HBO's critically-acclaimed series returns this January, adding plenty more fuel to the comically dark and heartbreaking high-school wildfire.
When 'Euphoria' season one wrapped in 2019, critics and fans were heralding the series as a raw, if somewhat ever-sexualised look at teenage life in a modern America. Creator Sam Levinson cast a string of up-and-coming and relatively unknown young talent, which could have been risky ('Gossip Girl', we're looking at you); but it paid off. The young cast was held together by guest appearances from more veteran actors such as Eric Dane (Nate's father Cal), Alanna Ubach (Cassie and Lexi's mom Suze), Colman Domingo (Rue's NA sponsor Ali) and Nika King (Rue's mom Leslie).
However, the cherry on top was undeniably casting Zendaya in the main role as the problematic Rue, who struggles to keep sober following years of drug addiction that began when she was a young teen while caring for her terminally-ill father. Now 17 and exploring her sexuality with on-again/off-again girlfriend Jules (Hunter Schafer), 'Euphoria' season two continues Rue's struggle to find her happy place in a world that is becoming more and more all-consuming.
The eight-episode first season already established these high-school characters in such stylistic, if sometimes hollow fashion, that there's no need for a recap as to who these people are. And so, we begin season two at a New Year's Eve house party, with Rue constantly trying to avoid Jules (due to their break-up last time we saw them), her arduous journey eventually seeing her cross paths with a new character, Elliot (Dominic Fike).
As you might presume with the arrival of the second season of a series, writers normally feel the need to introduce lots of fresh meat for the characters to interact with, in order to keep things fresh. Surprisingly, however, Elliot is the only new student introduced this season, meaning that the core gang of drinkers, smokers and sexually-charged teens that we already know remain the focus. And the series is all the better because of it.
What 'Euphoria' season two manages to do is bring some of the secondary and even tertiary characters from season one to the forefront (with Rue still remaining the over-arching focus throughout, of course). Characters such as Lexi (Maude Apatow), who lived in her sister Cassie's (and her best friend Rue's) shadow during season one is allowed to blossom; drug dealer Fezco (Angus Cloud) gets his own flashback in the opening minutes of the first episode; while viewers will become sympathetic towards a season one antagonist, Cal. However, this does mean that some heavy-hitters from season one are left to pick up the crumbs with little screentime (justice for Kat!).
As you would imagine, Zendaya stuns once again with her portrayal of a rollercoaster ride in human form, Rue. Episode five, in particular, sees Rue reach breaking point, and Zendaya's ability to switch from darkness to light in the blink of an eye will ensure that she is once again worthy of all award nominations that come her way. Similarly, Sydney Sweeney, who returns as Cassie (and who appeared in 'The White Lotus' as silver-spooned Olivia) plays a tragic and obsessive young woman so effortlessly, so convincingly and heartbreakingly, that supporting actress nods are sure to be on the cards for her later this year.
If you were a fan of 'Euphoria' when it first launched, you will find yourself even more engrossed in what season two has to offer. In a lot of ways stronger than season one, thanks to plotlines being padded out more evenly over the entire season, and giving us a deeper understanding of some characters' motives, this return to the overly emotional and darkly comedic landscape that is high school life delivers a more gripping (and in parts, more graphic) story that will captivate you from beginning to end.
'Euphoria' season two is available on Sky Atlantic and NOW. The series has eight episodes, with a new episode released every Monday.