Friday, December 4, 2020

REVIEW: 'Euphoria' - Rue Has a Brutally Honest Conversation with Her Sponsor About Her Recovery in 'Trouble Don't Last Always'

HBO's Euphoria - "Trouble Don't Last Always"

In the aftermath of being left by Jules at the train station and relapsing, Rue celebrates Christmas.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the special episode of HBO's Euphoria.

"Trouble Don't Last Always" was written by Sam Levinson and directed by Sam Levinson

The biggest criticism of Euphoria in its first season was that it prioritized style over substance. It was always interesting in presenting every situation in the most dazzling or visceral way. It was always a little reluctant to actually dig deeper and analyze why the various characters were making their choices. It was more attracted to the dysfunction instead of trying to say something more meaningful about addiction or today's culture for teenagers. That still allowed the show to be entertaining. But it wasn't always the most engaging especially because some characters were more successful than others. The second season starts by trimming things down significantly. It may be a direct reaction to those critiques as well. It puts forward a bottle episode of Rue and her sponsor Ali sitting at a diner and having a conversation about life and addiction. It's very fascinating and forces Rue to address these emotions that have always resided in her head but she has never confronted head on. Ali is able to strip away all of the fantasy that Rue had in her dynamic with Jules that formed the spine of the narrative in the first season. Now, some may argue for that being a bit revisionist. The show is responding to how certain stories were seen by the audience. It could also fortify the idea that the creative team always knew how destructive and toxic the core dynamic was at that specific time in Rue and Jules' lives. It was simply difficult to distinguish whether that belief in the two of them was genuine or meant to convey something more tragic. It was easy to fall in love with their bond. The show itself wants to live in the fantasy a little while longer at the start of this episode as well. Rue and Jules are happily living together. Of course, Jules is the one with a life she is actively living. Meanwhile, Rue is left behind in the apartment to get high once more. Even in Rue's mind, drugs are always seen as a constant necessity for her. It's how she pictures the future. That's only in the moments where she dreams of what could be instead. She openly admits that she may not even want to get sober. She may not want to live much longer anyway. The world is too depressing and she has done too many unforgivable things. Her mentality has been her worst enemy because she has built up certain beliefs in her mind. Because she threatened to kill her mother, she deduces that makes her a terrible person. As such, she's not deserving of forgiveness or a chance at redemption. She is never capable of something greater. That just makes it more appealing to relax into the comfort and familiarity of drugs. Ali doesn't have all the answers. His daughters still don't want to forgive him for what he did in the past. He is trying to make a difference in Rue's life. He knows when she isn't being honest with him. However, he can actually get her to open up. She isn't always engaged with every piece of this conversation. Her interest waxes and wanes. That leaves it unclear whether or not she will put the effort in to stay sober this season. That is at least a question though. Ali recognizes that Rue never gave sobriety a chance when she was with Jules because she always had the drugs ready to relapse. She was preparing for that eventuality. She wasn't trying to focus on staying clean and sober. She wants to believe in her relationship with Jules. She projects a sense of importance and meaning onto it. At times, she has the clarity to know it was destructive and she was using her best friend to avoid dealing with her issues. Other times, she is angry with Jules and quick to blame her for ruining a good thing. It's a complicated situation. Rue is even allowed a moment where she gets to be superior over Ali because finding faith in a higher power is difficult for her. It's hard for her to wrap her head around it given the tragedy her family has faced. That may be her greatest difficulty. She doesn't know how to live a life different than the one that has been so easy to accept. She isn't the only one with pain and suffering. She isn't the only addict who has done terrible things to the people they love. She is getting some help. Ali has faith that she can rebound from all of this. He can't explain why he has that clarity though. It's all faith at the moment. The show has probably earned that trust from the audience now as well. It's no longer just a dazzling game meant to satisfy the viewer. It's now a personal connection to the struggle and just how difficult recovery can truly be. Rue wanted to skip over all of this previously. Her addressing it now may be a good thing for the future. Of course, the show won't be this trimmed down forever. It will bring the supporting ensemble back in to complicate things. Rue has some clarity when she is sitting and talking with Ali. Without him, she feels lost and unsure of herself. That is a compelling story as well. It being at the center of the series promises great things to come. And yet, it could still be all too easy for the show to return to its storytelling norms of teenagers during dangerous and reckless things with complete disregard for others sheerly to entertain and scare people. That provocation feels out of place given how effective this episode is. It's an encouraging development that hopefully can be built upon.