Both HBO’s Euphoria and NBA star Klay Thompson made their long-awaited returns Sunday night after we hadn’t seen either of them in regular form since the summer of 2019.
In Euphoria‘s case, it did air a pair of “special episodes,” filmed under quarantine conditions, that aired early in 2021, but Sunday night featured the actual second season premiere, which was delayed significantly by the pandemic.
Euphoria, created by Sam Levinson and adapted from an Israeli show, was a big sensation that first, long-ago summer. It arrived as part of a tradition of “shocking” shows about teens doing wild things, especially sex and drug behavior, but it brought the Kids ethos in the 2020s, with a racially diverse cast, a trans character played by a trans actress, and the type of sexual stuff that didn’t typically make it into such shows in past decades. The film also featured a kinetic, wild visual style that often got tiresome in that first season.
While the show featured a strong cast of young performers — including some, like Sydney Sweeney, have since gone on to other prominent roles — at the center of it was emerging superstar Zendaya, as lead character Rue. Her best moments came in that special episode a year ago, a two-hander featuring the character at a table with her AA sponsor (Colman Domingo.)
While the two specials, especially the first one, got very much away from both the structure and visual style that was prevalent in the first season, the Season 2 premiere, titled “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door,” got back to what the show looked and felt like in Season 1.
Most of the episode begins with a flashback detailing a character’s backstory. But the bulk of the episode is based on a long party, told mostly in real-time, in a way that recalls the best episode of Season 1, the one set at a carnival. There is sex, nudity, drug use, and most of the other “shocking” stuff we saw last year. The full-frontal male nudity isn’t as plentiful as last year’s famous scene, but it’s much more violent and horrific.
The premiere begins with a look into the backstory of Fezco (Angus Cloud), the drug dealer. It turns out he was initiated into the criminal life at an early age by his grandmother (Katherine Narducci, best known as Charmaine Bucco from The Sopranos), who is introduced by wondering into a strip club and literally shooting a man in the dick.
That’s the beginning of a mini-Scorsese movie that details the family’s drug operation, and how Fezco became the person he is.
After returning to the present day, we see Fezco and his brother driving with Rue to a drug deal in which, borrowing a page from New Jack City, everyone is asked to strip naked to prove they’re not wearing a wire or stealing drugs.
Then it’s on to New Year’s Eve, in what appears to be a week after the special episodes, which were set on Christmas. Cassie (Sweeney) has a tryst with boring sociopath Nate (Jacob Elordi), leading to a long, tense sequence in which Cassie has to hide out in a bathtub for a long stretch, in order to not arouse suspicious from her best friend Maddie.
Elsewhere in the house, Rue does drugs and appears to overdose, but eventually recovers, and we finally get her reunion with former love Jules (Hunter Schaefer), ending with a new year’s kiss. The episode ends with Fez making like his grandmother, and beating Nate over the head first with a bottle and later his fists. There’s also a bit more of Lexi (Maude Apatow), Cassie’s sister, and a character who was something of an afterthought in Season 1.
For better or worse, it’s the Euphoria we all remember- that is if we do remember since the first season aired so long ago. But the way the plot was set up in the premiere indicates that intriguing things are still to come.