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TV/Film Shit’s going down at Euphoria High

Jan. 17, 2022

Spoilers ahead.

The new episode of Euphoria"Out of Touch," plunges us back into the gritty, psychedelic dreamscape that’s defining Season 2. This episode, like the one before it, was shot entirely on film; this new style, a shift from the stark digital cinematography of Season 1, evokes an atmosphere of grungy nostalgia. The use of film also embodies creator Sam Levinson’s analogy of the stages of a party: while Season 1 was reminiscent of a party in full swing, Season 2 feels like walking home in the darkness after the party has ended.

“Out of Touch” tackles the party metaphor directly, beginning with the previous episode’s New Year’s Eve party ending as Nate lies bloodied on the floor after being beaten by Fezco. Nate’s dark reality shifts quickly into surrealism as we watch his twisted fantasies unfold. After a spontaneous drunken hookup with Cassie, he dreams of spending his life with her. For Nate, that means making sweet love to her as golden light spills through the windows. 

In his dream sequence, Cassie becomes a tool for Nate to conquer his daddy issues; the sweet lovemaking gets Cassie pregnant, his father drops dead, and Nate is convinced he’ll be a better father than Cal. But Nate hasn’t totally fallen head over heels for good-girl Cassie—as he begins to wake up, thrashing in his hospital bed, we hear a soundtrack of screams and flash between Dream Cassie giving birth, Nate slamming his head on the ground in Season 1, clips from Cal’s sex tapes, memories of Maddy, and Jules in ecstasy. It’s clear that Nate hasn’t let go of Maddy or Jules. Cassie might satisfy a desire similar to his desire for Jules—without the complication of questioning his sexuality—but he’s not ready to jump into her arms quite yet.

This episode sees the whole cast at odds with their relationships and desires. First we see Jules running into East Highland’s oddly glamorous vintage bathroom in tears. Since Season 1’s Winter Formal, when Jules texted her new fling from a bathroom stall while Rue waited forlornly at their table, Rue and Jules have switched positions. With Rue’s new friend Elliot (Dominic Fike) in the way, Jules can’t hold Rue’s attention the same way she used to. But who could blame Rue for being drawn to Elliot, the laid-back indie boy with an undeniably cool Gibson Les Paul guitar? Not to mention he inexplicably has face tats as a high schooler.

Kat is the only character who left Season 1 with a seemingly happy ending—but this is Euphoria, so things don’t stay perfect for long. She has the stable relationship all her friends want with sweet, respectful Ethan—but Kat’s just not enthralled by him, and hates herself for it. Her dilemma is one of the more relatable conflicts in Euphoria, particularly in this episode. I imagine most viewers didn’t watch someone get brutally beaten by a drug dealer at a New Year’s Eve party in high school, but there are certainly many out there who have felt guilty for losing interest in someone.

Sam Levinson refused to make this a forgettable, down-to-earth moment, however. Kat fantasizes about Ethan being shot down by a Dothraki warrior, who then sets out to “conquer” Kat, wielding a comically massive prosthetic penis (because what would a Euphoria episode be without at least one?). Kat has learned her worth since the first season, when she imagined a cafeteria full of Dothraki warriors turning on her after finding out what she looked like. She knows she’s desirable, and she craves the satisfaction of a man wanting her so badly that he’s willing to kill.

Kat feels terrible for being dissatisfied with her relationship. While she drowns her sorrows in a carton of Goldfish, self-love influencers materialize in her bedroom in yet another surrealist sequence. This one is quite on the nose: Kat laments that she hates herself while beautiful women surround her and tell her to just love herself. She’s a teenager trying to find herself, in what is presumably her first relationship (unless you count her childhood romance with Daniel). She has so much left to figure out; in this season, she’s already begun to dress and do her makeup differently, which is just one sign of her growth. Her style change last season, her attempt at camming, and even her relationship with Ethan have all just been steps on her path to self-discovery.

Lexi and Maddy may have some self-discovery of their own to do. Lexi, after minimal play last season, is prepared to chase what she wants. After bonding with Fezco at the NYE party and then watching him beat Nate, she contemplates her passive tendencies and decides to change. She wears darker clothes and blares hyperpop in her earbuds, then setting off to warn Fez that Cal knows he beat up Nate. Now we just have to wait for her to get her own episode.

When it comes to Maddy, it’s unclear what exactly to expect. She’s started babysitting a rich kid mostly for access to his mother’s extravagant, Chanel-filled closet. When the mother returns from her date night, Maddy helps her unzip her dress, and the moment lingers for a bit too long. The mother looks particularly fondly at Maddy. It’s a fleeting moment, but knowing Levinson it’s absolutely intentional and will come into play in later episodes. Maddy covets the glamour of this woman’s luxurious life and her designer clothes—but might she find she wants the glamorous woman herself?

In its first two episodes, Euphoria’s second season has involved more chaos than I ever would’ve expected. It’s beginning to feel like watching a car crash about to happen, considering every relationship and every character is on the brink of crumbling. While we wait for new love and new beginnings, we know Maddy and Cassie’s friendship is doomed, Rue and Jules are far from stable, Ethan is on thin ice, and God knows what havoc the Jacobs will wreak. After all, Cal has a gun burning a hole in his pocket.