Last week, Euphoria bought back all the goodwill it lost from discourse-fueled fans with an undeniably outstanding Rue-centric episode. I wouldn’t call it “this generation’s Pulp Fiction,” but it was pretty great. It’s also seemingly done the magic of an overachieving student bringing up the average grade, as “A Thousand Little Trees of Blood” evens out the disproportionate allocations of screen time that have plagued this season. Get ready for a whole lot of reckoning.
If “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” was an explosion of pent-up anger and resentment, “A Thousand Little Trees of Blood” is the path to healing. That is, for Rue at least. After she narrowly escapes Laurie in the last episode, she commits herself to go clean the painfully hard way — and the episode is bookended by moments that set the ever-shifting fortuity of her recovery. At first, it’s tortuous — the effects of withdrawal grow so debilitating that she can’t muster the strength to open a Jolly Rancher. Tears cascade, snot dribbles, Zendaya is ACTING. But Rue’s determination to do the smallest of tasks by herself is emblematic of the work that needs to be done before she learns that accepting help won’t cost her dignity.
Rue’s recovery encapsulates more than just her suffering but the emotional and social consequences of her addiction. “Even if I got clean today, no one would forget the trauma of me not being clean,” Rue says, but one of the few people that can empathize is Ali. Ridden with guilt from their confrontation over the suitcase, she calls him to apologize. But he’s already put it in the past, and quotes a verse from the Quran: “The Hour is certain to come, so we must forgive graciously.” He comes to visit later that night, and the Bennett family finds some semblance of normalcy once again around the dinner table. Euphoria is often so focused on mining Rue for her pain, but I find there’s something equally potent in these in-between moments — that happiness is just within her grasp.
In a show so firmly rooted in Rue’s perspective, there’s unsurprisingly been little time devoted to Gia, a character who’s usually seen lingering behind doors and suffering in silence. But Ali hasn’t forgotten. As the two cook dinner together, he comforts her by validating her anger and suspicions of Rue’s intentions to get clean. And when Ali asks how she feels, you get the sense that it’s a question she’s rarely heard. Gia’s life is so inextricably tied with Rue’s so as to not be regarded as an individual, and yet they’ve never been so far apart. That night, Rue confesses that she doesn’t actually know anything about her, and despite how sad that revelation is, it’s the kind of regretful honesty that wraps the bandages on their relationship. And even when Rue gets turned away from rehab at the last minute, that hopelessness is alleviated just a little by the image of two sisters sleeping soundly together.
I’d be curious to see if Cassie is also on the apology tour since she’s not doing so hot after Rue exposed her for dating Nate. Cassie throws every coping mechanism at the wall to see what sticks, seeking the validation her mom won’t give her: She rationalizes the whole ordeal as if it was just an issue of cheating (“There was no crossover”); she blames Rue for telling Maddy, and her father for abandoning her; she threatens suicide by corkscrew. (Star player of the season Sydney Sweeney sheds enough tears to fill the Nile.) Meanwhile, Nate is doing just fine. Reveling in his dad’s absence, he drinks and reminisces with his mother in a conversation that sours once she echoes Cal. (“Why is it that you only have the bad qualities of your father and none of the good qualities?”) She also, intriguingly, implies that she knows Nate choked Maddy, opening the possibility that she chooses to be complacent in her son’s behavior. And this is reinforced later in the almost pitiful wave she gives to Cassie as if she’s sending her to the guillotine.
In the end, it takes just one phone call to convince Cassie to move in with Nate. “I’ve ruined my entire life for you,” she tells him. Nate’s radio silence while she spirals has worn her down and deprived her of her selfhood to the extent that she has no choice but to come back to him. It says a lot about how cognizant he is of the hold he has on both Cassie and Maddy and how easily he’ll use it to his advantage. Such is the case with the game of Russian Roulette in Maddy’s bedroom. Nate is such a calculating person — a side of him that’s often overlooked because his own reckless aggression so often inhibits him — and that aspect of him resurfaces as he threatens Maddy with Cal’s gun to tell him where she hid the disk. The fact that he turns the revolver on himself, not Maddy, speaks to his awareness that she perhaps cares more for him than herself. He knows how to weaponize her love for him against her.
Of course it all goes back to that disk. Cal may be out of the picture, but Nate needs to save his father’s reputation in order to secure his own future in the family business. (Again, their relationship is transactional.) Curiously, he takes the disk to Jules, who agrees to meet armed with a box cutter, and lets her use it however she wants. You could easily reduce this exchange to just Nate being manipulative again — his most seemingly selfless act as an iron-clad way of burying the dirt — but he could’ve easily destroyed the disk and left it at that. Why give it to her? It boils down to their final confession: that everything they said to each other when he was “Tyler” was real. It’s a far too brief moment for one of the show’s most underdeveloped pairings. But Euphoria already has so much on its plate that I can’t see this potential being fulfilled in the season’s final episodes.
• Maddy gets a little poolside heart-to-heart with Samantha, the mom of the kid she’s babysitting, and after a few glasses of wine, Samantha breaks Maddy’s heart by admitting that she also betrayed her best friend by sleeping with her boyfriend in college. Maddy clearly aspires to be like her (without the cheating), so I wonder if this will have any implications for Cassie. After all, if Samantha can lose her best friend and end up living like this, why can’t Maddy?
• From her front-row seat to Cassie’s breakdown, Lexi feels just a little guilty about writing a play that probably won’t paint her in the kindest light. Fez’s only advice is that it’s necessary to wake her up. (“Some people need to get their feelings hurt.”) I just adore the will-they-won’t-they awkwardness of their scenes together. The nervous glances and giddy smiles exchanged as they sing “Stand By Me” before Fez reaches across and grabs her hand. (!!!!!!!!!) I feel like I’m watching a romantic K-drama where the couple takes 12 episodes just to share eye contact. I’m completely riveted.
• Barbie Ferreira finally gets more than three words to say in an episode! In a surprise to absolutely no one, Kat finally breaks it off with Ethan. Or did Ethan break up with her? She lies about having a “terminal brain disorder,” attempts to gaslight Ethan into believing he’s gaslighting her and acts accusatory when he calls her out on it. It’s a messy confrontation, as her tendency to push people away with her cruelty resurfaces in the most brutal fashion. It still feels like such a regression after everything she went through last season, but I suppose those dream sequences from a few episodes were there to underpin Kat’s belief that she’s not wired for domesticity.
• Remember Custer? I did not, and if you say you did, you’re lying. (I Googled what his name was.) It turns out he’s not-not cooperating with the police to take down Fez and Ashtray for murdering Mouse, so he secretly tells Faye to stay away during his sting operation.
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