Lexi's 'Euphoria' Play Is the Most Innovative Thing the Show's Ever Done
"The Theater and Its Double" finally reveals what Maude Apatow's character Lexi has been working on, and it's nothing like 'Oklahoma!'
Maude Apatow's Lexi Howard has quietly always been one of the most interesting characters on Euphoria. In Season 1 of Sam Levinson's HBO drama, even as she and Rue (Zendaya) drifted apart, she continued to stand by and support her former best friend. And if she seemed committed to being her own person then (who could ever forget when she dressed up as Bob Ross on Halloween?), Season 2 is proving just how much of an ambitious, sensitive individual she is.
Lexi finally got her moment to shine this season, leading right up to the school performance of her play in Episode 7, "The Theater and Its Double." With her original production, Lexi finally stepped into the spotlight, revealing to everybody in her life who used to look past her that she has a story worth telling. Lexi's play, which unfolds throughout nearly the entire length of the episode and is intercut with Lexi's memories and reenactment taking place on the East Highland auditorium stage, is one of the most innovative things Euphoria has done to date. Although it's unclear how a high school auditorium could ever have the facilities to execute her Tony-worthy stage show, the way it unfolds is a testament to the series' nuanced approach to storytelling.
In Episode 3, "Ruminations: Big and Little Bullys," Euphoria finally gives us its first Lexi episode, and in it we learn just how much she thinks that her peers see her as a cliché—the other Howard sister who gets good grades and keeps her head down—and how much she derides it. But while her older sister Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) has tried to cope with their absent father by finding affection elsewhere and climbing the social ladder at school, Lexi retreated inward, imagining a world where she's in the director's chair and the main character. So when Fezco (Angus Cloud) notices her at the New Year's Eve party in the season premiere—like, really noticed her, theater kid energy and hyperpop-loving quirks and all—she felt seen in a way that she hadn't before. With a newfound confidence and a realization that she no longer had to tolerate being cast as an extra in her own life, she set out to write her play.
Lexi first tells her friends and sister that she's putting on Oklahoma! so that they don't suspect she's writing a show based on their lives. Because they rarely pay attention to her at all, there was no way that they would put much energy in the material that she was writing, casting, and practicing. So when the curtain finally rises in "The Theater and Its Double," it comes as a surprise to Cassie, Kat, Maddy, and co. Rather than seeing hay bales on stage, it's a recreation of Rue's bedroom. Beginning with the moment Lexi felt her adolescence start to change—when she realized Rue had developed substance abuse following her father's death—her play chronicles her high school experience, and therefore everybody who's close to it, too.
Lexi narrates the production as Grace and introduces Hallie, Marta, Luna, and Jade—all dead ringers for Cassie, Maddy, Kat, and Rue. The audience watches with trepidation (besides Lexi's mom, who gives big Amy Poehler in Mean Girls energy), until Maddy says aloud, "Wait, is this fucking play about us?" The past several years of their lives are then replayed back to them to astounding detail, from "Grace's" insecurity that developed when "Hallie" went through puberty, their father's sudden absence, to the moment Maddy moved in with them and their first loves. At times the episode can be confusing, given how it cuts between reenactments and reality, even the events that took place right before showtime. But that's what makes it so striking—for the characters in the audience, it's just as dizzying, as they're seeing their lives entirely intertwined with what's on stage.
While Euphoria arguably failed characters like Cassie and Kat this season with degrading arcs or stories that felt unfinished, it thankfully allowed Lexi to get the round of applause she's deserved. Not only do we get to see her in the director's chair that she's envisioned for herself—her inner-theater-kid out in full force—her wallflower-like perceptiveness has created something that's meant to force her sister and peers to both examine how toxic they've become and remember the how romantic their young lives used to be.
"I feel like I've lived most of my life in my imagination, taking the smallest moments and dreaming them up into something bigger," Lexi narrates at one point. "A little exchange and I fall in love, a moment to myself and I'm on stage, but reality always finds a way of pulling me back." We can only begin to imagine the inevitable dramatic fallout from her play that will pull her back to reality, as she really should have at least given her peers and sister a heads up before curtain call. But right now, we can give her a standing ovation for what she dreamed up. It's as beautiful and daring as Euphoria itself intends to be.