HBO’s Newest Series, Euphoria, Misses Its Mark

Due to the overwhelming success of Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies, HBO’s newest series, Euphoria, has a lot to live up to. However, Euphoria differs from these fan-favorites in terms of its intended audience, which may not pay off for the network. Appealing to an older, wider audience seems to be HBO’s sweet spot and their attempt to impress a teenage audience falls short. Drugs, sex, and porn are the core of this new series. Despite a few progressive, shining moments, the subpar writing and lack of plot and character development in the first episode do not leave much to look forward to.

Too Much Left to the Imagination

In short, the series follows Rue (Zendaya) as she returns from rehab. Rue has no intention of staying sober and routinely gets high, depending on her sober friends in order to pass a drug test. Episode one is narrated by Rue but continually refers to Jules (Hunter Schafer), the new girl in town. Her claims of wanting to blend in are contradicted by her bright pink hair and the air of mystery surrounding her. Viewers learn little about Rue’s budding friend: her parents divorced and it didn’t end well. Jules also becomes the topic of a motel hookup with a man triple her age, one of the only explicit teasers for future episodes.

Otherwise, the secrets surrounding Jules, who has the potential to be the most interesting role, rarely surface. The focus, instead, is watching minor roles get ready to party rather than fleshing out this intriguing character. Although I assume the unfolding of her backstory will become a major plot point, I’m not sure it’s enough to keep viewers invested.

Euphoria on HBO
(HBO)

The show follows the teenagers as they party, smoke, send nudes, and repeat for most of the show. Minor characters with minimal distinguishing traits made the episode feel stuck in an endless scene of dark blue and purple lighting as the camera shifts from room to room, shirtless guys, and nudity without warning. I had to stop watching multiple times to get through the episode. Whenever I resumed, it felt like a constant replay.

Lackluster Writing Disappoints

If I were to pinpoint a single reason for this episode’s disappointment, without hesitation, it’s the writing. It’s hardly worth quoting from Euphoria as it is unrealistic to imagine any teenager using the airheaded lingo from the show. However, the line, “Bitch, this isn’t the ‘80s. You need to catch a dick!” receives an honorable mention. Every character’s words are thoughtless. Particularly with minor ones, any line could be said by a different character without changing the words’ impact, or lack thereof.

The lackluster quality of writing just reinforces Euphoria’s stagnant premiere. One may argue the dullness and shock-value lines are meant to reflect the vibe Euphoria is trying to achieve. For one, the episode begins with Rue blandly recounting her birth and first years of life. Thus, given her intentionally monotone narration and nonchalant attitude, this could be in line with an underlying premise of the show. Nevertheless, there is a way to get this point across in nuanced, sophisticated language which Euphoria never attempts to use. Instead, the writing feels careless instead of carefree. Sloppy one-liners don’t advance the plot except to raise a few eyebrows, rather than convey the characters’ deeper emotions.

An Emphasis on Inclusivity Serves as a Positive Takeaway

While Euphoria has more than just a few flaws, there are particular areas in which the show deserves praise. Specifically, the show’s inclusive and diverse cast and characters are commendable. Not explicitly mentioned in the first episode, Jules is a transgender woman played beautifully by newcomer trans activist and model, Hunter Schafer. Jules is one to watch in the series. Despite her time on screen, her gender identity is not necessarily the focus; thus, developing her character beyond stereotypes.

Euphoria also excels in featuring a mixed-race family without it being out of the ordinary. A scene simply pans to Rue’s caucasian father and African-American mother, focusing solely on the protagonist’s struggles that do not stem from her family relations. It is this emphasis on inclusivity that Euphoria should strive to match in all other aspects of the show, which severely lack beyond these positive takeaways.

Euphoria on HBO
(HBO)

The Verdict

HBO missed the mark on their newest series. The premiere leaves too many questions unanswered. Rather than initial character establishment, the show focuses too much where it needs improvement, like its unrealistic slang. With intriguing promotion and a well-known main actress, Euphoria had a lot of hype; perhaps too much to live up to. Even with the potential for character development and an inclusive cast, this is not enough for me to tune in again.

Lauren Toneatto

Staff Writer

An aspiring artist, avid reader, and Disney princess in training. Commonly found eating Cheerios and creating. She wishes to explore the world and all it has to offer.

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