When Netflix paved the way for content streaming, a new term was born to describe this rapid consumption of original series: “binge tv”. Instead of waiting for new episodes every week, you can watch them all at once, like one big movie. Now following Paramount+’s debut, all major studios have officially launched themselves into a streaming war. The deciding factor for who will win this competition is the one with the freshest series out on their platform.
Right now, HBO’s Euphoria seems to be the hottest thing out there. For those unfamiliar, HBO has been a continual top-tier contender and producer of original content for the last twenty years. And coinciding with the release of season 2 of Euphoria, subscribers have been rabidly tweeting about how bonkers the latest episodes have been. Recently, a friend convinced me to start the show and I haven’t looked back. 3 days and 15 episodes later, here I am! Here’s why Euphoria is one of the most bingeable shows on TV right now.
A Villain Worth Hating
Nate Jacobs is abusive, manipulative, and ruthless. He’s shown he has few limits as to how low he will go. Sexually confused and overtly aggressive in his already toxic relationship with the ever-charming, ever-demanding Maddie Perez, from episode one he’s been a character people love to hate. And when his maliciousness finally catches up to him in the first episode of season two, the internet came together to celebrate. But moving forward, we’ve all been acutely aware; no one is more dangerous than those when they are most desperate. Nate and his father Cal will stop at nothing to keep their image safe while still being the selfish monsters they truly are.
A Star is Born
Lead Hunter Schafer is tremendous, giving a performance that blurs the line between reality and art. Schafer plays the trans-youth Jules who straddles the line of innocence, safety, and ethics in return for carnal desires. As her dark past follows her, so too do her self-destructive tendencies, all culminating in nail-biting exchanges.
It’s refreshing to have a leading trans character whose depicted as smart and nuanced rather than a stereotypical drug addict or prostitute, as has sadly been the norm for many trans characters in the past. Schafer’s performance has single-handedly managed to raise the bar for trans representation in mainstream media, and for the better. And to those offended by her inclusion: trans people are a part of our society, and they all have valid experiences and stories as worth telling as their straight gender normative counterparts.
The Cast Chemistry
The show centers around Rue (Zendaya) & Jules’ relationship, and together they are electric! From the start of their friendship, they build tension so well that it pops off the screen. Like East Highland High, the cast has given the illusion of being cliquey which is a masterful way of having art imitate life. The chemistry, body language, and conversation cadences are frighteningly realistic depicting real high school drama on steroids. This ability for the actors to play off of each other makes for great television that is hilarious, heartfelt, and heartbreaking.
The friendships, sexual relationships, and rivalries are realistic because the cast commits to the role. I am sure that is due to them having complete faith and commitment to the project.
Real Window into Addiction
A major and heavier aspect of the show comes from Rue’s substance abuse problems. Rue’s relationship with Jules is interrupted and sadly fluctuates due to her addiction. Rue is outright self-destructive, manipulative, and suicidal. Her family dynamic is heart-wrenching. And the show is honest about how substance abuse affects the lives of everyone around them. Euphoria doesn’t pull any punches, and though these scenes will make you wince, they serve as a window into the awful truth that is addiction.
The show begins with her returning from rehab, only to start using again once she gets out. She has stints with sobriety, but with no intention to stay clean. As the show goes on, Rue’s struggle with drugs only becomes worse. As she becomes more desperate, she digs herself into a deeper hole. These scenes make your skill crawl because Zendaya murders her performance showing the dark side of drug use and the systems that hold people in it’s bondage.
Euphoria director Sam Levinson and cinematographer Marcell Rév have painstakingly paid attention to detail in the editing room. The choice of camera angles are fluent and deliberate to convey mood as well as message. The series deals with drug use quite a bit so they use the camera to show distorted POV and unconventional angles to give the viewer a fly on the wall perspective. For season two they made the decision to switch to Kodak Ektocrom film breathing grain and color into every shot organically. Lighting and color have been used often to create mood in different shots as creating focal points. If you press pause at any point during an episode you’ll notice that the subject is elegantly framed with good lighting most of the time and in focus. You can tell that this show has a strong story board from preproduction because the details are too exact.
Euphoria has excellent acting, writing, and cinematography. The subject matter is extreme and brutal but it’s just like a car accident, you can’t look away. If you can get over that and enjoy it for what it is, Euphoria is 100% bingeable.