‘Euphoria’ Review: Zendaya’s Provocative Series Mixes Bleak Teen Drama with HBO’s Prestige Polish

Collider | 6/16/2019 | Haleigh Foutch
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From Romeo and Juliet to Rebel Without a Cause and The Outsiders to Larry Clarke, Harmony Korine, and Greg Araki’s Doom Generation: the kids have never been alright. Especially when they’re on a stage or screen. But Euphoria, HBO’s first foray into young adult programming, takes the terror and tragedy of coming-of-age drama to the next level with an unflinching dive into the icy, bleak darkness of being a teenager in 2019. With all the prestige polish of HBO’s cable legacy.

Created by Sam Levinson (Assassination Nation), who also directs multiple episodes with abundant visual panache, Euphoria stars former Disney sensation Zendaya as Rue, a teenage girl bent on drugs and self-destruction in her need to escape the oppressive sadness and anxiety that’s followed her throughout her life. Rue, we’re told, was born three days after 9/11, a Gen-Z stand-in who’s entire existence lives in the shadow of America’s great 21st-Century tragedy.

Rue - Summer - Rehab - Overdose - Cost

Rue spent the summer in rehab after an overdose, which almost cost her life and fractured her relationship with her little sister (Storm Reid), who discovered Rue in a pile of vomit and saved her life. Their fragile, slowly mending relationship provides some of the show’s best material, and while Zendaya is terrific throughout, she’s never better than when’s she’s playing a scene where Rue is with her family, or pondering the damage she’s done to them. Likewise, Euphoria mines a lot of potent drama from exploring addiction and the long, hard fight for recovery, though the show’s unflinching depictions of overdoses and the desperation of needing your next hit can be punishingly bleak.

The other series standout is Jules (Hunter Schafer), a trans girl who’s new in town and proves a kindred spirit, instant BFF, and possibly something more to Rue. Chronically attracted to older, repressed men, Jules gets tangled...
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