Levinson built to this moment by laying seeds of "All For Us" throughout the score, composed by the multi-hyphenate musician Labrinth. But narratively, the episode feels sloppy, jumping back and forth in time and offering little emotional payoff even as it goes for big setpieces, like Nate's return to football or Cassie's (Sydney Sweeney) ice skating fantasy during her abortion. Levinson stubbornly refused to close any of the doors it opened over the course of its initial eight episodes. Nate is still blackmailing Jules; Kat still doesn't know the identity of the mysterious person who pursued her online, hidden behind a voice modulator and a webcam. There are, of course, benefits to these dangling stories: the already-announced Season 2 will have a lot to cover, and Euphoria is in no rush to speed through high school, avoiding the curse of many a teen drama.
Since it first debuted in June, I've grown obsessed with Euphoria. Even when it goes to extremely dark places, it's still compulsively watchable television, mainly thanks to the talented cast, almost all of whom seem destined for superstardom. Zendaya's already nearing that pinnacle, of course, but performers like Schafer, Ferreira, and Alexa Demie give depth to their characters beyond the memes their outfits inspire. And yet, I still feel like I can't let Euphoria off the hook. It's too often guided by a weirdly moralistic streak that punishes its characters for the same behaviors it encourages. It gives us a moment like Kat's confident, bad bitch walk of pride through a mall, only to then have her overcome with shame after her period of experimentation. The empathy it has for its characters only goes until they do something that it thinks deserves a tsk, tsk and couches it all in its dreamlike, glittering palette.
This all adds a layer of grim anticipation to that last sequence of the season: It's thrilling, affecting, and I know the comedown is going to be exceedingly bleak. Rue doesn't just stop after saying "drugs are kinda cool" in that second episode. She adds: "They are cool until before they wreck your skin, and your life, and your family. That's when they get uncool." I'm still not sure if Euphoria isn't too enamored with what's even briefly "cool," but I can't wait to keep watching.