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A Remarkable Zendaya Anchors Euphoria Season 2: Review

The next chapter of the teen addiction drama begins tonight on HBO

Zendaya euphoria season 2
Zendaya in Euphoria, photo courtesy of Marcell Rev/HBO
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    The Pitch: HBO’s provocative teen drama returns on Sunday, January 9th, and while plenty of things have changed for the characters in this neon-soaked, nightmarish dreamscape of Southern California, so much is still the same. That’s the thing about addiction, isn’t it? It’s a cycle that’s very, very hard to break. But we as the audience are once again in the hands of young addict Rue as our omniscient narrator, who continues to be lovingly brought to life by Zendaya, the youngest person ever to win an Emmy for Best Actress for a Drama Series.

    Still Don’t Know Her Name: “I don’t think I’m a good person.”

    Repeated like a refrain, delivered like a prayer, this sentence is a concise summary of many of the central struggles in Season 2 of Euphoria. To that end, things pick up in fairly familiar territory — the opening sequence of the new season is bloody, expertly shot, blunt, and includes an ample dose of full-frontal nudity.

    Plot-wise, the season drops in the viewers very shortly after where Season 1 left off. As a quick refresher for anyone who somehow managed to forget the stunning single-take song and dance sequence that closed out the first season, Rue has relapsed. Again.

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    During the pandemic, writer, creator, and director Sam Levinson was able to put together two sparse (but effective) specials centered on Rue and her would-be other half, Jules. It’s not critical for viewers to have seen both during the gap between seasons, but they do help fill in some of the blanks. As with the special, one of the highlights of the show continues to be its treatment of Jules, inhabited so authentically by Hunter Schafer.

    Remember This Feeling: Many of the beats this season are familiar (again, consider the cyclical nature of addiction), but nothing about this new season of Euphoria is ever boring. Say what you will about Levinson — and, to be clear, there’s plenty to be said about the way he writes dialogue, especially for young women — but the camerawork and production design on this show are hard to beat. Much like the first season, things are still immaculately choreographed, with long takes through massive set pieces, stunning cinematography, and indulgent colors and costuming providing a near-constant feast for the eyes.

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