It is not an understatement to say that Sam Levinson’s hit HBO series "Euphoria" is one of the boldest and most unflinching representations of addiction and adolescence in mainstream entertainment. Starring Zendaya, the series took the world by storm when it premiered in summer 2019 with its neon-drenched color palette, elaborate camera movements and headbanging soundtrack by Labrinth. It’s a show committed to illustrating the struggles of teenagers and addicts within a cold, contemporary society. I feel like anyone who has seen the show will never forget their first time watching it. For me, the experience of witnessing scenes like the carnival sequence or Rue’s musical fever dream at the end of season one are images that are seared into my brain. So needless to say, I was quite eager for a second season.
However, production for the second season had to shut down due to COVID-19 in March 2020 before filming had even begun. Luckily, Levinson decided to turn the show’s unfortunate hiatus into the perfect opportunity to make something special to bridge the gap between the first and second season. From the opening scene alone, I knew this episode of "Euphoria" was going to be something completely different from the rest of the show. Gone were the show’s iconic glitter makeup and ever-changing sets in exchange for one location and one heck of a conversation.
Set shortly after the events of season one, "Euphoria: Trouble Don’t Last Always" follows a recently relapsed Rue Bennett (Zendaya) eating pancakes at a diner on Christmas Eve with her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Ali (Coleman Domingo). Having just come from a NA Christmas Eve meeting, Ali is quick to notice that Rue is back on drugs which leads the two into an earnest and heartbreaking conversation about life, addiction and loss.
Aside from the absolute masterclass performances from Zendaya and Domingo, what made this episode so special to me is that it finally allowed Levinson and the crew to slow down the ante of the show by showcasing a meaningful and melancholy side of "Euphoria" that has rarely been seen before. By dialing down the theatrics, this special episode feels like a warm, therapeutic hug that reminds audiences that we all deserve a chance to grow and heal from the traumas and struggles we experience in life.
In the episode, the audience clearly sees how destroyed Rue’s life is as she ruminates on matters ranging from why she doesn’t believe in a higher power to discussing why she doesn’t see herself living for much longer. It’s absolutely painful to watch which is exemplified through Ali’s point of view about her predicament. Through his dialogue, the audience learns more about Ali’s tragic backstory as he tries to relate his experiences with addiction to that of a struggling teenager in an effort to remind Rue that she should still care about the life she has ahead of her.
Despite the COVID-19 filming restrictions, this episode looks and feels like a "Euphoria" episode through every moment and monologue. It is fifty-four minutes of unparalleled storytelling with one of the biggest takeaways that I think Rue, Ali and all of us should remember: “Trouble Don’t Last Always.” Not only does this phrase perfectly serve as the title of this special episode of "Euphoria," but it works as a universally uplifting message to all of those who are struggling that still rings true to this day.
And if you think I’m lying, ask me again in 20 years.