A hypnotic, visually and cinematographically-stunning visceral take on substance abuse/youth finding perfect fit in Zendaya’s nihilistic sarcasm, slow-booming distortion-laden soundtrack, mature themes, & candid modern-HS canvas. 8.7/10.
Plot Synopsis: An American adaptation of the Israeli show of the same name, “Euphoria” follows the troubled life of 17-year-old Rue, a drug addict fresh from rehab with no plans to stay clean. Circling in Rue’s orbit are Jules, a transgender girl searching for where she belongs; Nate, a jock whose anger issues mask sexual insecurities; Chris, a football star who finds the adjustment from high school to college harder than expected; Cassie, whose sexual history continues to dog her; and Kat, a body-conscious teen exploring her sexuality. As the classmates struggle to make sense of their futures, the series tackles the teenage landscape of substance-enhanced parties & anxiety-ridden day-to-day life with empathy and candor.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
CLC’s Best #Euphoria Episodes: 1. Pilot, 2. Shook Ones Pt. II, 3. And Salt The Earth Behind You, 4. Stuntin’ Like My Daddy, 5. Made You Look, 6. The Next Episode, 7. The Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed, 8. ’03 Bonnie and Clyde
“It’s that feeling of nothingness: When your heart stops, thoughts stop, everything in the world stops – that I’d been chasing all my life.”
After GOT Ended, Many Thought HBO Down For The Count. How Wrong They Were.
“It’s that feeling of nothingness: When your heart stops, your thoughts stop, everything in the world stops – that I’d been chasing all my life.” After Game of Thrones ended, many pinned HBO as a network down-for-the-count. In flooded the memes, social media jokes, and rushes of claims of cancelled HBO-GO subscriptions as opportunists could not have self-assured more the station’s glory days were behind them. Then came Chernobyl, a magnificent mini-series on the famed nuclear disaster that stands as one of the best TV offerings this year (and topped iMDb’s Top TV Series Ever list – not THAT good but hey you know hypebeast culture), an internet-breaking announcement + trailer for a reboot of Snyder/DC’s classic graphic novel/film Watchmen, and Drake/A24-supported drug-hazy HS portrait named Euphoria – and HBO-naysayers started to get quiet. They’re going to have to get used to the feeling, since the arguably-king of network TV has another sensational hit on their hands on this winning streak ever since they moved away from thrones and dragons: A hypnotic, visually and cinematographically-stunning visceral take on substance abuse/youth, Euphoria finds perfect fit in Zendaya’s nihilistic sarcasm, slow-booming Labrinth/Drake-helmed soundtrack, mature themes, & rich characters for a candid, emotionally-resonant take on the modern-HS canvas.
Visually & Cinematographically Stunning
An Experimental, Avant-Garde Druggy-VFXed Work Of A24-Signature Art
Visually and cinematographically-stunning. Most instantly-noticeable from the first frame of HBO’s new offering is one thing: visual captivation. A level of artistry I have rarely, if EVER, seen on network TV in cinematography and shot construction catapults this series into the stratosphere as simply one of the most beautiful art pieces I’ve seen this year. Twisting everything from experimental compositions to color gradients to druggy-VFX to wildly-innovative camerawork/style in vibrant, ranged locational settings from smoke-hazy high school parties to rain-soaked suburban streets to the recesses of its characters minds through flashbacks, it is a freaking BEAST of splendor ocularly that feels like you’re given something yourself just by watching it. This indescribably-flamboyant éclat is perhaps best summarized in a scene where, after taking a hit in the upstairs bathroom of an HS-weekend-bash, Rue literally steps from the floor onto the walls onto the ceiling back onto the walls and floor again – all in one *singular* revolving shot without *ANY* cuts: technical wizardry. The intricacy in eye-popping craftsmanship and boundary-pushing creativity that feels like a painting-inmotion with indie/experimental bases is a stunning achievement that instantly cements it as one of my must-see’s for the year (as a classically-appreciative aesthete who can’t gush enough when I see cinema that knowingly exploits the medium’s more-perceptive art qualities). Sensational.
The Slow-Booming Soundtrack Paralleling Its Distortion Motif
The slow-booming soundtrack paralleling its distortion-motif. Not only visibly, but also audibly is Euphoria masterful. Helmed by composer and central artist Labrinth – a relatively unknown presence I’m sure is going to skyrocket in fame after this series airs – with added help by modern hip-hop gods Drake and Future, the soundscape is absolutely *unbelievable*. Soft tender ballads and vocal work juxtaposed by stunting battle-rap of Megan Thee Stallion to party trap of Scarlxrd to self-added signature songs by Drake and even nice orchestral themes mark this extremely-refreshing, modern, culturally-enriched, and thoroughly-SHAZAMable balanced accompaniment that’s easily one of, if not the best soundtrack for a TV adaptation about high school ever (only really challenged remotely by Riverdale S1 but this still blows it away in my book capturing youthful energy and the vibe of High School (HS) near-perfectly).
A Richly-Developed Character Cast Led By A Career-Defining Zendaya Performance Finding Its Perfect Fit In Nihilistic Sarcasm
Authenticity in modern HS canvas/portrayal with a richly-developed character cast. Make no mistake though, this series isn’t all sensory – it gives some impressive meat-on-the-bone in storytelling with meticulously-developed, rich characters that feel a perfect summarization of tropes of the modern HS landscape with a few surprises as well. Zendaya is a *perfect* central casting here, whose signature nihilistic sarcasm, je-ne-sais-quoi ambivalence, and chameleon-actress range being able to play wildly-varied roles from M.J. to Rue even at only 22 strikes gold as central protagonist and junkie-faking-rehab learning herself introspectively and emotionally across the 8-episode journey. Beyond her, the rest of characters are extremely well-written/fleshed-out and brought to life by stellar performances as well from Nate the jock using anger to mask his own (sexual) insecurities – most impressive performance other than Zendaya’s of the season being a fantastically-sadistic antagonist or even villain – to new college student and family-pressured McCay to transgender Jules to sex-obsessed Cassie to body-conscious overweight Kat and many more.
The Authenticity Of Modern-HS Canvas: A Portrait Of Gen Z & Teen Spirit
The balance of these characters and their development in everything from surgical, psychiatric flashbacks/”psychic looks” into their backstories and what shaped them into who they are at the beginning of each episode to multiple separate arcs impressively crossed over when needed (like in the superb carnival-episode juggling all these plot seamlessly across a singular location setting) make for a classical display of old-fashioned character work and screenwriting you don’t see too often nowadays. This is only perpetuated by the series’ penchant for delving into complex, difficult-to-tackle issues our generation is facing in high or higher volume than past ones in things like substance abuse, sexuality spectrums, LGBTQ and gender identity (with one of the best transgender representations/portrayals I’ve ever seen in Jules’ arc), online hook-up culture, virgin-shaming, premarital sex, social media, body-shaming, etc. I applaud the show for having the balls to address such politically-incorrect items that can be uncomfortable to talk about but play massive or even defining roles in today’s High School experience as a truly accurate depiction of its premise and subject matter. Also deserved of praise is how it shines in-depth light on substance abuse in such an emotionally-brutalized yet fitting, resonant, skilled manner from all involved’s perspectives, like in Rue’s 13-y.o. sister who must’ve been messed up for life finding her big sister O.D.’d making it hard for her to trust, have relationships, friends, love, etc. all because of that one moment. Heartbreaking.
Flaws: Rue’s Introduction, Abrasiveness In Praiseworthy Topic Portrayal, & That Finale
Flaws include sometimes abrasive handling of those praiseworthy topics, a standoffish introduction to our central protagonist, and the finale. While Euphoria and HBO garner huge celebration from me for not bowing to correctness or treading lightly around issues central to the high school experience, it does sometimes self-indulge and overdo it in brash ways. Things like shots of full genitalia-galore, (vivid) assault depictions, false (and real) accusations proceeding to mercilessly beating up people on screen, etc. are just downright sadistic, objectively difficult-to-watch, and understandably will turn off many viewers with weak constitutions when this series airs. Same goes for the tragic depictions of substance abuse and a broken family trying to piece itself back together, not exactly helped by Rue’s intro-IDGAF attitude coming across senseless and heartless at first to a heartbreaking empathetic subject matter (sure, it’s corrected later in-season but most viewers aren’t as forgiving or requiscent-to-view as a critic). Finally, the finale – while *spectacular* in wrapping up all its storylines with a bow (except Nate who should’ve gotten a WAY harsher punishment/sendoff for being an absolutely despicable evil person throughout the season. Also, why did McCay and Cassie break up..?) – ends on a somewhat bizarre and incongruent point. One of the most shocking developments and jaw-droppingly ballsy decisions in modern TV – seemingly teasing in ultimate Greek-tragedy fashion a grief-fueled overdose by Rue after the entire season of fighting the battle against it with her entire life and biggest regrets/mistakes flashing back before her eyes before going black – is sadly capped off with what feels like a (cheesy) music video/shameless plug for a Labrinth & Zendaya song that nearly devoids the finale of *all* its power & umph. Gosh, I REALLY wish it was not there – such a potentially masterpiece-level heartbreaking final episode that could’ve even been a series-ender wasted on a sour ending note feeling like you’re being sold something – WHY!
A Hypnotic Drake x A24 x HBO Visceral Take On Substance Abuse/Youth With A Perfect Lead, Energized Soundtrack, Mature Themes, & Candid Modern-HS Canvas
One Of The Best New TV Series Of 2019
Overall, HBO’s Euphoria is another home-run for Home Box Office showing they’ve still got plenty of wind left in their sails as still arguably the best network in TV programming today. A hypnotic, visually and cinematographically-stunning visceral take on substance abuse/youth finding perfect fit in Zendaya’s nihilistic sarcasm, slow-booming distortion-laden Labrinth soundtrack, mature themes, richly-developed characters, & candid modern-HS canvas rife with authenticity, – despite abrasive and at-times standoffish handling of its intense subject matter and a problematic finale – this Drake-exec produced tour-de-force is a definite must-see and one of my favorite new series this year.
Official CLC Score: 8.7/10