HBO’s acclaimed drama Euphoria was supposed to begin shooting its second season in the spring of 2020. Production for this Sam Levinson show was paused due to the global pandemic. In lieu of a new series of episodes, Levinson and the shows two stars, Zendaya and Hunter Schafer, collaboratively created stand-alone episodes for their respective characters, Rue and Jules. The episodes serve as narrative cartilage between Season 1 and forthcoming Season 2, capturing the whereabouts of these characters during the holiday season. Rue’s episode aired in early December 2020; Jules’ debuted this past weekend on HBO and HBO Max.
The episode entitled “Euphoria Part 2: Jules,” “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob” meditates heavily on Jules’ relationship to gender performance, legacies of trauma and codependence. In a quintessentially Euphoria opening scene, the audience is shown a close-up of Jules’ face. While she looks at images and memories of her relationship with Rue, the audience watches the memories on the reflection of Jules’ blue eyes as Lorde’s “Liability” plays. Visually it’s a useful warm-up for the audience who is literally and metaphorically being told that they’re about to see things from Jules’ perspective.
Here are four significant takeaways from the episode, which Schafer co-wrote with Levinson:
“Euphoria Part 2: Jules” captures Jules’ conversation in her first session with her therapist (Laura Weedman). The therapy session is the launching pad for the subsequent sequences and recounted flashbacks that occur in the episode. Jules beams when talking about her love for Rue? Cue shot of Rue waking up sleepily, dreamily and so on. Further, Jules’ apprehension to speak openly with a therapist about running away and recurring nightmares fades as the episode progresses. That increased, willing vulnerability is especially resonant considering Jules’ history of not being affirmed or fully seen by mental health specialists she has forcibly or otherwise interacted with. While there is no assurance that Jules will continue seeing her therapist once their session comes to a close in the episode’s nearly 50 minute run-time, it’s likely that Jules’ introspection and gesture towards increased self-reflection will shape her second semester at East Highland High School and help her navigate her future with Rue.
During her therapy session, Jules reveals that she is considering detransitioning. Detransitioning is a process when a trans person chooses to temporarily or permanently reverse their gender transition or identification. Jules shares that her gender identity and feelings of gender affinity have long evolved around “conquering femininity” and being perceived as desirable within the traditional male gaze. She goes on to share that she now paradoxically feels “conquered” by femininity; and despite being able to legibly embody femininity, Jules feels that there is the amalgam of material flourishes and accompanying physically affirmational decisions that no longer adequately, or fully encapsulate what it means for Jules to be Jules. This internal dynamic which the audience is generously given a glimpse at, reinforces the fact that a person’s relationship to their gender identity isn’t terminal; Jules is negotiating between social conditioning, social performance and self, which understandably affects her relationship to her own transness. Detransitioning as a topic is not commonly captured in popular culture. So even if that is something Jules’ decides she doesn’t want to embark upon, seeing her discuss it with her therapist was revelatory. Jules’ relationship to her gender identity also offers some context for the depth of love Jules has for Rue.
Jules shares that inside of her own gender experience she understands how to entice men with her femininity. She is fluent in the gaze and how that gaze results in her being gawked at by men and also intermittently judged by ciswomen. Therefore, what Jules finds especially astounding about Rue is the way Rue helps Jules feel deeply “seen.” Not gazed or gawked at but, known and seen. This profession is complicated by a series of flashbacks and intercuts to Season 1’s Halloween episode. Through these sequences we learn more about Jules’ mother who, like Rue, is a recovering addict. With her therapist, Jules delves deeper into the link between her and her mother’s former codependency and the way she also dualistically feels responsible for Rue’s maintained sobriety and lucky to be graced by the authenticity of Rue’s love. With the guidance of her therapist, Jules and the audience confront the parallels between Jules’ relationship to her mother and to Rue in real time. This level of context complicates the health of Jules and Rue’s romance prompting the questions: Is Jules partially attracted to Rue because Rue presents a familiar traumatic bond Jules experienced in her childhood, but one that Jules, this time around, feels that she can genuinely remedy? Is her relationship with Rue real love or a healing fantasy come true?
Jules names that she sometimes feels closer to people she messages with online than people she knows and loves in real life. Implicit within this feeling is an understanding that what Jules sometimes is drawn to is the orchestration of intimacy rather than intimacy itself. This is relayed in an intense sequence in which Jules shares that sexting is the best sex she has ever had. While discussing that dynamic with her therapist, the audience sees a recurring nightmare in which Jules and her anonymous IM partner~ Nate (Jacob Elordi) have sex in her and Rue’s fantasy NYC apartment while Rue, distraught and starved for affirmation, overdoses in the bathroom.
“Euphoria Part 2: Jules” is certainly more dynamic, harrowing than the lulling stasis of Rue’s episode in which she and her sponsor Ali (Colman Domingo) talk, My Dinner with Andre-style, for the majority of the episode. But perhaps that is because Jules is being forthcoming about her emotional landscape while Rue, mid-high, is coaxed into talking. These corresponding but distinct Christmastime ruminations are likely to spur a new arc in their relationship and central romantic dynamic in Season 2.
Production on forthcoming Euphoria episodes are expected to begin in late spring.
Adesola Thomas is a screenwriter and culture writer. She loves talking about Annette Benning’s performance in 20th Century Women and making lasagna.
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