When I first started watching HBO’s Euphoria a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. All I had heard was that it was “amazing” and a “must watch.” It didn’t even take the entire pilot episode to get me hooked right away. So many aspects of this brilliant show by the mind of former drug addict Sam Levinson not only give one of the most realistic depictions of the modern teenager but a masterclass in storytelling.
The first thing you’ll notice while watching Euphoria is the dramatic visual storytelling. Director of Photography Marcell Rév makes bold statement after bold statement with each episode. Using colorful, chaotic, and meaningful shots allows the audience to be in the same room with the characters. Party scenes are a vivid collage of purples, pinks, and reds. Visually striking and adds to this alternate world. An intoxicating world that contrasts from the cold, real world these teenage characters live through on the other side. A world with darker blues to stale yellow tones.
Even the sober world shown in Euphoria is dynamic with the collection of dramatic shots. From extreme close-ups to dramatic angles to the countless movement of the camera as other stories are told outside of the lines of dialogue. A highly stylized world that allows you to view the world from these characters. You never find yourself bored from the cinematography that Rév & Levinson put on as the creativity never falters as the series progresses.
Where Euphoria truly shines is the brilliant storytelling that comes together from the writing and cinematography.
Most episodes start with a cold open that focuses on a specific character. From main characters, villains, to even side characters, these cold opens give you a deeper look into the upbringing, psyche, struggles, desires, and complexities of each character. There are characters you will hate, yet you find yourself sympathizing as you understand how they became the person they are within the show. Overall, the show itself does an amazing job of evoking empathy for these characters. (The YouTube channel, Wisecrack, does a great job at breaking down the use of empathy within Euphoria.) Never have I seen a show have so much development for secondary characters like Euphoria gives to its excellent cast.
In addition to the storytelling of these cold opens, Euphoria takes big swings at extremely complex and relatable themes and stories through its characters. Addiction, sex, interpersonal relationships, and the complexities of humans are all addressed within these characters.
Some of these stories are hard to watch, and that’s the point. These hard, yet real stories are meant to strike with viewers as we watch these characters overdose, relapse, abuse both physically and verbally, and struggle as a whole.
One of the toughest episodes comes in season two where you’re put on an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t want to stop for almost an hour. It was one of the toughest television watches I’ve had, yet I couldn’t look away. Euphoria drags you into the story and you can’t help yourself but come back every episode.
And all of this wouldn’t be what it is without the performances from Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi, and the endless amount of talent on the cast list. I wish I had enough time to really break down each character as you have standout after standout. A rarity for a show with such a large ensemble.
The duo of Zendaya and Schafer together is one of the most real relationships I’ve seen put on to screen. Two friends that go through tremendous ups and downs together in love, hurt, and friendship (as corny as that sounds). Performances that are amazingly real adds to what makes this show so addicting to watch.
On a side note, Austin Abrams’ character of Ethan is one of my favorites despite being a significantly minor character in the grand scheme of the show. While this show constantly propels some of the worst men you could meet, nice guy Ethan is a breath of fresh air in this world. As well, he maintains a realness to him as he suffers from these all-too-real relationships. Plus, Abrams’ is a blast to watch as part of the play in the final two episodes of season two.
If you have held out on watching Euphoria or gave up on it too early, I beg you to give the show a chance as it’s an experience that must be witnessed by any level of media goer. While the show will get raunchy, vulgar, and go to the extreme in nudity and sex (trust me, don’t have kids around or be in public when you watch this show), its stunning visuals, amazingly written characters, and masterful storytelling is going to put itself among some of the best shows ever put onto television.