Variety’s review of the second special episode of “Euphoria,” “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob,” describes it as an emotional catharsis. And that’s exactly what the episode is. “Euphoria” is an HBO show, which means these are not Disney Channel variety teenage problems the characters deal with. “Euphoria” handles drug addiction, abuse, statutory rape, and a transgender teenager’s struggles with her transition, among many other things. This episode peels away at the pure chaos that the show encompassed pre-COVID. Due to the heavy health precautions imposed on the show and the need to have a limited cast and crew, “Euphoria” was able to strip down two of its main characters’ arcs completely. The previous episode centered around Rue (Zendaya) and allowed its audience to understand her rationale to continue using narcotics. The entire episode took place in the same spot, a diner booth, while she was having a candid conversation with her sponsor, Ali (Colman Domingo), about her drug abuse and suicidal tendencies.
Jules’ (Hunter Schafer) episode is similar in its intimacy, focusing on a conversation between her and her therapist. However, it is less stationary than Rue’s episode due to Jules’ flashback of her relationship with Rue and the incorporation of the fantasies of her internet romance with Shy Guy (who turned out to be Nate (Jacob Elordi), the infamous Maddie’s (Alexa Demie) boyfriend catfishing her). With “Euphoria,” we are used to a blur of emotions, a kaleidoscope of all the extremes of being a teenager, and a reality that is much more intense than what being 16 truly is. However in both of these special episodes, we see Rue and Jules in vulnerable places still dealing with struggles that many sixteen years olds cannot relate to, but in a flurry of emotions we can all relate to when it comes to growing up.
The episode starts with Jules in a therapist’s office, shortly after she has run away from home, we presume. Her therapist asks “why did you run away?” As soon as she asks her this, Lorde’s Liability starts playing and the audience is given glimpses of Jules’ memories through her literal eyes. However, Jules does not begin by talking about her and Rue, even though the conversation ultimately will revolve around her feelings surrounding Rue. Instead, she tells her therapist that she wants to go off her hormones because she has realized how heavily the male gaze has been affecting her transition. She says: “I feel like I’ve framed my entire womanhood around men, when in reality I am no longer interested in men, philosophically in what men want.” Jules contemplates the idea of femininity – in her case femininity or an outer shell she has created in order to be desired by men – a feeling a lot of girls can relate to throughout this entire episode.
This obsession with femininity was where they made this episode relatable to the masses. As young women, we are told to conform to being feminine because it is what men desire and what men want. We are told to keep our hair long, our nails manicured, and our clothes perfectly coordinated in order to be acceptable to men. Jules describes this mechanism as one she has taken from millions of people to create a caricature of herself. She describes Rue as the first person who saw underneath her exterior. Not only has she been seen by a woman but fallen in love with one. The notion of even being in love with a woman when Jules had always based her self-esteem on how close she was to femininity – which in her mind was synonymous with how appealing she was to men – is terrifying for her.
In her explanation of femininity, Jules talks about how she was always afraid of puberty because she saw it as “broadening or thickening,” two things that are inherently masculine. The most impactful moment of the episode was Jules saying that the ocean is broad and thick, but also utterly beautiful and extremely feminine. We see an issue that so many women struggle with. How do we find the balance between being strong and beautiful? How do we dissolve the gender norms that people so desperately care about? As a cisgender woman, I will never understand the internal struggle that transgender women like Jules face. However, once again the “Euphoria” writers find a theme that applies to so many – like Jules, young women everywhere are asking themselves these questions.
One of the most interesting aspects of the episode is that we learn more about Jule’s relationship with her mother, who, like Rue, is a drug addict. We learn that a week before Halloween, which Jules spent with Rue, her mother tried to apologize to her as a part of her road to recovery. However Jules refused to speak to her mother and when her father attempted to persuade her to allow her mother to apologize, she began screaming, causing her mother to leave their house and, we learn later, relapsed on Halloween. This closing of a hole in the plot of the first season gives us insight into why Jules felt the need to run away. She was overwhelmed by her mother coming back into her life and we find out, as unveiled by her therapist, that her anger towards Rue is synonymous with her anger towards her mother. Anger caused by how their drug addictions affect her. We also learn more about Jule’s disappointment with ShyBoy. She says she feels as if she understood him more than Rue and fell in love with him, but it is obvious she was using him as a distraction to get her mind off of Rue. It is incredibly difficult for teenagers and young adults to navigate their emotions, especially romantically. We latch onto what is comfortable and safe. For Jules what is safe romantically for her is to have romantic relationships with men because she has quite literally created her exterior appearance for the consumption of men – to fall in love with another girl is a very confusing experience for her. For many young girls, it is something else. But above all, this episode was cathartic, beautiful, and a kaleidoscope of emotions. It was stripped back and vulnerable. It allowed us to understand Jules and her struggles with her transition, obsession with femininity, and confusion over her sexuality. In her struggles, we can all see a little of our own. Especially as young women, where it feels as if the pressure to be perfect is constantly on us, a pressure to conform, a pressure to feel the right emotions, and a desperation to not be judged.
The episode ends with Rue coming back to Jule’s house before she goes to see Ali. Jules apologizes to her for leaving her at the train station, depicted in the season one finale, and Rue becomes emotional and leaves. The final scene showcases Jules crying in bed, a universal reaction so many of us had at the ripe age of 16. This episode of “Euphoria” teaches us that being a teenager is confusing and complicated. As young people, we are not living in the extremes of “Euphoria,” but we are still living in one of the most emotionally complex periods of our lives – where everything is new and nothing makes sense. As excited as I am for “Euphoria” to return in its full glory for season two with multiple different plotlines, I am also thankful for these special episodes. These two episodes put a spotlight on Rue and Jules – allowing their storylines to better evolve. Being a teenager or young adult might not make sense, but what does is watching this episode and listening to Lorde’s Melodrama afterward.