'Euphoria' episode 2 explores toxic masculinity, daddy issues, more drugs, and teen sexcapades
Alongside heavy dosages of deep-rooted daddy issues, there's also the other side of victim complex, balancing a life surrounding substance abuse, and more about Rue's backstory
This article contains spoilers for 'Euphoria' episode 2.
Oh, yes, 'Euphoria' goes the extra mile to normalize full frontal male nudity on the screen, but for all the penises shown explicitly, nothing compares to the major d***s that the male characters are. But snark and jokes aside, the second episode of the Zendaya starrer HBO show explores so much more than just toxic masculinity, which albeit is in abundance. Episode 2, titled 'Stuntin Like My Daddy' goes on to showcase the titular daddy in the form of Nate's father, Cal, and by extension, him too. But alongside heavy dosages of deep-rooted daddy issues, there's also the other side of victim complex, balancing a life surrounding substance abuse, and more about Rue's backstory - all of which is harrowing and heartbreaking in copious amounts.
Let's start off with the closest thing to the episode's title - Nate Jacobs - who is the human definition of a red flag. Played by Jacob Elordi, the character channels everything you associate with toxic masculinity. From dehumanizing women to approving of them only when they are "basically hairless” or sticking to the girly girl stereotypes and of course, specifically a virgin, Nate also hates everything that could seem feminine when sported by men. He can't even look at his fellow male classmates in the locker room, because God forbid, he sees their penises. But the reason he hates any sign of weakness or emotions is actually his Dominant Daddy, Cal (Erik Dane) who, as it turns out, is a pro at documenting his sexcapades in the form of his homemade porn stash made with mostly trans people.
Flashbacks from Nate's past show him coming across these videos and thus the boy was subjected to the violent and degrading pursuits of his father's sex life. Follow that up with years of rigorous training to ace as a footballer and we have the classic representation of a macho man who has been conditioned into thinking that degradation is the only form of intimacy. But the best part about the episode is how they build up to the modern day Nate without ever trying to get us to sympathize with the character. Even with his father saying utterly cruel words like “No one in this world will ever root for you. They will see what I see, and they will despise you for it. Just don’t ever give them an opening," we don't feel sad for the 'troubled teen' because that's the truth. Nate is a despicable human, if not as terrible as his daddy.
Still, he isn't the only character beyond redemption here. Episode 2 of 'Euphoria' does a brilliant job at portraying the monster that addiction can be, and truly brings out a harrowing side of just how powerful a grip it has on teens in the contemporary world. And as gritty and graphic as the exploration of Rue's (Zendaya) backstory with substance abuse can get sometimes, the tasteful execution of the tale proves to be a big win for the show. In Rue's backstory, we see a 13-year-old child indulging in Oxycontin amidst taking care of her ailing father while her mother worked two jobs. It's all very sad, to put it simply. While her father lay there knocked out from his prescribed medication, she lay next to him high on pills looking for a glorious, happier escape as the two of them watched TV.
Fast forward to the present and Rue is still bunking Narcotics Anonymous, by blackmailing a proctor there into signing her slip. The gravity of the situation is established by sporadic insertion of scenes from her overdose that we saw in episode 1 and thus the episode maintains its aura of balance, striking the fine line between glorifying addiction and giving away a warning. We see Rue admittedly happy at making a new friend called Jules (Hunter Schafer) at school, but she also keeps falling back to the temptation at Fezco’s for more drugs - the latter almost costing her, her own life at one point.
The same episode also lays the groundwork for Rue's feelings for Jules; it's obvious Rue sees the quirky, similarly broken blonde in the starry lights of a teen romance, as the two of them pop pills and bask in the glory of ecstasy. But Jules has her romantic pursuits engaged elsewhere, texting a 'Shy Guy' she met on a dating app - another seeming heartbreak waiting for Rue.
At just two episodes old, the show has managed to portray Rue's battle with addiction in such a monstrous light that one genuinely fears what certain developments in her life might do to her. Rue is not your regular teen from a young adult rom-com that you know will faze inconveniences out by indulging in drugs and intoxicants. When something not so favorable happens to her, as a viewer, it's hard to not get genuinely worried for her knowing what her cravings are capable of doing to her. And through that, 'Euphoria' has already managed to beat its contemporaries.
But no discussion on the second episode would be over without addressing Katherine (Barbie Knox) undergoing a drastic personality change to fit into the stereotype that a leaked sex tape of hers has painted her in. It truly goes the extra mile to show the light victims of revenge porn, and the likes, are seen in and none of it is bright. For all the attention Katherine is getting, as bright and glorious as the idea of any attention in high school might seem like, her world is nothing but dark at this point. So she does what most women in her situation fall prey to, and decides to embrace this new persona and become a cam-girl. It's disturbing, the things that these children have to do to be accepted by those just as broken and messed up as they are. But this is the cold reality of the world, and the show isn't holding back from announcing the red alert on the problems that are really haunting us.
'Euphoria' airs on Sundays, at 10 pm, only on HBO.