Opinion: “Euphoria” TV show, student reactions

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HBO Max’s hit TV show “Euphoria”.

Heidi Hanson, features reporter

The season two finale of HBO Max’s hit TV show “Euphoria” aired in late February of 2022, bringing eight weeks of chaotic “Euphoria Sundays”, as they were quickly labeled on social media, to an end until 2024. Starring Zendaya, Eric Dane and Sydney Sweeney, “Euphoria” touches on a variety of raw topics including substance abuse, relationship abuse, identity and sexuality, among others.

The show received major attention throughout the streaming of season two; rather than releasing the entire second season, HBO Max released the season episode by episode, each Sunday. This kept people coming back to watch every week, maintaining audience engagement and excitement about the show.

“Euphoria” follows a group of high school students as they make their way throughout their junior/ senior years (actually, there’s quite a lot of confusion on the grades of each character, but they are in high school nonetheless). One thing to think about before beginning “Euphoria”, if you haven’t yet, is that it is aimed at a mature audience. I would not recommend watching it as a family-friendly option, but to each their own.

Viewer opinions on “Euphoria” range widely. Because of the often difficult and mature subject matter, there’s bound to be discrepancies between characters, their decisions and plot lines. Winona State University students are among those who have such opinions.

“I think that Euphoria touches on tough topics, which makes it hard to watch at some points,” a Winona State Student, who wished to remain unnamed, said. “But it is still important to see the realities of drug use, assault, etcetera.”

According to many online reviews, these central topics are covered much more effectively in season one than in season two. Many believe that season one of “Euphoria” does not show the true harrowing experiences that issues such as substance abuse can cause. This also goes hand-in-hand with some of the opinions regarding the characters’ ages.

“I find some issues with Euphoria because it’s very difficult to picture high school students going through these issues. I think it would be more realistic with college students,” another Winona State student, also wishing to remain anonymous, said.

Emmy winner Zendaya plays main character Rue, a 17-year-old girl who struggles with drug addiction; this greatly impacts Rue’s mother and younger sister, which is the foundation of some of the most difficult scenes to watch in the show. Zendaya does an excellent job in portraying an extremely distressed teenager.

The main conflict scenes with Rue and her mother in both seasons are, said by Zendaya, mostly improvisation, which makes the harrowing and gut-wrenching scream-offs even more impressive. Zendaya won an Emmy in 2020 for her performance in season one as a lead actress.

An important episode in particular was the fifth episode of season two, which has proven to be a fan favorite. It primarily focuses on Zendaya’s character, Rue, and her escape from police, a drug dealer and multiple neighbors. Episode five is arguably one of the most engaging episodes, as it kept watchers on the edges of their seats, with probably some screaming at whatever screen they were watching on.

“The best acting performance from the entire show was definitely episode five of season two,” another student said, “Zendaya’s acting excelled that episode.”

Overall, this is a very brief recap of “Euphoria”; each character could have their own long and winding analysis with the amount of characterization present in each episode and each season. Of course, with any show, some episodes stand out more than others. However, on an entertainment level, “Euphoria” is an immensely engaging, emotional, entertaining and sometimes hilarious series.

With each episode, “Euphoria” covers a plethora of topics: some relatable, some eye opening. I believe anyone would benefit from watching the show, for not only the purpose of entertainment but also to start conversations about topics such as drug abuse, gender and sexuality identities, relationships, family dynamics and more.

“Euphoria” creator, Sam Levinson, does make some questionable decisions in terms of characters (cough cough, Kat, played by Barbie Ferreira) but the incredible acting on many accounts along with some breathtaking cinematography leads the show to be a borderline overwhelming, yet emotional and exceptional watching experience.