Euphoria is breaking new ground with its latest dreary dose of teen angst, but it still doesn’t make you happy. Zendaya’s attention-getting, award-winning appearance doesn’t make the HBO show any less bleak and nihilistic. Instead, it’s overly defined by how far the show’s creator, Sam Levinson, will go with nudity, sex, and drug use.
“Euphoria” works hard to be different from “Gossip Girl,” or any other TV show that has tried to be like that. It wants to be like the rawest movies that have looked into these areas or premium shows like “Genera+tion” and “13 Reasons Why,” which have caused a lot of controversy.
Yet, any TV show comes down to who the people are, and that’s where this show falls short, even with the flights of fantasy that give some episodes an almost dreamlike quality and the heavy-handed narration by Zendaya’s Rue, who is still struggling with addiction.
Levinson has broken the season into a series of stories about individual characters, and over the course of the seven episodes that have been shown, he has started to link them together. Even so, there are some things that keep coming up, like Rue’s relationship with Jules, Cassie’s relationship with Maddy (Alexa Demie), and Nate’s relationship with Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), all of whom are bruised and damaged in their own way.
The new season doesn’t completely avoid the tendency to make the parents either monsters or ineffective nags like the voices in the old Charlie Brown cartoons, even tho there is an effort to learn more about them.
Criticizing “Euphoria” as someone who grew up on older teen dramas has a “Get off my lawn” feel to it, but the show has a lot of fans and critics who love it. Zendaya won an Emmy for her performance in the show’s first season.
It’s still possible to care too much about the characters because of how they’re written. The show’s attempts to be edgy can be a little disgusting, like when a gun is held up as a kind of prelude.
“Euphoria” isn’t meant to be for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for people who don’t usually watch a lot of HBO or HBO Max, which is a good thing. (It comes back along with another show about dysfunctional families called “The Righteous Gemstones,” which isn’t a good match.)
The teens in “Euphoria,” who are played by twentysomethings, aren’t the only ones who are self-absorbed. They clearly didn’t come up with it. In the end, tho, this new batch of episodes moves quickly and grimly, which can make you feel as numb as Rue sounds.
It starts on HBO on January 9 at 9 p.m. EST. In the same way that CNN is part of WarnerMedia, HBO is also part of the company.