Jun. 16, 2019
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Seasons and episodes

1Season 1 Jun. 16, 2019



Zendaya isRue Bennett
Rue Bennett
Hunter Schafer isJules Vaughn
Jules Vaughn
Sydney Sweeney isCassie Howard
Cassie Howard
Alexa Demie isMaddy Perez
Maddy Perez
Barbie Ferreira isKat Hernandez
Kat Hernandez
Maude Apatow isLexi Howard
Lexi Howard
Storm Reid isGia Bennett
Gia Bennett

Video trailer


A group of high school students navigate love and friendships in a world of drugs, sex, trauma, and social media.

Gossip being fundamental to both, intrigue has swirled in the past couple months around alleged behind-the-scenes drama, with much of the frustration for the season’s shortcomings directed at Levinson, the creator whom fans love to hate. Videos tagged #SamLevinson have been viewed nearly 40m times on TikTok, according to the New York Times – nearly unheard of for an off-screen writer/director, and an unusual way to view a television show, which is usually the result of collaborative creative entropy. (Euphoria, unusually for a show of its size, has no writers’ room.)

Dickens it is not, but Euphoria does have the evergreen appeal of the unrealistic teen soap, operating in the lane of the original Gossip Girl, Degrassi, Skins, Home and Away, One Tree Hill and The OC – shows depicting high schoolers played by hot twentysomething actors on an inherently ridiculous merry-go-round of drama. Euphoria shares many of the same tropes – a blonde v brunette love triangle, absent parents, etc – dressed up with enough expensive cinematography, fine acting, HBO budget and Dare-invoking material to merit serious critical discussion (and recaps on TikTok).

Though it is HBO’s youngest-skewing show, Euphoria is best understood as a millennial’s revisionist fantasy of their own proto-social media high school days, if the current digital hellscape was our teenage playground. (Levinson, the creator who wrote and directed every episode this season, is 37.) As Delia Cai recently argued in Vanity Fair, Euphoria inflames the millennial generation’s already intense fascination with high school, particularly as a framework for articulating life online – what else is Twitter if not a more exposed and cutthroat high-school cafeteria?

Sam Levinson and Zendaya. Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for HBO
Rumors have circulated for months – on both anonymous gossip accounts such as Deuxmoi, AKA the Gossip Girl of the real world, and mainstream outlets – that tension between Levinson and Barbie Ferreira led to the reduction of fan-favorite Kat, the only plus-sized main character. There’s also the inexplicable and confusing absence of Algee Smith’s Christopher McKay, the show’s only black male teen, who appeared for only a brief scene in the first episode despite being a significant focus (and victim of traumatic, lavishly filmed fraternity hazing) in the first season.

Interviews with numerous cast members, from Sweeney to guest actor Minka Kelly to Javon Walton, who plays Ashtray, have pointed to both the dominance of Levinson’s vision, his instincts for gratuity and the ad hoc fluidity of his process. Kelly and Sweeney said Levinson took their requests to not appear topless in scenes he scripted as such, igniting another round of controversy; some have pointed out (fairly, I would say) that Sweeney’s Cassie is still, more than any other character, frequently naked on the show, and that an actor having to push back repeatedly on nudity in a show about teenagers is … weird. It does not lessen Sweeney’s agency as an actor, and a season MVP at that, to note that several scenes featuring Cassie in distress – in an underboob bikini while housing a bottle of champagne, strutting in slo-mo down the aisle of Lexi’s play, in bed with a very toxic Nate (Jacob Elordi) – hinge on a fascination with, if not exploitation of, her body.

The specter of Levinson’s marionette strings, the aura of the auteur, does color one’s view of the show – I would be more willing to forgive its mess, its instinct for nudity and its fixation with Rue and Cassie’s suffering if I knew it was the result of some bonkers writing room, not the brain of one person. It is easy to conflate Euphoria with Levinson, to put intense feelings with the former on to the latter, and for said frustration to loop back into its own online joke. As Vulture writer Iana Murray put it in a recent recap, Levinson’s “writing or his provocations” are “not only a frequent target of criticism but a bona fide meme at this point”.

Hate-watching, spectacle rubbernecking, chaos enjoyment is not unique to Euphoria (see: The Morning Show season two), but the second season has achieved an almost high art of ambivalence, a spectacle in which intensity of style (and provocation) begets intensity of reaction. Or, in the words of one TikTok commenter: “I am so aggravated by this show and I will watch absolutely every episode.”

Maybe Euphoria’s third season, which will probably not air until the unfathomable year of 2024, will course correct, put some guardrails on the chaos, or hire more writers. To quote the new Euphoria song by Zendaya and Labrinth, I’m Tired. Or maybe not – the second season’s shock and shimmer may have generated as many angry tweets as awed ones, but online talk is not cheap. And teen nostalgia knows that feeling anything, everything, is better than nothing at all.

Original title Euphoria
TMDb Rating 8.365 8,883 votes
First air date Jun. 16, 2019
Last air date Feb. 27, 2022
Seasons 2
Episodes 16
Average Duration 60 minutes

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