In early autumn, Euphoria fans received some splendid news. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which sees the US climb the world rankings for their infection and death rates, the filming schedule for season two was postponed to further notice.
Then, HBO announced the release of two special episodes starting from December 6th 2020. The first episode, titles Trouble don’t last always, aired yesterday night on the US channel. The next episode will be airing in 2021, but no exact date has been disclosed yet (update: 24th January 2021!).
Anyway, all HBO MAX subscribers have already had the opportunity to watch the première of the fist episode on December 3rd (lucky b*astards).
EUPHORIA – Trouble Don’t Last Always – Trama
We left Euphoria off with Jules (Hunter Schafer) wanting to leave the city, while Rue (Zendaya) didn’t. Even so, this special episode opens with a short sequence showing us pieces of Rue and Jules’ life together. Clearly, Rue has changed her mind and decided to go after Jules and they live together now.
Jules is shown getting ready to attend an interview. She’s probably going to enroll in Fashion school. They both seem very happy and everything seems to be going great.
However, when Jules leaves, Rue runs into the bathroom to get high. Things are not as good as they seem. Rue has relapsed.
A quick change of scenery takes us into a diner where Rue is chatting with Ali (Colman Domingo), a man she has met at Narcotics Anonymous meetings and who offered to help her fighting against her addiction. Rue tells him that she’s clean, that she’s running an amazing life and that she’s finally understood why she couldn’t manage to live a balanced life in the past. But Ali is not buying it, since she’s clearly high.
We then witness a long conversation about drug addiction.
“No one in the world sees it as a disease“
With the exception of the first 4 minutes, the entire episode shows an in-depth talk in which Rue explains very vividly why she’s so troubled and why she thinks she can’t manage to stay clean, no matter how hard she tries.
Ali, based on his experience, tries to help her and explains something really important. Drug addiction is a disease, as deathly and incurable as cancer. Unfortunately, most people don’t see it as a disease. They choose to believe that people who do drugs are self-destructive and selfish, weak people who are left behind by those around them for this very reason. The basic principle is: why should I care about you if you don’t want to take care of yourself?
Left alone, even drug users start believing that their addiction is not a disease, but a personality flaw. So, instead of focusing on the treatment, they accept the idea that they are bad people. They accept the fact that they can’t do anything to change and keep doing drugs.
“That punishment is way too harsh, and it’s also way too easy“
According to Ali, everyone can become a better person, as long as they put in the effort. Whatever your fault is, you can’t keep punishing yourself forever. If anything, you have to believe in redemption and in your ability to improve as a person, which is critical if you want to heal from drug addiction. Otherwise, you are going to choose the easiest path: keep making the same mistake over and over again.
In brief, drug users are flawed people like everyone else, but society makes them believe that they are somehow worse by nature so they can’t get better.
“Ali, what have you done that’s so terrible?“
This episode tells us a little more about Ali’s backstory. We learn that, before becoming a Muslim, his name was Martin and that, for most of his life, he tried to escape his father’s legacy. When he was a kid, he used to live in a violent household where his dad used to beat his mother quite often. Growing up, he decided that he didn’t want to be like him. However, since his parents couldn’t teach him any better, he ended up losing his wife and two daughters, Imani and Marie.
As a result, we can’t really say that, after getting clean, Ali succeeded in establishing a good life. He didn’t stop abusing drugs just because he suddenly got lucky and picked up the right cards from the deck of life. But that’s exactly the point.
Ali is as weak as Rue. They have both been served with very complicated life events. The main difference is that Ali is now a man who managed to understand how to live life, experience after experience. He knows how to deal with sadness, depression and life challenges without using drugs.
He knows that, sometimes, you have to be strong enough and put a smile on your face even when things do not go the right way. As a religious man, life itself is a miracle for him and that is good enough reason to be happy. Drugs, instead, are a quicker and easier way to reach happiness, even when you are sad. Yet, the feeling of contentment they create is not real, but a fake state reached through a chemical alteration in your body.
“I came out of the womb with a couple wires crossed“
Rue Bennet is a seventeen-year-old girl who is trying to overcome her addiction to drugs. In the series pilot, we learn that during her early childhood she was diagnosed with several disorders (OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder and general anxiety disorder). As a result, even the easiest of tasks, like breathing, is tricky.
When she was 11, after a stong panic attack, she was hospitalized and injected with liquid Valium for the very first time as a way to calm her down. This medicine managed to silence her anxiety and manic-depressive thoughts in a matter of seconds, but also developed in her a need of renew this state of tranquility.
The situation gets out of control when her father dies of cancer. She’s only 13 when she starts using drugs as a coping mechanism to deal with her life. This is how her addiction begins, which will lead her to overdose at 16. This time, she’s hospitalized in a rehabilitation center, but once she’s out she will relapse again.
“…drugs are probably the only reason I haven’t killed myself“
Then as now, Rue confesses that maybe she has never had the intention of staying clean. First of all because she finds it difficult to accept the spiritual nature of the program promoted by Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
This program firmly sells the idea of the existence of a “higher power” that can help you face the ups and downs of the journey of rehabilitation. Every single member of this association is free to decide the nature of this higher power, but it is crucial for them to accept this idea to cure their addiction. However, Rue’s problem is that she can’t. Rue says that embracing the idea that everything, good or bad, happens for a reason, also means accepting that her father’s death had a purpose.
At this point in the episode, it seems like Ali struggles to find the right way to help Rue come out of her tendency of negative thinking. He’s a religious man, she isn’t. Nonetheless, he finds the right thing to say to help her: life is a big mystery and we don’t always know why something happens; that’s why even if someone comes from a troubled past, his future may lead him to great things. The story of Malcolm X is a perfect example of that.
Rue also thinks that she needs drugs to live through depression and her several disorders. She doesn’t understand, as Ali will explain to her, that her sobriety, not the use of drugs, makes her stronger. Drugs are what makes her weak. As he lived on, he came to the understanding that drugs change you as a person, your beliefs, your dreams and the way you love people too.
Last but not least, Rue finds rehab difficult because she does not think about her future since she does not “plan on being here that long“. Her wish of ending her life makes the struggle to stop using drugs quite useless. But then Ali asks “how do you want your mom and sister to remember you?“, hitting a soft spot of hers.
“You gotta believe in the poetry“
The last piece of advice Ali shares with Rue, in harmony with the NA philosophy, is the importance of finding something greater than herself to believe in. Something he calls “the poetry of life“. Life will never be perfect, it won’t always be happy and, whether she likes it or not, Rue will keep making mistakes, hurting the people she loves, making choices that she will eventually regret. So she must learn to see the beauty in everything.
Her chance of succeeding lies in a revolution. A revolution that shouldn’t be noisy and public, but intimate and private. A personal revolution, in which she must strongly believe and to which she must dedicate herself every single day of her life, without being afraid of failing.
“Everything that’s good to you, ain’t always good for you“
This revolution, important for her recovery, will require a huge effort, to the point that she cannot waste her energy on anything else, including love. Her goal, as Ali states since the beginning, must be her “sobriety“. Sobriety that she will only be able to achieve by focusing exclusively on that.
To some viewers, this statement might seem surprising, considering that Rue and Jules‘ relationship is one of the main theme of the series. And yet, if we go back in the story, and think about some of the things that Ali has already said to Rue in the main show, we see that’s something we already knew.
Love is not very different from drugs, as it produces a set of chemical imbalances that triggers a mechanism that is addictive. Rue met Jules at the exact moment she was about to sink into addiction again after rehabilitation. Thanks to Jules, Rue managed, for a while, to stay away from drugs, replacing them with the emotions and sensations provided by love. But what happens when the initial excitement of falling in love will eventually fade away? That’s what Ali asks Rue when she tells him about Jules for the first time.
At this moment in time, Rue is not ready to engage in a healthy relationship, helpful for her current situation. Before being able to love someone else, she will have to find her own personal balance and learn to be comfortable with herself (without drugs).
I really enjoyed the dialogical nature of this episode that was in part due to a series of requirements imposed by Covid-19. Through a long and intense conversation, we come to better understand the delicate nature of the path that Rue faces in and out of addiction. This episode focuses much less on aesthetics and much more on the human experience.
According to some, Euphoria lacks “analysis”. We are clearly exposed to a reality of young people in which problems such as drugs and psychological traumas of various kinds coexist in excess.
Far from declaring that Euphoria encourages and promotes harmful behaviours to the health of teenagers. Yet someone condemned this show for this very reason.
This episode sheds a light, in a clear and unequivocal way, on the position that Euphoria takes towards the use of drugs. Indeed, it also offers several observations that can help those who are facing the difficult path of rehabilitation and, at the same time, those who are close to them. In addition, it seeks to free drug addiction from a useless cultural heritage that continues to do only harm: the idea that anyone who takes drugs is a person who is naturally ill and therefore unrecoverable.
If I may, I’d even accept this episode as a series finale!
While we wait for the next special episode, which should give us more insight on the character of Jules, let us know what you thought of this episode and what you expect to see in the next one airing no earlier than 2021!