Quite a bold statement to make but when you look at what the context is and what series (Euphoria) is in focus then you understand why critics would say that outright. If you’re looking for a moment of stillness in all the noise, the filming constraints of the pandemic have gifted us Euphoria fans two hours of extraordinarily intimate TV gold.
Euphoria‘s two-part special is now first on Showmax, express from the US. It’s as far removed from the frenetic pace of Season 1 as you can get… and the critics are raving about it.
Last year, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man) became the youngest ever best actress Emmy winner for her performance as 17-year-old addict Rue, who returned home from rehab and fell hard for the new girl in town, Jules (played by trans superstar Hunter Schafer).
The HBO drama series put a surprise in our Christmas stockings at the end of last year with Trouble Don’t Last Always, the first episode (and what an enthralling and captivating watch it is) of a two-part special bridging the COVID-19-enforced gap as we wait for Season 2.
The first episode picks up directly after the Season 1 finale, focusing on Rue facing Christmas alone in the aftermath of the train station. Though Jules features briefly, the episode is a pensive, slice-of-life two-hander that sees Rue and her sponsor Ali (fellow Season 1 star Colman Domingo) pick apart life, loss and addiction over Christmas Eve pancakes in a diner.
Part 2, titled F*ck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob, has just arrived, express from the US; here’s where we finally get Jules’ side of the story and catch up with her in a painfully honest therapy session.
Series creator Sam Levinson says they had prepped the entire Season 2 before the pandemic shut down production just three days before they were due to start shooting. “My instinct immediately was, ‘What can we do in the meantime? What’s a way to do more contained pieces that allow us to continue the emotional evolution of these characters?'”
Part 1 of his answer to that question drew a 96% thumbs-up from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. “The first season of Euphoria moved at a breakneck pace… Not so with this special; this long, enveloping conversation is covered with skill and panache, yes, but with unending patience, stillness, comfort in the discomfort,” says Collider. “An unorthodox, gripping, reflective, and supremely effective piece of television storytelling… and some of the best acting you’ll see on television this year.”
RogerEbert.com calls it “one of the best hours of TV in 2020… incredibly moving,” Indiewire asked, “Who knew “Euphoria” could offer such a beaming ray of light?”, and Decider has already tipped Zendaya for another Emmy nomination for the special episode. “Zendaya continues to demonstrate exactly why she so deserved the best actress Emmy,” echoes The Guardian, adding that, “As the older, wiser Ali, Colman Domingo is simply extraordinary” and calling the episode “frequently as funny as it is grim. Ultimately, its message is one of forgiveness, of others and of oneself, of empathy and understanding. It quietly calls for good will to all men, even whip-smart, heartbroken, navel-gazing teenagers.”
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