By Christian DiMartino
So for the last year, or two (maybe three), I have become a bit more of an avid television consumer. To the point where I’ve started watching the Emmys. With this, I’ll say that in the moment, I didn’t think Zendaya’s Best Actress in a Drama Series win for HBO’s Euphoria was fully earned. Don’t get me wrong, her work was strong, and I’m all in on this show and have been since its premiere in 2019. I just thought Laura Linney’s work in Ozark season 3 was a revelation. A tough call, but I get it and know that Zendaya is pretty talented.
Euphoria came back early last month for its second season, and last night the fifth episode aired, titled Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, aired. Guys, I don’t know how to stress this, but I’ll try. If you aren’t watching Euphoria, my friends, catch up. It’s not always the easiest watch (its subject matter is pretty dark and unsettling, particularly when picturing actual teenagers in these situations), but it’s a mesmerizing work. At the center of last nights episode, and the mesmerization, was Zendaya’s performance.
I may not have been fully on board for the last Emmy, but I’m starting her campaign now.
Last night’s episode of Euphoria was… a tough sit. A tough sit that kept you on your toes and on the edge for the entirety of it. A tough sit because, for 60 minutes, you witness a young woman who is already pretty much an absolute mess, completely hit what we can only assume is rock bottom. This woman is an absolute tornado of destruction, burning just about every possible bridge she has left, and destroying pretty much everything in her path. Like Zendaya’s performance, it was hard to watch, but also impossible to take your eyes off of, and just sensational.
As for the Zendaya performance, which of course is part of the subject matter here, the opening scene of this episode displays her best acting to date. If you haven’t watched the episode, I suggest you read no further. In case you didn’t know, from the start of Euphoria, Zendaya’s Rue has constantly battled with drug addiction and her lack of a will to live. Rue has been clean, but more often than not she’s been high. She’s not always a likable person, but we root for her to get her act together. Which has slowly been showing to be somewhat of a lost cause, and we have seen more of her descent with each passing episode of Season 2, culminating in last night’s episode,
The episode opens with her mother confronting her about her ongoing addiction (which Rue has completely lied about), followed by her friends Jules (Hunter Schaffer) and Elliott (Dominic Fike) confronting her. But it’s more of them calling her out, and Rue going completely, harshly, terrifyingly ballistic on everyone in the household. Not just because she’s out of drugs, not just because she sees it as a betrayal, but because the suitcase of drugs that she was lent by a bizarre drug lord school teacher who is menacing in the lowest key, was flushed by the toilet, and if she doesn’t get the money to pay for it, said drug lord school teacher is either going to kill her, or throw her into the sex trade.
With this opening, Zendaya’s second Emmy win is perhaps all but confirmed. I suppose it depends on if Sarah Snook is campaigning for Lead for Succession season 3, but even then, it’s going to be a tough call. Again I mention that what Zendaya has done throughout the series has been strong, but never like this. There is a lot of range in this opening, and frankly it’s an actress’s dream. She is sad, she’s frightened, but she’s also viciously angry and out of control. This show has often pushed the limits of her likability, but last night’s episode was revelation in that the show completely turned us against her, and the events of the episode only really get worse… and we still can’t take our eyes off of her. This hour of television was a tour de force, in a season that has pretty much been filled with them so far.
Yeah I’ll just say it, Season 2 is better than the first. So far, at least. There’s always the fear that a show will drop the ball, but writer, director and show runner Sam Levinson doesn’t really seem to be showing signs of that. Just about every episode this season has been beautifully filmed, emotional, pitch perfect in terms of soundtrack, on target as a cautionary tale, and best of all, fabulously entertaining. There are times where the show is so extreme that I have to wonder what Levinson’s deal is, but also, it’s so riveting that I don’t really care.
I didn’t intend for this to be a review, and I guess in a way it is (but… isn’t). But I really want people to watch this show, if they’re not. That and I wanted to shout out the show, and the performances. Zendaya, of course, but also acting up a storm is Sydney Sweeney, who is just beautifully off the rails this season as Cassie, whose relationship with teenager monster Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi) has thrown her for a tizzy. I’ll also shout out Eric Dane, who I really have no prior connection to (never watched Grey’s Anatomy, sorry). But in last weeks episode and the one before it, his performance blew me away, and it’s also got Emmy written all over it. Just as the show does. I think Zendaya’s nomination aside, the first season wasn’t nominated for anything major. This time, they’re going to want to reconsider: