By Ponette Kim
Boston University News Service
The season two finale of HBO’s “Euphoria” aired Sunday, Feb. 27, capping off an eight-episode extravaganza of drugs, sex and violence. Many fans felt that this season villainized formerly beloved characters and relied too heavily on shock value. So what made an average of 16.3 million people stream each episode?
For one, Euphoria offered something that is rare among shows aimed at Generation Z — a weekly release model. Since streaming platforms such as Netflix have recently popularized binge watching, that one painstaking week between episodes almost felt vintage to the audience. In the beginning, it seemed to create a greater sense of urgency and attention.
Twenty-one-year-old Lily Johnson doesn’t watch cable television, but decided to keep up with “Euphoria’s” weekly releases so she didn’t get the episode spoiled.
“I don’t have any shows that I watch on cable,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of pressure to watch it when it comes out, otherwise you’ll get spoilers on Twitter.”
Euphoria has a rabid, chronically online fan base, who basically live-tweeted every episode. Even actors joined in. Angus Cloud, who plays the beloved Fezco, also decided to live-tweet each episode, reacting to each major plot twist with the same shock and excitement a normal, unaware viewer would have.
Twenty-two-year old Theo Wotton, a music and international relations major at Tufts University, believes that “Euphoria’s” weekly release model is a good method of disseminating the violence.
“I think because the show is intense, it is better that it’s one episode a week,” Wotton said. “Plus, it makes it more easy to watch with friends because everyone is on the same page.”
Despite the popularity of the show, Twitter and TikTok were unified in the idea that season two did almost nothing to satiate the viewers, with gripes and groans constantly floating around social media.
In a way, it seems as if season two created stronger opinions about the characters among viewers, with so many storylines revolving around the bad and embarrassing decisions characters made. Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer) was villainized in a way that will be hard to recover from, despite the fact that she was a loveable character in season one. Her affair with Elliot (Dominic Fike) did little to move her character forward in any way.
Fans of Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira) found her increasingly villainized. One of the most shocking, cheaply-made plot lines was Kat and Ethan’s breakup. Kat, who was nothing short of angelic toward Ethan (Austin Abrams) before episode six (and vice versa), was uncharacteristically cold and manipulative while breaking up with him. Instead of outright telling him that she wanted to end their relationship, she lied and said she had a terminal brain disorder, proceeding to accuse him of gaslighting her when he called out her lie.
This interaction was so uncharacteristic of Kat that it felt offensive. Viewers of the show already know that Kat would’ve never accused Ethan of using manipulation tactics from “some fucking incel Reddit forum.” If the writers were trying to convey the notion that our beloved characters can cause harm, they failed to show Kat in any nuanced light this season.
A common complaint between Twitter and TikTok users seemed to be that season two focused too much on Nate and Cassie to wrap up several storylines. What happened to McKay? Kat’s camgirl career? Rue’s drug debt?
While the audience knew that season two couldn’t be a carbon copy of season one, nobody expected it to be such a flop. Though season two had glimpses of the genius that characterized season one, it was an entirely new creation, with incomplete storylines and unfulfilling endings.
Levinson did something that no one wanted: capitalized on “Euphoria’s” shock-based reputation and moved the shocking bits to the level of grossly garish. Nobody wanted to rewatch the video of Cal dominating Jules, or see Cassie throw up in the hot tub.
Still, the consensus among fans seems to be a reluctant impatience for season three, where they can only hope to get some answers on the clumsy cliffhangers from season two’s finale.