Euphoria’s second season is a hard pill to
By Savannah Butcher, Managing Editor
Content warning: This article contains brief mentions of self harm. If this makes you uncomfortable, we suggest you stop reading. If you are struggling with these issues, please make a trusted friend, family member, or staff member aware.
When Euphoria first premiered in June of 2019, it shocked parents and teens alike with its raw portrayal of teenage drug addiction, unhealthy relationships, sexuality, and trauma. The show was created by Sam Levinson and is based on his own experience with addiction.
“I spent the majority of my teenage years in hospitals, rehabs, and halfway houses,” Levinson said at the first season’s premiere. “Sometime around the age of 16, I resigned myself to the idea that eventually drugs would kill me and there was no reason to fight it. I would let it take me over, and I had made peace with that.”
Levinson based Euphoria on an Israli show by the same name which premiered in 2012, written by Ron Leshem and directed by Dafna Levin.
“I had gone in to sit down with [HBO’s Head of Drama] Francesca Orsi. I asked her what she liked about the Israeli series and she said just sort of what a raw and honest portrait it is of drugs and being young and everything. So, I started talking about my own personal history with drugs…We talked about life for about two hours, and then she said, ‘Okay, go write that.’ I was like, ‘Uh alright.’ And I went back and sat down and I wrote a 25-page outline that consisted mainly of dialogue…and sent it over. And she said, ‘This is great. Write the first script.’ And we went from there,” Levinson said.
After winning three Emmys, fans wondered how Levinson would match the success of the first season in the second season.
“There was so much pressure to live up to what the first season [of Euphoria] delivered and what it emotionally meant to so many people,” Zendaya, Emmy award winning actress who plays Rue Bennett, said in season two’s first episode ‘enter Euphoria’ segment.
But even then, “so many people” may be an understatement. Euphoria season two had 16.3 million viewers, which is the second best performance of any HBO series over the past 18 years.
“The biggest fear was that we were gonna go back and do the same thing [as season one]. So despite how popular the look of Euphoria was, I wanted to create something that still had the heart and soul of Euphoria, but it looks different, and it feels different. If season one was a house party at 2:00 a.m., season two should feel like 5:00 a.m., way past the point in which everyone should have gone home,” Levinson said in the same ‘enter Euphoria’ segment.
Season two digs into more of the intimate ugly details of addiction, including pushing away the people you love, personal hygiene, and self harm.
Euphoria’s director of photography Marcell Rev created a distinct visual difference in season two. Rev not only took artistic inspiration from Frida Khalo, Rene Margritte, and Nan Goldin, but also shot the entire second season on discontinued Kodak film.
“We had reached out to Kodak to see if they could remake Ektachrome for us because we both love that film stock. They ended up converting their factory to remake Ektachrome for 35 mm film cameras,” Levinson said.
This visual choice not only had a huge impact on the show’s cinematography, but also changed the perceived aesthetic of Euphoria.
One unique factor about Levinson’s writing is the complexity of his characters. The main character Rue Bennet, played by Zendaya, is a 17 year old drug addict, who is navigating adolescence with addiction. As viewers, Levinson makes us root for Rue not because of pity, but understanding. Her life unfolds before our eyes in a beautifully paced way that mimics getting to know someone in real life.
Fans see characters such as Fezco (played by Angus Cloud) develop during the second season in a way that suggests all of the characters have been developing off screen as well. The characters in Euphoria are so realistic that the show feels like getting to know real people.
Zendaya won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for season one, and is expected to win many awards for her acting in season two as well.
The second season of Euphoria explores new plot lines and character development, and gives viewers almost everything they have been waiting two years for.