By James Mercadante
Blending powerful performances and painful honesty with glittery visuals and compelling storylines, HBO created the masterpiece that is “Euphoria.”
Created by Sam Levison, “Euphoria” follows a group of teenagers as they grow up and become exposed to the consequences of drugs, sex, social media, addiction, mental illness and many other factors of life.
The show follows the main protagonist, Rue Bennett (Zendaya), as she has been released from rehab and struggles with her addiction of seeking ways to numb her depression and bipolar disorder. Throughout the episodes, Rue narrates not just about her, but also about everyone involved with the story.
The show introduces new up-and-coming actors, who also implement authentic portrayals of real-life teens. Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules Vaughn, is a transgender actress, who gives representation to the LGBTQ community but also has captivating performances throughout the season, such as her kitchen scene in episode 1, where she angrily waved a knife to Nate Jacobs, played by Jacob Elordi. Nate’s character is definitely seen as an antagonist, as he is filled with suppressed anger and confusion about his identity because he refuses to come to terms with his sexuality. However, he conducts his performance in such a bona fide manner.
“Euphoria” is quite distinct in general, especially with its storytelling and how it handles its visuals. The visuals can be awkward, yet smooth at the same time, like how there are multiple scenes where the narrative gets lost in Rue's narration about unpredictable subjects, which kind of emulates the effects of a hard-hitting drug and fits the theme of chasing euphoria.
In the last episode, the last scene demonstrates a musical number, which may seem unfitting. However, it felt like the missing piece to this puzzle of fiction. Zendaya sings and interpretively dances to demonstrate a myriad of emotions, such as disappointment, self-hatred and feeling mentally paralyzed, which concludes the first season in a theatrical approach.
While there are stunning visuals in the show, coated with glitter-based makeup and fluorescent lights, there are also uncomfortable and painfully blunt scenes, like relapsing on drugs or domestic abuse, which make you immediately want to look away from the screen. Although they are hard to watch, those particular moments render the series to be so undeniably real and showcase the true trauma humans face during the process of self-discovery.
The title is perfectly suited for the show since it demonstrates the gritty and harrowing aspects of life, which brings awareness to the fact of how there is so much more that lies beneath the surface of euphoria.