This season has been a divisive slow burn of mounting pressure, but Euphoria finally produces its diamond in “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” a raw and sobering 24-hour escapade anchored by an extraordinary performance by Zendaya. I think the notion of an entirely Rue-centric episode will be frustrating to those who have been eagerly waiting for something (God, anything, please) to happen to Fez, Kat, and every other underdeveloped storyline this season — but this was the departure Euphoria needed. It’s the kind of intimacy and genuine commitment to character-building that I’ve been looking forward to since the special episodes.
To that end, no, Rue didn’t actually die despite all the theories. But she’s not in the clear, either. Rue’s relapse is no longer a secret, and Rue’s mother has flushed away her supply of drugs, kickstarting a tirade that illuminates the true depths of Rue’s manipulation. In an astounding ten minutes, Rue prods at the sorest spots to find the whereabouts of the suitcase. It’s not just her words that cut with a refined sharpness; it’s her physicality, too. The way she doesn’t just kick Gia’s bedroom door down but throws her entire body into it like she’s a featherweight rag doll. But what makes Zendaya’s performance so compelling is that it’s not all bravado, but the little details in her expressions indicate how much of Rue’s humanity has dissipated. Note the corner of her lip twitching after her mother tells Rue that she’s not a good person. She stops just short of laughter before allowing a patronizing smirk to slip through. “What do you want me to do?” she screams so loudly that her voice goes hoarse. Her mother and Gia can only cower in fear.
The silence is even louder once the realization hits that Jules and Elliot have not only heard everything but betrayed her. Rue turns her anger on Jules, laying a torrent of vicious insults that not only erupt from the heat of the moment but the resentment she’s kept dormant since the train station. (“You fucking left me at my fucking lowest, and a real fucking friend, someone who fucking loves you, wouldn’t do some shit like that.”) Jules has rarely been so meek, and Hunter Schafer is particularly heartbreaking in communicating how powerless she feels against Rue. All Jules can muster is an “I love you,” but it’s here she learns her love for Rue is nowhere near as important as that suitcase. Rue has lost $10,000 worth of drugs, but more crucially, she’s lost Jules.
The remainder of “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” doesn’t achieve the same heights as its first 15 minutes, but it’s a serviceable restaging of Good Time in suburbia. (In that I’m watching it through my hands while everything that could possibly go wrong does.) When it dawns on Rue that she’s being taken to rehab, she breaks down and jumps out of the car into direct traffic. Labrinth’s propulsive minimalist score blasts as she sprints away, waking up in an alley later that night.
The dominoes finally begin to fall for Cassie’s storyline. Rue makes a break for the Howard household, where she exposes Nate and Cassie’s relationship. Cassie is defensive, Maddy is outraged, and Kat is … there. Rue’s mother and Gia drop by to collect her, but Maddy’s fury proves as the perfect distraction for her to quietly leave with some stolen jewelry. Fez’s place is another failed stop on the tour. She swiftly gets kicked out for trying to take his grandmother’s medication.
Growing desperate for cash, Rue breaks into a couple’s house. Dare I say, it’s the peak Safdie brothers moment of the episode in just finding levity in the most anxiety-ridden situation. As “Fever” by Sharon Cash plays, she steals more jewelry and finds a thick envelope of cash in a safe — all while the family dog watches on and couldn’t care less. Naturally, the owners come home early, and though there’s mention of a gun, Rue makes another clumsy escape.
For an episode that puts Rue through the wringer, I can’t say I vibed with the jarring tonal shift that comes with the police chase. It downplays the seriousness of what’s happening: a child driven away from home into the dark night is pursued by authorities. I think we’re well past the point of depicting cops as incompetent oafs, but here we have officers scrambling over fences and falling on cacti. The standoff at a busy road ostensibly begins as a moment of actual danger, but it’s executed so clumsily that it feels like Rue is one step away from shouting “oopsie daisy!” I get that it’s not in the spirit of Euphoria to be devoid of levity, but it’s the one major misfire in an otherwise outstanding episode.
Running out of options, Rue lands on dealer Laurie’s doorstep with some more stolen jewelry and cash to make up for the suitcase. But with withdrawal kicking in, she’s running on empty and slumps on the kitchen table. I can’t recall an actor’s deadpan ever being used as effectively as Martha Kelly’s Laurie. Her intonation belies her concern, but there’s also an ominous level to her despondency where she can easily coax Rue into taking morphine intravenously. “Are you sure this is safe?” Rue asks with a terrified quiver in her voice. “I’ve just never done this before.” Zendaya’s delivery infantilizes her character to a profoundly disturbing effect.
If only Sam Levinson could linger on this moment for a little longer. As Rue lies in the bathtub, it cuts to her memories of an innocent childhood spent with her father and the eulogy she gives at his funeral. Angelica Jade Bastién’s recap of Jules’s special episode makes a very salient point about one of Euphoria’s worst tendencies: cutting away to some dynamic sequence rather than remaining in the present. I understand that the intention behind Rue hallucinating images of her father is to hammer in that her grief fuels her addiction. But these flashbacks have become such a crux as a way of heightening the emotion of the scene, when Rue soaking in the awful night that has led up to this could’ve been enough.
The next morning, Rue clambers out of her lowest point in a tense getaway from Laurie’s padlocked apartment. With nowhere else to go, all that’s left to do is walk back home where her mother has been patiently waiting. “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” takes a startlingly new approach to unravel the true destructive force of Rue’s secrecy and manipulation. Perhaps the final episodes of the season will pick up the rubble. In the end, it’s just a relief to see Euphoria still has its moments of greatness.
• “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” also brings a tidy but unsatisfying resolution to Elliot’s arc (for now). His parting words (“I liked Rue the way she was”) bring some clarity into where he stands in all of this and why he chose to stay with Rue after their dramatic first meeting. It wasn’t out of a genuine concern for her wellbeing, but that she was simply fun to be around. He was attracted to, or intrigued by, the girl who laughed off her cardiac arrest. It was only when it stopped being enjoyable that he decided to step in. But I’m still at a loss for what he actually brought to this season. This is where the show could have benefited from an Elliot cold open because there’s little to him except his purpose as the wrench in the sinkable ship that is “Rules.”
• Elliot has been divisive, but I have to say Dominic Fike has been a really fun addition to the cast. For a show so entrenched in the fears and worries of teenagers, it’s just nice sometimes to see a guy who’s completely unbothered. As with Angus Cloud, the show has a real knack for casting first-time actors who fit in seamlessly.
• In the car ride to rehab, Rue morbidly details how she wants to die. “I have this image in my head of me just, you know, laying in the sand and letting the waves just take me out to sea,” she says. I wonder if this is an intentional parallel to the shot of Jules lying on the beach in “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob.” To Jules, the sea is an uplifting embodiment of strength, but for Rue, it’s destruction.
• I haven’t really had the time to discuss the meme pipeline this show has somehow become, but I can see Alexa Demie’s “uh, NO” getting the viral TikTok sound treatment.
• In the words of Angus Cloud, the world is craving for more Fexi content.
• The big theory is that Rue will die, and I can’t help but feel like it’s not that ludicrous. Fans picked up on Rue playing the dead characters in the lovers montage last episode, and this week, she faced at least three life-threatening situations. The signs seem to be pointing to something …