What Happened Last Night on Euphoria? Here’s Our Recap of Season 2 Episode 7
Let’s quickly set the stage for Euphoria episode 7, the first of what appears to be a two-part season finale framed through Lexi’s school play. (If there was any doubt the series could be more artsy fartsy than interpretive dance and didactic dick-pick fourth wall breaks, we give you: a work of semi-autobiographical fiction using unreliable narration to frame a play which is itself autofiction based on the experiences of a fictional character in said general work of narrational semi-autobiographical fiction. But we’ll get to all that.)
The last two episodes featured a series of breakups that will contextualize all the hormonal energy going into the school performance—one which seems to have a higher production budget than real television shows. (Just California public school things, we suppose.) Rue told Jules she never wants to see her again—after she and Elliot told Rue’s mom about her drug use. Maddy learned that Cassie was hooking up with Nate and told her their friendship is over. Kat broke up with Ethan. And then Nate seemed to formally break up with Maddy, choosing Cassie instead.
All those parties are in the audience for Lexi’s play, which chronicles her own strained relationships with Rue, Cassie, her mother, and Maddy since freshman year. The play seems to have the effect of catharsis on each of them, as they watch a character version of themselves reenact their own life choices. The device of using fiction within fiction—writer and director Sam Levinson’s use of a play within a show—seems to be saying something about art’s potential for healing. Throughout the production, Rue, Cassie, Maddy, and Nate all seem to learn uncomfortable truths about themselves, and we see them visibly regretting (or, in the case of Maddy, validating) many of their decisions—Rue keeps looking over at Jules, Cassie sits uncomfortably next to an even more uncomfortable Nate, and Maddy seems ready to finally move on from all this toxicity.
Perhaps this was the effect on Levinson himself after writing and directing Euphoria, a series based slightly on his own struggles with substance abuse. He once labeled the series “emotional realism,” meaning that even if the show is stylized and not literally true, it embodies real emotions, and so feels true.
Lexi’s play is no doubt closer to her world than Euphoria is to Levinson’s lived experience. Still, the play’s effect on the audience is similar to Euphoria’s effect on us. At least, we think that’s the idea of the device.
Anyway, enough literary criticism, here’s what went down in the fiction within the fiction.
The Play Begins
The play begins at the Rue household, at the wake for Rue’s father. (Though it’s a theatrical production, Levinson will film many of these scenes as if they are part of the show; however, the techniques he uses to film these moments feels distinct from the series’ normal cinematography. The opening shot, for instance, features a title screen fade and camera pan reminiscent of more classic cinema. We’re not really sure what’s going on here, but there it is.)
Lexi reads Rue a poem in her bedroom as she reflects on how the two of them will soon grow apart. At this moment, we’re made aware of the school audience, themselves now made aware that they are watching a play about them. Lexi then introduces the cast, which includes stand-ins for Lexi, Cassie, Maddy, Kat, and Rue. Each one of them look on uncomfortably from a mostly unresponsive audience.
We then get a narration from Rue, signaling that we’ve returned to her storytelling, and so are back in the world of the show—and not the world of Lexi’s play reflecting on the world of the show. Rue tells us that Lexi and Fez have been texting daily, and we learn that Fez will be attending the performance.
The Fez storyline continues during the course of the play, from which we continually see an empty seat in the audience. Fez is shown getting ready for the play several times throughout the episode. As he dresses, Custer comes over and puts his cellphone on the table, seeming to record. He and Faye exchange knowing looks. Ashtray eventually realizes something is wrong and takes a boxcutter and goes to sit in front of Custer. (Last episode we learned that Custer is now a criminal informant for the police, who are investigating Mouse’s death.)
Fez, ultimately, never comes to the school for Lexi’s play—at least for the first half. But we don’t learn why.
The Play Picks Up
As the play continues, the audience seems to be responding more positively. Lexi takes the audience through her prepubescent years, expressing her jealousy at the time for Cassie’s own pubescent changes. On stage we often see Cassie and her own actorly double switch places, usually before a mirror shot or other visual stitches. The motif will continue throughout the production.
We see Lexi and Rue on a roof before freshman year, during which time Lexi reflects on a friendship she now believes is changed forever. Rue watches the scene wistfully.
We also see memories of Cassie and Lexi’s father, who at one point drives the two of them while he is drunk. He also dances with the family, a scene that both Cassie and her mother watch while smiling. (Interestingly, Ethan plays both Cassie’s father and Nate in the play.)
Rue’s narration then comes in again to update us on her and Jules. She says she hasn’t talked to her since the intervention, even though she still sees her in school. Both of them are awkward, though neither seems angry with one another. In the bathroom in between class, Jules seems like she’s about to cry.
We then see Rue sitting with her mother who tells Rue that she’s given up; if Rue wants to do drugs and die, she’s no longer going to exert energy to stop her. Rue thinks this is funny but is ultimately hurt by her mother’s defeatism. Her mother explains how Gia is doing poorly in school, and if she must choose between losing one daughter or two, she’s going to focus on Gia. Rue says she understands and concedes that as she approaches 18, she will have to look after herself.
Meanwhile in the play, Maddy’s character takes center stage. Lexi explains how she never trusted Maddy, who always seemed overly self-confident. We then learn, however, that Maddy came to stay with Cassie and Lexi after there was having trouble at home, and Lexi realized Maddy wasn’t as confident as she had thought. One night she slept in Cassie’s bed and began crying.
We then cut to Cassie’s bathroom (these scenes are not in the play) after Rue tells the group about Cassie and Nate. Maddy bangs on the door crying and saying how Cassie has ruined their friendship. Later in the episode, we see Maddy and the mother who she baby sits for having a conversation about moving on. Maddy says she’s about to do something that will “break his heart.” When asked if she really wants to stay in town, she says “no.” (Perhaps Maddy is about to leave Nate for good and go to college out of state. We don’t learn about this yet.)
At the play, Cassie leaves and goes to the bathroom crying. She reflects on her time with Nate, who she has committed to entirely, despite outside judgements. Meanwhile, Nate is doing his own reflection, as he watches himself as Ethan on stage. He thinks of Cassie as Jules, seeing himself as his father abusing Jules like he did in the tape. (We later see Jules burning the tape.) The memory turns out to be a dream, and Nate awakes next to Cassie, during a moment that preceded the play.
The Play Crescendos
In the final scene before intermission, Ethan and a group of boys dressed as the football players have overtly homosexual dialogue before breaking into a dance number. The moment in the play gets the biggest reception from the crowd who begin screaming. Nate sits uncomfortably as the crowd laughs. Maddy, who we see in another memory unwrap a gift from her babysitting—the dress she has been trying on in secret and something like the representation of her moving on from high school and Nate—seems to be enjoying the gay football scene the most.
Nate is obviously enjoying it the least, and during one moment he gets up and storms off. Maddy follows him, saying she didn’t know Lexi would write that scene. Nate breaks up with Cassie. An infuriated Cassie reenters the auditorium ready to start some shit.
The episode ends. To be continued next week.
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