Euphoria Season 2 Yearbook: Stand By Me

I'm so tired. Is anyone else tired? In my initial review of this season of "Euphoria," I called it "relentless" right in the title. Somehow, though, the true scale of the show's relentlessness doesn't come through until you sit through it on the edge of your seat week after week waiting for it to unfold. I still think this is one of the most cinematic and well-acted shows on television, but I'm actually excited that the season will be over soon so we can all get out of this intense headspace for a while.

After last week's episode of "Euphoria" focused entirely on Rue's descent to rock bottom, this episode is a return to the show's typical format. In terms of cinematography and formal tricks, though, it's still relatively stripped down compared to most. The hour actually includes quite a few sweet and hopeful moments, but they ultimately get buried under the dark notes it hits at the end. If they all have one thing in common, its the rare involvement of our characters' parents. Let's unpack it together, shall we?

Cold Open of the Week: Forgiving Rue

I think we can safely say by now that the Rue parts of this show are its strongest, and this week's cold open is no exception. Rue sits at a table a few days after returning home. We learn at the episode's end that she was given drugs to minimize the effects of her withdrawal at the ER, but there's not a bed ready for her at a rehab center yet. Rue is shaking badly. She struggles to open a Jolly Rancher, and starts to cry when she can't. We get a quick visual run-down of these past few days, and they look rough. Her mom bathes her and tries to help break her fever, but for the most part, Rue is a shivering mess. This is the excruciating process she did everything in her power to avoid in last week's episode.

At least Rue's mind is clear enough for her voiceover to return, though her thoughts aren't exactly comforting. She thinks about how hospitals have to take care of you even if you're not a good person. "Even if I got clean today, nobody would forget the trauma of me not being clean," she decides. She worries about the things she said to her family in the haze of withdrawal, but even more about her harsh words for Ali, which she remembers clearly.

When Rue calls her sponsor up, she's petrified, but he forgives her right away. There's a reason recovery is often so closely tied to religion; being an addict requires a lot of forgiveness, and loving an addict might require even more. Luckily, Ali and Rue's mom both give theirs freely. She's noticeably better after the phone call, calm enough to unwrap the Jolly Rancher no problem.

Surprisingly Practical Teen of the Week: Gia

Gia is the character I most relate to in this series, which means I care tremendously for Rue's little sister even when no one else is paying attention to her. The show has done a lot of great work so far showing how Rue's addiction impacts her, but the topic has always come up amidst a hurricane of drama that's made it impossible for anyone to check in on Gia. Finally, in this episode, everyone does. I'm sure that Gia's not okay, but she's progressed from tears to calm support because that's the only way to keep herself together. She's growing up in front of our eyes, and unfortunately, her path to adulthood involves doing a lot of compartmentalizing to survive.

When Ali comes for dinner, he makes Rue and her mom leave the kitchen–quite reasonably citing their recent proximity to withdrawal diarrhea–and preps the meal with Gia alone. He tells her it's okay to be mad at her sister, and that it might actually be good for her. "That s*** hurts. It's unfair. You don't deserve it," he says. She doesn't seem ready to hear this yet, but it's great to have it acknowledged. Ali more overtly tells Leslie to pay attention to Gia at the end of the night, saying, "Let Rue be Rue and shower that little one with love. She's been waiting on it."

So much of the series has intentionally divorced Rue's perspective from Gia's, but they come together at the end of this episode, sisters once again. Rue says she doesn't know anything about Gia's life, and Gia tells her she'll update her once Rue's back from rehab. The two sit in silence for the hour's heartbreaking final moments, as they overhear Leslie crying on the phone as she tries to get Rue a place in rehab.

Most Disturbing Moment: Nate goes full American Psycho

While Rue fights to get better, resident Patrick Bateman-in-training Nate Jacobs is plummeting towards his own rock bottom after finding out his relationship with Cassie has gone public. His dad is gone, but it turns out his mom is a total piece of work too. Marsha gets day-drunk with her son in one of the show's most off-kilter scenes. Like Cal's rant just before dipping out, her words seem both unfocused and hurtful, like a dull blade. She makes a lot of startling observations, saying Nate got dark and angry as he got older and outright expressing approval for his abuse of Maddy. She also makes an off-color joke about him choking her. It's all pretty weird.

Nate tells Marsha that she seems to be trying to tell him something, but won't come out and say it. He reads between the lines, though, when he accepts his seemingly predestined fate as a dangerous person later in the episode. He sneaks into Maddy's bedroom with a gun. He's convinced she's going to do something rash with the footage of Cal and Jules, despite the fact that Maddy's spent most of the episode getting drunk and shooting the s*** with her hot mom boss. Maddy is smart, and she immediately starts playing the game, telling Nate she loves him as he backs her onto her bed with the gun.

Before she can react, he starts playing a game of Russian roulette — only the gun is mostly pointed at his own head, not hers. Once Nate gets the tape, he backpedals, telling her this was all a joke and that the gun wasn't loaded. It's too late, though; Maddy sits curled in the fetal position, crying as he leaves. We give "Euphoria" a lot of passes for being "real" about the dark side of teen life, but despite the prevalence of intimate partner violence among teens, nothing about Nate terrorizing Maddy feels especially real. When contrasted with last week, which set up Maddy as a ruthless badass hell-bent on wrecking her enemies, this just feels cruel. Maddy feels like a character in a play, one the playwright wants to see powerless.

Biggest Surprise: Nate and Jules meet up

Nate brings the tape not to his dad or his mom or the cops, but to Jules. We haven't really seen her this episode, because Rue decided not to narrate her life after their awful confrontation last week. She manages to find her way into the episode anyway, though, when Nate calls her out of the blue. I love that when he says he needs to talk, she simply says, "I don't care" and hangs up. As a trans woman, she's statistically more likely to fall victim to violence from someone like him, but she acts fearless. When she does decide to meet him in his car, she matter-of-factly lets him know that she brought a box cutter in case she has to slit his throat.

Nate gives her the tape. In his own twisted way, he thinks he's done all of this for her. He doesn't want to explain why, but when she asks him if he's suddenly become a good person, he laughs darkly and says, "Absolutely not, no." The parts of this show that don't work for me are often a result of the way Nate's written, not as a real person but as some type of repressed archetype meant to convey the disillusioned white male experience. When he's with Jules, though, he seems more like a guy who could actually exist. Jacob Elordi does well here, letting Nate lose the stone-faced composure that's carried him through much of this season. "For what it's worth, everything I said was true," he tells Jules as she leaves with the tape. Her expression is inscrutable when she agrees with him, then she's safely out the door and into the rainy night.

Most Inevitable Choice That You Still Hate To See: Cassie Sticks With Nate

Meanwhile, Cassie is at home, auditioning for "Maury." Okay, she's not really, but can you imagine that show trying to succinctly sum up her drama to fit it into a lower third description? She's deeply upset about the Maddy thing, but it manifests in an absurdly over-the-top way that makes it hard for even her own mom and sister to root for her. Suze Howard, who is once again my no-nonsense hero, makes Lexi hide the kitchen knives in the bushes outside in case Cassie tries to self-harm. This is a good call, as she soon ends up on the floor trying to saw at herself with a corkscrew.

"I just wanna die!" she wails as Lexi looks on with confusion. If the last episode was all about the most serious parts of addiction and depression, a lot of this episode is about how surreal and darkly funny it gets when these things aren't a secret anymore, but a shared daily struggle. While Rue's family is cracking jokes about her withdrawal poops and Nate's is drinking their way through his dad's abandonment, Cassie's family is trying to watch "Millionaire Matchmaker" through her breakdown.

In the end, Nate calls Cassie, who is his obvious third choice by this point. She comes running. It sucks.

Sweetest Break From This Hellscape: Fez and Lexi watch Stand By Me

Oh, to be Fezco and Lexi watching "Stand By Me" while the world falls apart. By this point, the pair have started hanging out with no real preamble or explanation. They chat about Lexi's play, and Fez jokes that she should add in the scene where he punches Nate. Meta! The two end up realizing they both love "Stand By Me," and decide to watch it together. Afterwards, they hold hands.

This low-key couple is deeply endearing, and if the world were a perfect place, we'd get to hang out with them on the couch for the rest of the season. Yet even this little oasis looks like it has stormy weather on the horizon. While Lexi worries about the impact her play may have on Cassie, Fez is unaware that Faye's boyfriend is now working with the police. With two episodes left this season and plenty of loose ends to tie up, I'm worried about everyone, but especially these two, whose shared moments quite literally feel too pure for this "Euphoria" world.

Even More Superlatives

Most Underutilized Character: At this point, I may as well engrave Kat's name on the trophy for this one. When she made her first appearance on a phone call with Maddy, I had to laugh, thinking Barbie Ferreira's obviously minimized screen time had finally been reduced to an off-screen performance. It turned out that wasn't true, but what we got instead was a weak and convoluted break-up scene between Kat and Ethan, in which she accused him of gaslighting her just to get out of taking responsibility for her own ambivalence. Ferreira is always excellent, but the chance to give Kat the role she deserves this season is rapidly evaporating.

Best Line of the Week: "That girl needs a f****** exorcism!" – Suze Howard, absolute legend

Best Musical Moment: As much as the Russian roulette scene disturbs me, it makes great use of "All I Need" by Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige. I've always found the repeated refrain of the song a bit more unsettling than it intends to be, but it's especially eerie in the context of this sick, newly shattered relationship.

Extra Credit of The Week: If you're looking for something to watch, go check out "Unpregnant" on HBO Max. It's a wild and occasionally heartfelt buddy comedy about two teen girls driving cross-country to receive abortion care. More relevant in this case, it gives Barbie Ferreira the screen time she deserves.