The Second 'Euphoria' Special Episode Lets Us See Through Jules' Eyes
Hunter Schafer writes and stars in this arresting hour.
The first special episode of HBO's Euphoria, which dropped before the new year, opened with a dream sequence, one that was easy to assume it belonged to Zendaya's Rue. After all, the hour was focused on the series' protagonist having a deep conversation with her sponsor Ali (Colman Domingo). But, in the second of these two stand-alone specials, it's revealed that those were not Rue's nightmares at all. Rather, they were Jules', who imagines a blissful life in New York with Rue that is upended when she finds Rue, locked in the bathroom, having overdosed.
"Fuck Anyone Who's Not a Sea Blob" is a showcase for Hunter Schafer, who both stars in and co-wrote the episode with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson. It's somehow both more intimate and broader than what came before it, offering backstory for the character that wasn't provided in the first season of the series. It also ends on a note of quasi reconciliation, wherein Rue shows up at Jules' house and Jules offers an apology, which Rue doesn't quite reject, but doesn't accept either.
Whereas the meditation on addiction and race between Rue and Ali in "Trouble Don't Last Always" felt like an isolated exercise in writing for Levinson and acting for Zendaya and Domingo, Jules' narrative also neatly sets up what's to come in the second season, which has yet to start shooting because of pandemic delays. Jules is back home after running away, she's grounded and in therapy, while Rue is continuing her path to recovery, seeing Ali regularly over the holiday break. The anger Rue had for Jules' betrayal is not there, only sadness and a gap between them that previously didn't exist.
In part thanks to Schafer's magnetic screen work, the presence of Jules in Euphoria is one of the elements that elevated it beyond being just Riverdale with more nudity and fewer goofy names. She starts the show as the mysterious new girl, slashing her arm at a party in an effort to intimate the bullying Nate (Jacob Elordi), who then ends up catfishing and blackmailing her. For much of the first season, Jules is defined through the eyes of Rue, the omniscient narrator, who ends up falling madly in love with her.
"Fuck Anyone Who's Not a Sea Blob" takes away the sheen of Rue's viewpoint and delves deeper into the conversations around Jules' gender and sexual identity that were first articulated in the episode "The Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed," which finds Jules visiting one of her old friends. Back home after leaving Rue stranded at the train station, Jules speaks to a therapist (Lauren Weedman), who calmly listens as Jules ponders whether she should stop taking her hormones and discusses her relationship to femininity and other women. It's an examination of trans-ness that feels radically honest for a mainstream television show and, without question, the result of Schafer's contributions to the teleplay. Where "Trouble Don't Last Always" came off as theatrical in nature almost like a play staged for the screen, "Fuck Anyone Who's Not a Sea Blog," is more raw and hallucinatory.
At the same time, it also makes an effort to fill in some of the blanks in Jules' psyche. It digs into the love she felt for "ShyGuy118," Nate's avatar which he used to seduce her before threatening her. It draws connective tissue between Jules' retreat from Rue and her relationship with her addict mother. The night of the Halloween party where Jules gets wasted as Rue tries to remain sober was the same night Jules found out her mother was using again. By the time Rue appears, soaking wet, in her room, Jules is a more complete character than she ever was in Euphoria's initial run. Both Schafer's performance and her authorial voice are now more integral to the success of the series than ever before. We're seeing through Jules' eyes now, and it should stay that way.
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