Notes on Season 2, Episode 1 of Euphoria
Only a show as bold and cutting edge as Euphoria would have the audacity to begin its sophomore season with an eleven minute flashback that tells the origin story of one of its most beloved, albeit secondary characters. The Fezco backstory sequence (which very well may stand up as the best television sequence of 2022) begins with a Zendaya voiceover and the line, “Fezco’s grandma was a mother fuckin’ g.’”
What unfolds from there is one of the most insane sequences you’re ever likely to see on TV. I won’t ruin it, but the episode opens in slow motion, with Fezco’s grandmother, played by Katherine Narducci, climbing out of a convertible, holding a snub-nosed 38 by her side and entering a seedy strip club wearing a blue power suit with the words “God’s Word, God’s Will” emblazoned on the back. What she does when she finds who she is looking for inside, you’ll have to see to believe.
By the time the flashback ends and the following sequence, which occurs in the present and involves Rue (Zendaya), Fezco (Angus Cloud) and Ash (Javon Walton) plays out, it’s clear that Sam Levinson and his writing team did what the fans asked for and propelled Fezco’s character into the forefront of the show. A stroke of genius rivaled only by Levinson’s decision to have cinematographer Marcell Rév shoot the entire second season on Kodak Ektachrome film. An undertaking so crazy, and that required so much film, Kodak shut down part of a factory just to produce enough of the film for the show to be shot.
The choice pays off immediately, giving season two’s look a gritty, hazy hue. Ektachrome is a gorgeous film stock, generally best for daytime shots, but when employed for Euphoria’s dark, mostly nighttime scenes, it creates a gloriously saturated, trance-like aesthetic. This accompanied with Levinson’s virtuoso soundtrack choices (especially Orville Peck in a wild driving scene involving Cassie and Nate) helps lend the show such a frenetic pace that I had to take a few breaks to just chill and assess all the bat shit crazy, triggering things being thrown at viewers.
I said back in 2019, which seems like a lifetime ago now, that Euphoria was the most groundbreaking show I’d seen since Walter White burst into our lives in his tighty-whities from inside a shitty Winnebago back in 2008, and I’m glad to see that season two appears primed to push the envelope even farther.
What makes Euphoria stand out is how the filmmaking decisions across the board (cinematography, sound, editing, costume, production design) work in congruence, even while feeling extremely haphazard, to create a perfect fever dream world for the characters to live inside. A designing principle that I’m sure isn’t lost on the actors, which is why Levinson gets such nuanced, believable performances from his almost exclusively twenty-five and under cast.
Euphoria, at its essence, is a show about the disenfranchisement of youth and the terrifying prospects of stepping into a world that feels very uncertain. By sheer happenstance, the show now feels like it’s doing double duty as a pandemic commentary as well.
Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. He has a BA in film studies from The University of New Orleans and a MFA in Screenwriting from The Creative Writing Workshop at The University of New Orleans.