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Debuting in the summer of 2019, HBO’s A24 series, Euphoria, instantly rose to popularity. Through its ensemble cast, unique filming, glamorous fashion, beauty aesthetic, bold, sexually driven plotlines, and realistic depiction of drug use and addiction, Euphoria has become the show to watch. Euphoria’s second season premiered last month with new episodes releasing every Sunday night. Now over halfway through the season, each storyline has become increasingly compelling with each new episode, however, one of the most anticipated points of drama is between Maddie, Cassie, and Nate. On paper, Cassie and Nate are the clear villains and Maddie is a victim at the hands of both parties. While I believe this remains true for Nate and Maddy, the line between villain and victim is constantly blurred when it comes to Cassie.

In season 1, Cassie is introduced as the sweet, loving girl who “falls in love with every guy she dates”. We learn that her sexual inclination and attachment issues stem from her father’s abandonment. Throughout her relationship with McKay, we see Cassie continually hurt by him and his insecurity surrounding Cassie’s sexual history. Cassie eventually becomes pregnant with McKay’s child and is once again upset by his instant dismissal at the thought of having a baby and future together. We get our first glimpse of Cassie’s relationship betrayal when she flirts with and kisses with Daniel who reinforces the idea that she is solely viewed as a sexual object and unworthy of love. We grow to care for and sympathize with Cassie, a young and confused girl who just wants to love and be loved by someone. Sure, she makes mistakes, but she’s not alone in that among the rest of the show’s characters.

In season 2 episode 1, Cassie reveals that she is trying not to be a “relationship girl” and instead taking time to focus on herself. This journey of self-love, personal discovery, and learning how to be alone is exactly what a girl with Cassie’s self-esteem issues needs. On the heels of a difficult breakup and abortion, Cassie needs to spend time falling in love with herself rather than another guy. Unfortunately, Cassie’s single stint abruptly ends when she accepts a ride to the New Year’s Eve party from Nate Jacobs who she hooks up with later that night. Sleeping with your best friend’s on and off, abusive ex-boyfriend is objectively wrong, but Cassie was drunk and emotionally vulnerable, right? When Cassie and Nate are interrupted by the knocking at the door of best friend and ex-girlfriend, Maddy, Cassie begins hysterically crying and instantly regrets this mistake. For the rest of the episode, Cassie appears distraught, ashamed, and guilty for what she’s done, especially when she’s near Maddy. As Cassie replaces her feelings of regret with concern for Nate following his assault by Fez, we begin to realize that Cassie is already attached to Nate, but we hope that she will refrain from acting on it again. 

Instead of repenting for her sins, Cassie doubles down and begins sleeping with Nate every Friday night, falling more and more in love with him. She consoles Maddy as she cries over Nate, all while thinking about the next time she’ll hook up with him. Cassie desperately fights for Nate’s attention and is only successful in doing so when she dresses like a knock-off Maddy. Her happiness becomes deeply tied to the amount of attention Nate affords her and so her mental state yo-yos in and out of ecstasy and misery. Cassie becomes literally ill at the prospect of Nate and Maddy back together, though not because she is upset over the verbal and physical abuse her best friend will endure from him, but because she can’t bear to lose him. Though it begs the question, can you ever really lose something you never had?

Throughout Cassie’s pseudo-relationship with Nate, we beg her through the TV to stop what she’s doing. We watch as she ruins both her relationship with Maddy and with herself. With each day that passes as she longs for Nate, she loses a part of the sweet, innocent girl we met in season 1. Whether he ignores her in school, fails to return her calls, tells her not to come over, gets back together with Maddie, or treats her in his typical cruel manner, Cassie becomes more and more emotionally damaged. We watch this beautiful girl with low-self esteem sink herself deeper and deeper to a point of no return. And while her lying and backstabbing to Maddy is truly awful, we can’t help but sympathize with Cassie. With every new episode, we become angrier with her actions, yet we also come to further pity her.

Cassie’s desperation for love and attention are so detrimental to her wellbeing, though her father’s abandonment is the catalyst for much of it.  Through her backstory and plotlines of the first season, we learn that Cassie is genuinely a sweet girl who loves hard, Rue even tells us so during our first ever introduction to Cassie’s character. Because of the juxtaposition between Cassie’s general kindness and her immoral behavior, we experience cognitive dissonance, not agreeing with anything Cassie does but rooting for her in spite of it all. We watch her with sympathy as she cries over Nate, as she feels guilty for what she’s done to Maddy, and as she exposes just how little self-esteem she truly has. We want her to come to her senses, to end the secret affair with Nate, to confess and apologize to Maddy, and to finally respect herself enough to never be with a guy like Nate Jacobs again.

Though we ultimately wish the best for Cassie, does she even deserve our sympathy? Euphoria’s 6th episode of Season 2 focused heavily on Cassie’s storyline and in multiple scenes we see Cassie’s mental spiral as she sobs hysterically, attempts to cut her wrists, and proclaims that she just wants to die. In the aftermath of Rue exposing her relationship with Nate, Cassie is severely unstable and depressed. Cassie’s depression parallels Maddy’s, who is coping with the hurt of betrayal from both her ex-boyfriend and best friend. We are led to believe that Cassie’s distress stems from the indefinite loss of her friendship with Maddy. While that is likely a major factor, Cassie’s affliction is so intense because she believes she has lost Nate again. When he fails to return her calls or speak to her at all, her spiral becomes even greater. We also see Cassie attempt to justify her relationship with Nate, defending herself as still being a good person since Nate and Maddy have been broken up the whole time. Cassie’s mom, Suze, puts it perfectly when she tells Cassie, “It’s one thing to do what you did, and it’s another to pretend you’re all innocent and it’s no big deal.” At multiple points in the season, Cassie breaks down over her relationship with Nate, realizing that she will ultimately hurt Maddy and proving that deep-down Cassie knows what she’s done is wrong. Maybe she’s realized she’s in too deep and there’s no way Maddy will ever forgive her. Or maybe she’s simply so delusional and desperate to think that Nate will ever love her. Either way, Cassie refuses to take accountability and ultimately continues sleeping with him with no signs of stopping. She only ever acknowledges her mistake when she tells Nate she ruined her entire life for him, seconds before she falls into his arms once again. 

At the bottom line, Cassie is a pitiful girl. She has no self-esteem and no respect for herself or her most important friendship. She is willing to ruin meaningful relationships and subject herself to intense emotional damage all because she craves the “right amount of attention” from the wrong person. Cassie willingly falls for Nate’s lies as he whispers “I love you”, though would someone who loves you allow you to ruin yourself in such a way and reserve you as a dirty secret that they keep in their back pocket when it’s convenient for them? It’s hard not to feel sorry for Cassie when you realize how blinded she is by love, driven by her father’s abandonment.

For me, Cassie is both a villain and a victim. Removing Maddy from the equation entirely, Cassie is suffering from her deep-seated self-esteem issues, and we can’t entirely fault her acting on that desire for love, whether it be one-sided or not. Though I can’t turn a blind eye to backstabbing a friend, let alone a best friend. While I pity the girl who embarrasses and ruins herself over and over again in the name of “love”, I am simultaneously disgusted and appalled at the betrayal of friendship. If Cassie were truly the good person she wants to be, her love for Maddy would trump her obsession with Nate. All things said I believe that Cassie is capable of redemption and I’m hopeful that her character arc will ultimately circle back to her journey of personal growth. Cassie has a long way to go until she is able to win back favor, but hopefully by the start of season 3, rather than being both a villain and a victim, through tough love and reflection, she will no longer be either.

Hi! I'm a Marketing major and a Graphic Design minor with a passion for writing and creating. I love all things health, wellness, music (especially Taylor Swift), and travel related!
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