Sunday, August 4, 2019

REVIEW: 'Euphoria' - Rue and Jules Feel Big Emotions During the Winter Formal in 'And Salt the Earth Behind You'

HBO's Euphoria - Episode 1.08 "And Salt the Earth Behind You"

It's the winter formal at East Highland.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of HBO's Euphoria.

"And Salt the Earth Behind You" was written by Sam Levinson and directed by Sam Levinson

The show basically depicts addiction as a binary choice for Rue. She can either be with Jules or she can start abusing drugs again. She has the clarity to understand what running away would do to her family. She decides not to get on that train with Jules at the end of the season. But she does decide to get high again. Perhaps it's because she knows that her family can handle that. They just can't bear the uncertainty of not knowing what might happen to her. But it's more likely that she relapses because she hasn't put the work in to ensure the sustainability of her sobriety. That's clear when she's in the hospital and trying to get high again. She got sober out of necessity. She was able to replace that high with her love for Jules. But that wasn't built to last. She suggests running away from this town as a way to hold onto this bond for as long as possible. It is a selfish desire and one made in response to a comment said by Nate. And yet, that selfishness defines so many characters of this world. They struggle with looking beyond themselves. But that's just a natural part of being a teenager. When they need the support of their parents, they normally get it. Most of the time though, these teens are striving for their independence believing that they are ready to handle the world. However, it mostly amounts to a lot of heartbreak right now. That then leads to cycles being repeated and destructive behavior happening all over again. It's a vicious sequence. One that isn't exactly unearned. It's not surprising that the season concludes with Rue relapsing. It's honestly more surprising that the finale ends on an interpretive dance number that highlights just how jarring and erratic this entire experience can be. However, it mostly demonstrates how this show may be all style and no substance. That final moment is absolutely dazzling to look at. There are so many moments like that that have made up this season. This finale is full of them at the winter formal. But they don't quite add up to a cohesive whole. In fact, it's jarring to watch the show go back-and-forth in time with really no consideration for how everything is lining up for the viewers. It aspires to be a disorientating experience. It succeeds in that. It does so mostly on the strength of the performances. But it's also hard to get a good reading on whether or not Nate and Maddy are actually broken up now. The show really doesn't commit one way or the another. Instead, it shows how he is violent with her once more but they are still intoxicatingly jealous of each other while out in public. It's a cycle that will lead to so much more tragedy. But Nate plotting a cover-up to protect himself hasn't exactly been the most engaging story this season even though it provided the story engine that propelled the narrative forward during its second half. It amounts to Nate remaining on top of the world even though he has lost the trust and command of so many people. That could lead to a complete self-destructive. The show just hasn't put in the work for the audience to see Nate as a tragic figure. He remains an erratic and unstable individual who should be sent away. It's easy to feel those emotions during this finale. The same is true of Rue and Jules' bond. It can ebb and flow so easily. Teenagers are quick to feel things in such a massive way. This is how they express love. The reality may be more open than ever before. But it's still tragic when they go their separate ways. It's easy to understand what the show is trying to do in that moment. However, it comes at the end of a bloated finale in which it's clear the show doesn't really know how to bring these stories collectively together. That's necessary though to ensure that it's better than the strengths of a select few storytelling moments.