Euphoria Season 2 Yearbook: The Play's The Thing

It's showtime at East Highland High this week, and the myopic kids of "Euphoria" are finally seeing themselves from another perspective. Lexi's play takes over the entire seventh episode of the season, giving both the viewers and the characters clarity while shaking up the already-fragile dynamic of the show's central friend group.

By episode's end, Cassie is breathing ominously against the theater door window, looking like she may actually want to kill Lexi — or Maddy? Aside from her and Nate's fight, though, this episode is mostly an enjoyable (if surprisingly late-in-the-season) break from the drama. Though she's certainly capable of getting serious, teen playwright Lexi's light narrative touch is a breath of fresh air within an ever-more-relentless series. Let's dig in and reward some yearbook superlatives.

Best Filmmaking Flourish: The entire play

Let's talk about the elephant in the room. It's extremely ironic that this episode shows the frantic nature of Lexi's production and her chaotic role as director given that just this week, The Daily Beast published a piece about the reportedly equally messy production of "Euphoria." The report compiles every rumor and quote that's been in the news throughout this season, including discussions about nudity, alleged plot leaks, and actors' reduced screen time. It also has sources describing 17-hour days on set. The sense of timing on this news couldn't be more fitting for an episode that's all about the difference between intention and execution in art.

When Lexi's play finally opens, it reveals a hilarious mean streak within the character that we haven't seen before. She runs around backstage threatening to replace the techs and giving the actors notes that make them cry, but she also giddily giggles her way through the entire production. The play itself is a technical marvel that beggars belief, with multiple sets — including a rotating one that looks expensive — and what must have been extreme quick changes for super short vignettes. Would this make any sense as a high school play? No. But does it look great from where we're sitting? Yes.

The play is also an opportunity for writer-director Sam Levinson to melt the lines between in-series reality and storytelling. The show's signature floaty camera movements and dolly shots allow the on-stage drama to be seamlessly switched out for the "real-life" version at any moment. Stage bedrooms become actual ones, then turn back into sets again. High school stand-ins for Cassie and Rue turn into the real deal, then shift back before you know it. Like Rue's narration, Lexi's story somehow goes beyond the bounds of what she can know, blending in scenes of regular narrative that couldn't possibly be on stage. It's dizzying, imaginative, and visually striking in a way that purposely calls attention to its own artifice.

Best Gut Punch: Another perspective on Rue's addiction

One of the scenes that seems detached from Lexi's play shows Rue talking to her mom, presumably after getting clean. Leslie talks to Rue like a grown up, telling her that she can't focus all her energy on her anymore. She reminds Rue that she'll be an adult soon, and can make whatever bad decisions she wants. Rue, still frustratingly single-minded after everything she's been through, is excited about the idea of having her mom's permission to do drugs, until Leslie points out that Gia's been doing poorly in school ever since Rue's relapse. Rue is both chastened and concerned.

In the play, we see another perspective on Rue's addiction. Lexi walks in on her snorting pills at her dad's memorial, and recognizes for the first time that drugs were "a greater comfort" to the grieving Rue than her friendship ever could be. Later, we see Lexi's own experiences with addiction play out: when she's young — though we don't know how young, since Maude Apatow and Sydney Sweeney still play themselves here — her dad drunk-drives the kids home. Lexi cries in the back seat the whole way, her ice cream cone melting in her hands. It's a formative and traumatic moment, but Lexi, ever the craftsman, doesn't let us dwell too long on it.

Still, it's clear that Rue's addiction touches a nerve for Lexi. Her play is replete with the type of nostalgia that's unique to a person just coming out of adolescence; her memories of a simpler time seem like they're barely behind her, just out of reach. If this episode serves one major purpose, for me it's that it clearly grounds Rue in a way few things have. Seeing her own story laid out doesn't upset her. She sits in the audience, looking healthier than she has in ages, and takes it all in with an open curiosity. In one scene, Rue and Lexi sit on a rooftop talking about what high school will be like, and the real Rue, in the audience, cracks the best and brightest smile.

Biggest Surprise: Lexi's insights on Maddy and Cassie

Unfortunately, not all of Lexi's insights hit the way they were intended. Early in the episode, we see her fret to Fez about making people mad with the play. "You're really strokin' the bee's nest with that one," he says, before deciding that her good intentions make a difference. This may be true, but Lexi does lay out some extremely personal stuff about Cassie and her friends under only the thinnest guise of fiction.

Much of Lexi's story isn't about her so much as her relationship to Cassie. She describes the day Cassie hit puberty as the "defining moment of my adolescence," and dreams that she'll look the same as her sister once she's her age. She counts the days, but 433 days later, she's still underdeveloped and Cassie is still casually cruel to her. In one of her most casually profound moments of insight, Cassie notes that she doesn't want to be known for her body, because she's seen the problems womanhood can bring.

Here we get the story of Nate, Maddy, and Cassie laid out clearly for the first time. Lexi explains that Nate and Maddy were the group's first and most formative example of love — which explains why they're all pretty romantically maladjusted now. In a section that compresses years into moments, we see Lexi witnessing pivotal scenes — Cassie on the phone with jealous Nate, Maddy and Nate falling in love, and before all that, Cassie and Maddy falling in love.

Granted, Lexi doesn't call the pair's relationship romantic, but she highlights their strong bond in a way that's more queer-coded than the it ever has been before. Over shots of the pair nearly touching tongues during a cheer routine, Lexi explains that she was afraid of Maddy when she came into Cassie's life. She explains that Maddy basically moved in with the family when her parents started fighting, and we see her crying in Cassie's bed in the middle of the night. It's a level of intimacy that clearly makes the girls in the audience uneasy.

Despite its penchant for backstory-heavy cold opens, "Euphoria" is surprisingly slow to unpack its own central dynamics. Here, from Lexi's perspective, we finally see the dynamic between Nate, Cassie, and Maddy clearly for the first time. These girls were the world to each other, and he turned them against each other. In a brief cutaway to the aftermath of Cassie's confession, we hear Maddy say as much. For all the talk about her dangerous rage, here Maddy is heartbroken first and foremost. "He put me through hell and now he's with my f***ing best friend? What the f***? When is it going to end?" she cries.

Most Egregious Headline Bait: Maybe we should be scared of Cassie

We can't say when it's going to end, but we can guess from this episode that it's going to be messy. Though we don't get to see the curtain call, Lexi's play seems to conclude with an all-out musical number that puts Nate and his friends' homoeroticism on full display. The gold-clad, shirtless boys all pump iron in the most suggestive manner possible, then bust into a full pseudo-pornographic farce as Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero" kicks in. It brings down the house, but it also sends Nate reeling.

Can I just say, I have such a strong urge to skim past Nate in this recap the same way Rue cattily skipped over Jules in her narration last week? This guy royally sucks, but I guess we've got to talk about him. Anyway, he's getting increasingly heated as the play wears on, ultimately casting him as a punchline. He eventually storms out, and when Cassie rushes after him, he tells her to pack her things and move out.

Earlier on, the episode gave us more context for the current state of Cassie and Nate's relationship, and all of it is bad. As the two make love, she tells him to take control over every aspect of her life: "I belong to you and I will never complain because I trust you know what's best." Later, a nightmarish scene starts with Nate looking in a mirror at the back of his own head (scary!) and ends with him holding down Cassie, then being held down by his own dad. In between, Cassie shifts and becomes Maddy, then Jules.

This guy is a psychological horror show, and at this point, he seems to have pulled Cassie down with him. Mid-play, she goes to the bathroom to cry and compose herself, but it doesn't take. All the supportive hand-holding in the world can't keep Nate from taking this out on her, and when he does, she turns back toward the stage with a, frankly, unhinged look in her eye. I can't help but think about what she said earlier this season: that she's "crazier" than Maddy, and that it's something Nate should be scared of.

Least Likely to Succeed: Fez

Meanwhile, as all this unfolds, Fezco appears to be stuck in a five-minute time loop getting ready for this play in slow motion. My guy! Get out the door already! Lexi saved him the best seat in the house, and he bought her flowers. He even put on a suit, making him this week's winner for Best Dressed. Faye tells him he looks handsome, and he shyly asks, "You think other people think that I look handsome?" It's all so cute you could scream, except that something ominous seems to be going down in the background.

Custer, Faye's boyfriend who recently told her he's working for the cops, stops by, and he looks extra nervous. Custer asks Fez where he's going in a way that makes me think he may be wearing a wire. Then he settles in on the couch, where he and Faye exchange significant looks and Ashtray seems like he's one wrong move away from breaking out his murder hammer. The Fez plotline seems to be operating on a different timeline as the rest of the show (he's like Tom Hardy in "Dunkirk"), since we see him get a text Lexi sent much earlier at the end of the episode. Eventually, stage manager Bobbi tells Lexi that he never picked up his tickets. What is going on?! As the surprise end title indicates, the Fezco story, like all the rest, is "To Be Continued..."

Even More Superlatives

Late-In-The-Game Breakout Character: Bobbi! I want to give a shout-out to Veronica Taylor for stealing scenes as Lexi's right-hand gal Bobbi. This character has barely been on screen before — all we know is that she hates "Oklahoma" as much as Lexi — but here she's a soft-spoken force to be reckoned with. She gives laser-precise cues to actors and crew members, and even relays Lexi's unfounded threat to fire one student on the spot. I don't necessarily want to ask for more Bobbi in the show, because she doesn't need to get roped into the danger of the core cast, but I do hope we get to see her live more of her intense theater kid dreams in the future.

Late-In-The-Game Hilarious Revelation: We finally learned the name of this town! For months, I've been wondering where in the world "Euphoria" is meant to be set. It looks like the San Fernando Valley, but it obviously has a dreamy quality that makes it feel unstuck from any one place. We know the school is called East Highland High, but high schools are named all sorts of things. At most, I figured this was the name of the fictional LA suburb the school's in. But in a scene from this episode, Minka Kelly's character asks Maddy if she wants to be stuck in East Highland forever. What? Is the town itself actually a fictional place called East Highland? Is it near Highland Park? Is it even in California? This is definitely not what I should have been taking away from this scene, a confusingly contextless exchange between Maddy and her hot mom boss that implies Maddy's about to leave town. But still ... East Highland?!

Best Musical Moment: This episode is light on needle drops, so the PG gay orgy set to Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero" is the natural winner here. I've said pretty much everything we need to say about it, except that, gosh, isn't Ethan a fun and nice guy? I can't believe Kat thought he was boring when he was apparently secretly mastering the art of camp for this play all semester!

Extra credit: Read this piece from The Daily Beast, then let's brainstorm ways to make "Euphoria" better next season. I'll start: let's maybe try a new showrunner!