Now, she's able to assert complete power over the girl.

Rue has crossed every line in the book tonight, but it turns out, there's one she's still scared to barrel over. When she asks Laurie for some pills, Laurie tells her she only has intravenous morphine — Rue would have to shoot up for the first time in order to curb her unbearable withdrawal symptoms. We see that Laurie's claim is a bald-faced lie. She's fully stocked with every drug known to man, but this point, Rue is far beyond the point of being able to catch on to this. "I just wanna die," she says in jagged breaths as she lays in the tub. Finally, with a voice so small and plaintive that she sounds like a little kid, she tells Laurie she'll take whatever she's got.

Best Filmmaking Flourish: The Morphine Shot

"Euphoria" is known for focusing on the bodily, but this whole scene takes place from a distance, with Rue a blurry form in the bathtub. The camera's focus instead falls on Laurie's morphine bottle and needle, which lay at the ready on the edge of a cabinet. When she finally injects Rue — which was her plan all along, clearly — the girl sinks beneath the water and into a dream state.

It isn't Rue's life that flashes before her eyes, but specifically her life with her dad. We see Rue as a baby, being lovingly scrubbed in the bath. We see her at the hospital, kissing the germy glass when her dad introduces her to her baby sister. We see her at his memorial, looking so young, reading words she's scrawled on a piece of paper in her pocket. "You said as long as I live, you'll be with me forever," she says, weeping. "I miss you, dad. I miss you until I close my eyes." If the moment in the car put an unfixable crack in Gia, then this seems to be the moment in which Rue first came undone. Everything she's done since has been in response to this crucible of pain.

This would have been an appropriate ending for the episode, but "Stand Still Like The Hummingbird" just won't let up. Thankfully, its final moments offer a scrap of relief. Rue wakes up in a room where the windows won't open. There's a padlock on the front door. She breathes heavily as she sneaks across the floor, careful not to wake Laurie's family. Just as Bruce (Melvin "Bonez" Estes), the sadistic dude we met in episode 1, starts to wake up, she sneaks out another window and into the night.

Rue limps down the road as the streetlights come on. The episode ends with her mother at the kitchen table, calling her name as the front door opens. As the credits roll, the words of Albert Hammond play us out: "It never rains in California/But girl, don't they warn ya?/It pours, man, it pours." It sure does.


If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.