Friday, April 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Percocet and Parkour

Trigger warning and spoiler alert!

Deserving of every trigger warning that is posted, HBO’s critically acclaimed series Euphoria has returned to our screens once again. Entering our universes with mysterious shots of leading lady Zendaya on social media, coated in the iridescent glow of purple darkness that we have come to know as the show’s aesthetic, no one could have foreseen the journey that has ensued. With the traumas of season one forever in our subconscious thoughts and benign drawn in by the chilling Christmas special episodes that satiated our curious cravings, season two has delivered on every promise. Five episodes in and opinions filtering through about the recently released sixth one, we have arrived at the unraveling of the complex and tightly wound storylines of each character that have led to this very moment. Individually developed and evoking a range of opinions and emotions from the devoted audience, yet united by the persistent problematic nature of the backstories, each character has dragged us along a tumultuous  road riddled with twists and turns of anxiety. Explosive and an experience of revelations, let’s reflect on episode five, the moment we were all anticipating but none the wiser as to how to deal with it. 

Pitiful or performative?

Reaching an evident rock bottom, the decisions made by Rue in order to fuel her drug addiction seem to have caught up with her. With her suitcase of drug supply flushed down the toilet and all members of her family fed up with her self-destructive behavior, Rue finds herself having to come head to head with the consequences of her actions. From the highs of feeding off of her own supply, the traumatized teeneager swiftly plummets to a low that sees her contemplating her own life and the journey so far just to subsequently lash out at her support network. In the emotionally triggering opening scene, every watcher’s heart beat was sure to be pounding along with every violent thrust of Rue’s body against her little sister’s door. Knowing of the danger that Rue is in whilst simultaneously empathizing with the maternal desperation that Nika King heartbreakingly portrays, the audience finds their hearts and their minds at a moral crossroads. Is it okay to feel bad for the prospects of Rue, and even maybe feel a little bit of frustration towards the ones who claim to love her the most as they catalyze the chaos with their concern? 

Dance with my father again

This moral dilemma from the audience is nothing new. The fluctuating frustration with Rue’s behavior along with battling the innate sympathy for her draws us to constantly question the root of why we feel sorry for her. Holding this fictional character to an extreme level of accountability, many argue that Rue’s actions and treatment of those that try to support her uses the reasoning of her father’s death too easily. However, amongst the chaos of episode five, the show turns to the dream-like sequences accompanied by Labrinth’s soulful voice to travel into the hazy mind of the drug induced main character. Switching from Rue laying her head against the shoulder of Labrinth in the church setting, we see her cheek rest against the familiar red hue of her father’s hooded sweater only to be followed by the seamless transition to her actually swaying in her father’s arms. The parallel between the two moments and her desperation to be with him exposes her vulnerability and the extent of the loss and its impact on her. As her limp body leans against his and again transitions to her lifelessly dancing alone in her room in the reality of her intoxication, she is exasperated and burnt out. From these scenes, and the ability to delve into her mind and see the mental journey of her high, the frantic nature of her behaviour from season one up until this mid-season mark breaks her down to the heartbroken child misguidedly mourning the loss of her father. 

“I just miss dad…I miss him a lot”

a hysterical Rue backed against the bottom of the wall and arguably at Rock bottom 

Running out of options

But from sympathy to audible sighs of frustration, Rue’s flip in attitude leaves the audience uncertain of the authenticity of her words. With nowhere else to go and no more ammunition to self-destruct, her lashing out catches the turmoil of Nate, Cassie and Maddie’s love triangle right in the middle. Detracting attention from herself from the meanwhile, Rue’s calculated exposure of the relationship between the best friend and the ex-boyfriend is like a spark to a flame. Anticipating the inevitable eruption of drama between Maddie and Cassie, watchers at home are not fully able to revel in the drama as their worry remains with a now vanished Rue. Continuing to fumble through the late night streets, she blindly searches for a solution to the pain and the symptoms of withdrawal that she is feeling. Unable to make a rational decision, the final location pin of Rue’s quest finds her in the belly of the beast. Across the table from Lori, her sinisterly subdued drug dealer, the eerie silence of the scene makes it that much more easy to hone in on the inevitable drumming of our rising pulses. Feening for her drug fix, she doesn’t have any options. Questionably accommodating, Lori welcomes Rue into her home, running her a soothing bath and injecting her with morphine to ease all of her pains. With armed gangsters dotted throughout the house juxtaposing the quilted blankets that lay over the sofas, the timid tone of Lori’s voice and her comically dated home interior suggest nothing but a false sense of comfort and a definite feeling of unease. 

A true catalyst for all the chaotic concoctions that have been brewing up until this point, Rue’s desperation to satiate her drug cravings as well as figure out a solution to her newfound debt is palpable. Far beyond being a misguided teenager, Rue is truly outside of her depths. Unbelievably more of a mess than anything we have seen yet, solutions to this predicament seem hard to find and the fate of Rue along with the catastrophes of the other characters. As we wait at home to see what happens next, social media discourse and personal reflections aside, we must remain in a state of painful uncertainty and anguish. With the replay of the padlocked door, Rue’s relentless running from her past to a mysterious future, and wondering if she ever made it back home, the only question is, what else can we possibly take?