Arts and Entertainment

Euphoria’s First Special Bridge Episode: Stripped Down and Emotional

Contrasting the structural style of the first season, Levinson creates a special episode of “Euphoria” that faces the realities of substance abuse at a far deeper level.

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By Julia Shen

More than a year after its debut on HBO, the hype around “Euphoria” hasn’t died down. In fact, the show’s been accruing more avid viewers since the early months of quarantine. Many teenagers resonate with the show’s willingness to depict the grittier aspects of adolescence, such as drug addiction and toxic relationships, and relate to its complex characters. It’s been more than a year since viewers last saw Rue (Zendaya) trying to navigate her way through life while battling mental illness and addiction. At the end of season one, she plans to run away with her best friend Jules (Hunter Schafer), who she happens to be in love with. Just before they leave, however, Rue panics, not wanting to disappoint her family. Jules leaves town without her, causing Rue to relapse in the season finale.

Since then, a lot has happened, and I don’t mean in the show; I mean in the world. The highly anticipated second season of “Euphoria” was set to start filming in early March. Production, however, was pushed back a week before it was scheduled to begin due to the outbreak of COVID-19. For those early months, nothing could be filmed or released, but as COVID-19 guidelines loosened, producer Sam Levinson came up with an idea. To tide viewers over before the release of the second season, Levinson decided to release two special bridge episodes, the first titled “Trouble Don’t Always Last” and the second yet to be released.

The 50-minute episode opens on Rue, who’s gently waking a sleeping Jules. The pair live together in an apartment and seem to be in a relationship. Jules goes to fashion school, while Rue’s life and career are unclear. Rue seems content and stable, and her relationship with Jules seems to be flourishing similarly. This all seems a bit confusing, especially because the two characters did not leave each other on the best terms at the end of season one. It is quickly revealed, however, that Rue is imagining all of this, as the scene shifts to a diner.

At the diner, sitting across from Rue is Ali (Colman Domingo). Ali makes only a few appearances in season one after his and Rue’s initial meeting at Narcotics Anonymous. He often provides an outlet for Rue to air her grievances and attempts to offer her advice. Their conversation covers a variety of topics, including social injustice, Rue’s mental state, and her relationship with Jules. Ali’s advice is extremely impactful due to the fact that he is a recovering drug addict himself.

For the remainder of the episode, we never leave the diner setting. The whole episode consists of only two scenes, the majority of it taken up by the conversation between Rue and Ali. Fans of the show are likely accustomed to the highly dramatized plotlines of “Euphoria,” which unfold at breakneck speed. The structure of this episode, however, is drastically different than previous ones and left many viewers dissatisfied, calling it boring and too long. The episode solely focuses on Rue’s addiction and struggles, and though her storyline is vital to the show, there’s little plot development present to carry the viewer through the heavier themes discussed. Viewers also lamented the lack of focus on the show’s side characters, many of whom are fan favorites. Several of their stories were left off on a cliffhanger after season one, and fans were eager to see their plotlines followed up on. Without the draw of the many distinct and vibrant characters that the show normally bounces between, the bridge episode left many unfulfilled.

Considering that the production of these bridge episodes was very limited due to COVID-19 guidelines, some viewers may have had unrealistic expectations. The comparison of the bridge episode to season one of the series is somewhat of an unfair one and neglects the many unique merits of the bridge episode. The script is raw and includes one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire show so far. Rue opens up more than ever before and sees the reality of mental illness and drug abuse. She talks about how drugs distract her from thoughts surrounding self-harm. Rue even goes on to discuss how she portrays herself and her behavior toward other people in her head. The scene was displayed far more realistically than the previous ones. In season one, Rue’s hallucinatory drug trips are glamorized and dream-like, with the color purple and glitter plastered all over the screen. In contrast, this episode goes more in-depth about how her addiction truly affects her life and her relationships with her loved ones, including her mother. The stripped-down nature of this bridge episode is still meaningful and engaging, despite not following the standard structure of episodes from season one.

Levinson has gifted “Euphoria” fans a heartfelt episode, despite his lack of resources. We get to see Rue’s struggle with addiction in a completely different, and arguably more realistic, way. It serves as the perfect transition from Rue’s relapse in the first season to her storyline in the second.

The next episode, titled “[EXPLICIT] Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob,” is set to premiere on January 24 and will be from Jules’s perspective.