There are few episodes of euphoria that have been as highly anticipated as episode seven. All the events of season two seem to have been building to this exact moment, tremors before the calamitous earthquake of Lexi’s play. And no, it’s not Oklahoma.
The trials and tribulations of our favorite misbehaving teens – Rue’s drug addiction; Cassie’s downward spiral; Nate’s abusive behaviour; Maddy’s mourning of a friendship; Jules’s CDs; Kat’s…wait, what’s Kat doing? – have made for an especially depressing second season.
But what better way to distract from all that than a night at the theater?
The curtains rise and we’re straight into it. “It” being a play written and directed by our very own Lexi Howard about her childhood de ella spent playing second fiddle to her four best friends de ella. Guided by Lexi’s narration, the story dips in and out of her stage production and the real-life moments that inspired them. Deft camerawork obfuscates the characters with their real counterparts. Sometimes the camera pulls back to reveal a set, letting us know that the moment we just witnessed was, in fact, part of Lexi’s play de ella, not reality. And vice-versa.
For a high school play, there seems to be an enormous budget: revolving stages, confetti cannons, wire-flying. But after all, this is euphoria – a universe in which 17-year-olds wear Gucci and go to school in stilettos – so the idea of a big-budget school production isn’t so outrageous. Plus, it’s perversely fun to watch Lexi’s play unfold as her audience reacts in real time. It’s the very definition of a car crash you can’t look away from.
‘Lexi, you’re f***ing G!’
Fans have been begging for a Lexi-focused episode and this certainly delivers. Maude Apatow’s humble high schooler has long been hailed the most relatable of the bunch. She is kind and slightly awkward. She doesn’t wear rhinestones and glitter eyeshadow to school. For this reason, it is especially great to see Lexi being an absolute badass. Assuming the role of writer, director and lead, Lexi is the star. For once, she isn’t being overshadowed. Instead, she takes command, barking orders at her high school theater crew who are in awe of her greatness from her. Throughout the episode, we are all Lexi’s mum Suze as she enthusiastically claps, laughs and cries at her daughter’s theatrical feat de ella.
The Rue – Lexi backstory
Since the beginnings of euphoria, we’ve been told that Rue and Lexi were eleven best friends. The dissolution of that friendship, though, has never been fully explored. It’s both sad and heartening to see it dramatized in Lexi’s play. As 13-year-olds, the two would play pranks on each other and chat about life for hours sitting on the roof of Fezco’s store. The death of Rue’s dad, though, is presented as a turning point. Lexi tries to be there for her best friend de ella but ca n’t seem to pierce through Rue’s cloud of grief – or her impending drug problem that has just begun to rear its ugly head de ella.
Who even is Cassie anymore?
While the play is hard for everyone to watch, it’s especially tough for Cassie. The storyline tracks back to their childhood of Ella and Cassie is depicted as Lexi’s vain and callous older sister: all boobs, no brain. There are other tough scenes depicting moments she and Lexi shared with their stranded drug addict father.
Meanwhile, outside the world of theater, Cassie has moved in with Nate and has offered herself up to him completely. “You can control what I wear, what I eat, who I talk to,” she whispers. When he asks if she’s afraid people are going to look down on her, she replies, “At least I’m loved.”Again, Cassie’s need to be loved – a recurring theme since season one – is hammered home. And so Maddy 2.0 is born: Cassie struts down halls looking remarkably like her predecessor de ella, hand-in-hand with Nate, wearing the Tiffany & Co necklace that once belonged to his ex-girlfriend and her ex-best friend de ella.
Lexi’s play introduces doppelgängers and the use of Cassie’s is brilliant. Donning a new look with straightened hair and out-of-character makeup, Cassie (played by Sydney Sweeney) already looks like a refraction of her former self. Enter a Cassie lookalike (portrayed by Eden Rose Ginsberg), and it becomes impossible to distinguish between the real character and the fake one. At one moment in the play, Cassie goes to the bathroom in tears, unable to bear her sister’s play. As she looks at herself in the mirror and tries to contour her mouth into a smile, Cassie is completely unrecognizable.
Where are you, Fes?
This episode is going to hurt for Fexi fans. In the build-up to her play of her, Lexi has been calling Fez for support. Their phone calls from her are adorable as he calms her down and offers words of encouragement in that loveable monotone of his from her. When we see his seat empty at the play (the best seat in the house that Lexi has reserved especially for him), we know something is wrong. Fez, as we come to learn, was getting suited and booted for his date night when Custer arrived at his home from him (in the last episode, it was revealed that Custer is working with the police to turn Fez in for murder). Flash forward to now and the scene spells trouble. By the end of the episode, Ash seems to have caught on to Custer’s game – but is Fezco’s empty seat an indicator that it’s too late?
Justice for Ethan!
Finally, it’s Ethan’s time to shine. After being cast aside (and egregiously gaslit) by Kat in a grueling breakup scene that was almost as painful to watch as the show’s myriad depictions of abuse, Ethan gets the spotlight. The unassuming stray turns out to be the star of Lexi’s play, a shape-shifting thespian who spins Lexi around as her on-stage father as her, and lifts weights as Nate’s theatrical counterpart as her.
The show – or what we see of it in this episode – comes to a glorious climax with Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero” reimagined as a homoerotic locker room anthem. In costume as Nate, Ethan gyrates, pulsates and thrusts amongst his team of gyrating, pulsating, thrusting young men. All of them shirtless. The bombastic performance is to everyone’s delight – except for Nate who stalks out of the theater, fists tight and jaw clenched. Cassie, embodying the role of dutiful girlfriend, teeters after him, protesting that she didn’t know what Lexi had planned. Predictably, he tells her to pack up her s*** de ella and get the f*** de ella out of his house de ella. This leaves Cassie – who has sacrificed her friends and selfhood for the boy who she has just upped and left – totally and dangerously rudderless.
New episodes of Euphoria air weekly on Sky Atlantic and are available to stream NOW in the UK and HBO in the US
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.