Photo: ‘Euphoria Special Episode Part 2’/HBO
The newest episode of ‘Euphoria’, distributed by HBOMax, picks up six months after the end of the first season and focuses on Jule, the ex-partner of Rue. In the first of the special two-part episode release, Rue discusses her breakup with Jules, as well as drug addiction and her mental health. In this episode, however, we get an intimate look at Jules’ version of the break-up, including her regrets about leaving Rue. This episode marks a return to normalcy of the visual style typically found in the first season of ‘Euphoria’, as well as an exclusive look at Hunter Schafer’s acting chops. Overall, this new special is definitely worth a watch, especially if the first part of the two-part release was not up your alley.
The Return of the Long Take
The first notable thing about this episode was its dedication to the long take. The long take is a visual technique that has been making a comeback in the past year. COVID-19 and the lack of accessibility to larger, more complicated sets are partially to blame, but the re-emergence of the long take also serves as a reaction to the big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. It seems as though many independent filmmakers have become obsessed with forcing their audiences to slow down and appreciate the simplicity of film as a medium; just see the impressive long take at the beginning of ‘Pieces of a Woman’ or the midpoint scene in ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ for reference. The long take has become a means to showcase a character’s emotional state in a vividly raw and intimate way, which is exactly what the filmmakers behind ‘Euphoria’ do in the special episode.
The first shot of the episode is a long take that continues for about three minutes, featuring a close-up of Jules’ eye as the events of the first season replay back in the reflection. Lorde’s iconic teenage anthem, “Liability” plays in the background, giving us insight into Jules’ emotional state. This first shot is not only visually stunning but also the perfect opener to set the tone of the episode. The next shot highlights Jules’ face as she sits on a couch at a therapy session. The length of this shot really allows us to see how the aftermath of the events of season one affected Jules. We get an up-close, intimate look at her deteriorating mental state and her heartbreak over losing Rue.
Hunter Schafer’s Performance is Award-Worthy
Now, an excellent long take, especially one that only features a singular character, is only as good as the performance that actor gives in it. And boy oh boy does Hunter Schafer give an incredible performance. Schafer seems to have an incredibly insightful understanding of the emotions that define adolescence. Though we see the weight of her trauma on her face, we also see how she tries to hide her vulnerability. It’s uncomfortable being a teenager and dealing with emotions that you don’t understand, and somehow, Schafer’s performance adds a depth to these emotions that the average teenager lacks.
But, she’s also playful and childish, just like a teenager who lacks a full understanding of themself and the world around them. Schafer’s tears feel real, they communicate the heaviness of a first heartbreak and the loss of a loved one. Her performance strikes this beautifully delicate balance between exemplifying a mature teenager without the life experience of an adult. It is truly mesmerizing to watch her speak; she embodies the trauma and pain of Jules so intimately that it feels real.
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The Order of The Episodes’ Premiere Contains a Hidden Message
After ruminating on the many points this episode made about Jules, her relationship with Rue, and her emotional trauma, I realized that the greatest part of this two-part special release is the order in which the episodes premiered. For those that don’t know, the Rue episode took the tone of a disheartening break-up, contemplating the flaws of the relationship and attempting to create a more realistic picture instead of the idealized version that Rue had in her head. However, this episode has the opposite tone to it. It specifically flashes back to the best parts of Rue and Jules’ relationship, painting a vivid account of the romanticized lens through which Jules views the entire relationship. It feels more like a love story at times than anything else. Normally, I would assume that the love story would, narratively speaking, precede the break-up story. However, ‘Euphoria’ turns all of that on its head by giving us the break-up story first.
At the end of Rue’s episode, we feel darkness clouding Rue’s memories of her relationship with Jules. Ali provides her with some much-needed tough love, asking her to really look at the relationship as a whole and examine the flaws. There’s a sense of closure to the whole thing, we feel that though Rue is brokenhearted, this end was for the best. But Jules’ episode asks us, once again, to imagine the relationship with rose-colored glasses. We feel the passion and the energy that existed between Rue and Jules when they were together, we remember the good times along with the bad times. It captures the idealistic vision with which we all viewed our first love. Ultimately, this episode reaffirms how much Rue and Jules care about one another, with the first episode acting as a punch in the face towards our hope that the two reconcile.
The Iconic, Decade-Defining Visuals of ‘Euphoria Special Episode Part 2’
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a proper review of ‘Euphoria’ if I didn’t mention the visuals. This episode absolutely knocks it out of the park with the cinematography, lighting, and editing. Rue’s episode shows a divergence from the visual style of season one. There were no flashy colors or lights, no intense camera movement, in fact, the episode barely switched between the same two shots for its entire hour-length run. Jules’ episode, however, marks a slow return to the visual style of the first season. It’s almost a mix of the two distinct aesthetics. There’s plenty of slow long takes and still shots that emphasize the emotional intimacy of the therapy session, but the flashbacks are often filmed with soft, romantic lighting and a variety of shots. There’s beauty in every carefully detailed composition, clearly the work of a team that is passionate about telling a compelling story. If I had to describe the aesthetic of this episode in one word, it would have to be simply “romantic”. It’s visually stunning to watch while also allowing the team to be creative with the restrictions placed on them during COVID-19.
In short, this episode is absolutely worth a watch. Even if you didn’t make it through the visually stagnant first part of the two-part series, you’ll enjoy hearing the details of Jules’ mentality and her reasoning behind her decisions in season one. It is a beautifully shot episode that features an excellent performance from Hunter Schafer as well as successfully analyzes both the good and the bad parts about Jules and Rue’s relationship.
Cast and Crew:
Directed by: Sam Levinson
Starring: Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Lauren Weedman
Written by: Sam Levinson | Edited by: Julio Perez IV
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Caroline is currently a writer and contributor for Hollywood Insider. She believes in constant critical thinking and applied analysis when it comes to media consumption. Her goal aligns with Hollywood Insider’s mission statement, and she strives to educate readers on the nuances of the entertainment industry and to hopefully encourage them to form their own opinions on the media they consume daily.