Directed by show creator Sam Levinson, the season 2 premiere, “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door,” transports viewers into another night of Euphoria. That title does more than reference the show’s heavy inclusion of sex, drugs, and more sex and drugs, it’s a nod to its most central theme — that feeling of euphoria is a treasure sought out by most everyone in the series.
Rue (Zendaya), Jules (Hunter Schafer), and all of their peers are searching for what helps then achieve that euphoric, elated feeling that we all desire. Seeing as how this is an HBO series, that search for true happiness means Rue and co. have a noticeable amount of violent and/or dark scenes in their journey.
Watching the events of Euphoria transpire, it’s clear to see why so many characters search for that feeling of true happiness. That “two seconds of nothingness,” as Rue puts it. Flashbacks, our only connection to the concept of time in this show, don’t help much either.
Influential moments of the past, or defining points in time throughout the series, these flashbacks often serve to give us a glimpse into the mind of a character and their actions. This week, our subject is none other than Fezco (Angus Cloud) himself, Rue’s supplier/protective older brother type has been a mystery ever since he debuted in season 1. Almost nothing has been known about his past, including why he dropped out of school or how exactly he ended up dealing drugs to aid his ill grandmother (Kathrine Narducci).
The season 2 premiere of Euphoria changes that, if ever so slightly. While much of Fezco’s past remains a mystery, the opening scene of the episode shows us his rather bloody origin story. It also gives us the first of many, many male genitalia shots in the episode.
These schlong shots are an expected, albeit shocking aspect of the Euphoria experience. The series has never been one to shy away from graphic scenes depicting nudity, sex, violence, and of course, a lot of drugs. As always, if any of that content is triggering to you or someone you know, it might be best to skip this show entirely. A sentiment that even much of the main cast and crew share, Euphoria is not for the faint of heart. That much is obvious when Fez’s badass grandma takes him to live with her right after she shoots his abusive father scarily close to the nether regions.
As you might expect, Fez’s upbringing wasn’t exactly typical. Rushed in to his grandmother’s fast-paced lifestyle, Fez is forced to grow up quickly, and is given a rather twisted view of “problem solving.” But Fez, for all he does, isn’t a villain. He’s not Nate Jacobs.
It’s ironic, then, that Fez and his brother Ashtray give us our first casualty of the second season. The last time we saw the duo, they were in the middle of a stressful deal with Mouse, their scary dealer from season 1. A continuation of that scene sees Ashtray manage to nail the quick-time event and catch him off guard with a strike from his mighty hammer; it’s so long Mouse.
After an apology to Mouse’s supplier, Fez and Ashtray take Rue to a party. Who’s party? I’m not sure, but that really doesn’t matter. It’s New Years and these teens are ready to make some resolutions. The party scene is a staple of Euphoria. Plot lines are connected and characters interact in unexpected (or completely expected) ways. Like the parties of the past, this one is already happening once we arrive. People are mingling, plots are merging, and Levinson does an expert job of making this NYE get-together feel lived-in and busy. You would think that no time has passed in real life, let alone nearly three years, since we last saw Rue, Jules and the whole euphoric gang.
Oh, and don’t think the ep has completely forgotten about Fez. As he sits on the couch, sparking a surprising connection with Lexi (Rue’s best friend since pre-school), we’re reintroduced to several other main players. But make no mistake, this entire episode is about Fez. Rather, it’s about his personal struggle with doing the right thing.
No doubt doing the “right thing” has gotten him in trouble a lot of times during his life. His instinct to stop his grandmother from beating a man to death attributed to his shaky perception of right and wrong. It’s in this moral dilemma that lies the true nature of Fez and his peers, all of whom are given the chance to do the right thing. Or, at the very least, determine what that means.
Some step up to the plate, like Rue. Having not seen Jules since they parted ways in that emotional train station scene, Rue is forced to decide what Jules means to her. Going from best friends, to girlfriends, to not even friends is a tough journey — one I’m sure several of us have gone on. The loss of a relationship, in any capacity, can feel like a bullet straight to the heart. A crushing blow that can’t be healed in any traditional sense.
Though she might have found temporary salvation in newcomer Elliot (Dominic Fike), her ship is quickly sunk when Jules approaches her at a bonfire. At first, Rue shrugs it off and speaks mainly through the pent up anger she has towards Jules; specifically blaming her for causing Rue’s relapse when they separated. Quickly understanding the pressure that puts on Jules, however, she apologizes. She does the right thing, and begins to try and mend two broken hearts.
Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi), on the other hand, has been a character you just can’t help but hate. He doesn’t particularly make it hard, given his constant manipulation and at-times straight up abuse of other characters on the show. The product of a shady and forceful father, Nate has become a near-spitting image of his old man, and not in a good way. Nate is actually given several moments to do the right thing in this episode, and as expected, he squanders every one of them.
Offering to take Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), his ex’s best friend, to the party because she’s stuck without a ride is one thing. Getting “TV-MA” at the same party your ex is at is the wrong thing.
When Maddie (Alexa Demie) nearly catches them in the act, Nate is presented with another moral dilemma. Tell your on/off again girlfriend about your acts of adultery, or ask Cassie to hide in a bathtub for a ridiculous amount of time? After he chooses door number 2, Nate proceeds to walk around the party with no plans to cease being an absolute menace. He parades around the scene, catching dirty looks from Rue and Fez, and reminding us that even McKay (Algee Smith), his once trusted right-hand, isn’t completely on his side anymore.
But this isn’t an “I Hate Nate Jacobs” coffee mug, this a recap of Euphoria. So let’s get to the final scene, when Fez beats up Nate Jacobs.
A scene we all saw coming, and hoped for with just a tiny bit of shame, Nate reminds him that the last time they spoke, Fez promised to kill him — yikes. While Nate does leave the party bloodied and bruised, it’s unclear if Fez kept that promise. But this scene ultimately serves as the answer to Fez’s inner moral dilemma.
Let’s not forget why Nate was in Fez’s crosshairs in the first place. Not only was he always causing trouble for Rue and Jules, but he also manages to get Fez’s home (and place of business) raided. Mirroring the earlier scene with his grandmother, Fed decides the only way to right this wrong is with violence, one of the only things he’s known to work pretty much his whole life.
This scene, graphic as it is, is really the heart of the entire episode. It’s ironic that just before this scene is an absolutely euphoric (pun intended) scene between Rue and Jules. Their moment of peace is immediately followed by a moment of war, stripping us from that feeling of comfort with just as much expertise as every other episode.
The season 2 premiere of Euphoria starts off strong, and concludes with promises of even more drama and trauma in the future. Director Sam Levinson and composers Labrinth and Gustave Rambali have once again created a trippy, dreamlike experience that I can’t wait to explore further. You can stream “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door” on HBO Max right now, with new episodes dropping every Sunday night.