You asked, begged, and relentlessly pleaded for a Lexi episode — and Euphoria certainly delivered. The curtains rise for her much-hyped play, and “The Theater and It’s Double” cuts between the stage and her backstory. Lexi is, as we come to learn, the Bad Art Friend: Inspired by her childhood on the sidelines, her play about a fractured group of friends is an autobiographical patchwork of perfectly recreated memories, observations, and dream sequences that strike a nerve with just about everyone. For a high-school play, it’s both expectedly clumsy and unbelievably extravagant. (Revolving stages! Multiple dance numbers!) Complete with Lexi’s meandering narration that darts from thought to thought, the play is as frenetic and overly ambitious as, well, a Euphoria episode. But the formal experimentation has its purpose in enriching Lexi’s character in contrast to the show’s typical indulgences. It’s also just extremely fun to watch.
Taking on the role of director, writer, and star, Lexi flourishes in ways she rarely exhibits. She commands her crew with unshakable authority and relishes the spotlight. And in writing herself as the main character, no one can overshadow her. But still, fear and doubt creep in as she worries her play will make everyone angry. (It does.) The one person Lexi can’t possibly upset is Fez, who calms her down through long phone calls and spends the episode adorably getting suited up for the performance. Lexi saves him “the best seat in the house,” but every time she looks over, the most important audience member is suspiciously missing. Last episode revealed that Custer is cooperating with the police, and as Fez gets ready to leave, he prepares to turn him in. Ash seems to have caught on to the deception, but that empty seat is pretty compelling evidence he’s too late. The big question “The Theater and It’s Double” ends on is: What happened to Fez? It looks like they’re setting him and Ash up for tragedy.
Rue is (or, rather, was) naturally a major presence in Lexi’s life. The disintegration of their friendship has been only vaguely addressed, and here, it’s a topic Euphoria still traipses around — perhaps because Lexi is reluctant to even admit they’re no longer best friends. In their halcyon days, they played pranks and talked for hours on the roof of Fez’s store — but they began to drift apart once Rue’s father passed away. Rue was there to reassure Lexi that it’s okay to be an outsider, but Lexi can’t provide that same comfort when Rue is consumed by grief and addiction. At the memorial, she reads Rue the poem “Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower,” by Rainer Maria Rilke, but its message of finding strength in difficult times doesn’t register. The most Lexi can do to help is blow the residue of drugs away — a temporary salve for a problem too insurmountable for her.
Notably, Rue is the only person not offended by their depiction in the play. Granted, her portrayal isn’t that unflattering, and she’s also credited with changing Lexi’s life for the better. But I also like to think she’s simply proud of her (former) best friend. After all, Rue is one of the few aware of Lexi’s insecurities, and now she witnesses Lexi reclaim them through her art. Rue and Lexi’s connection always appeared nebulous even before it fell apart, and it’s a beat I wish Sam Levinson had stayed on more. The episode’s time-hopping structure doesn’t help to rectify that either. Nothing gets room to breathe, to come alive. In setting up the stakes for the finale, Euphoria is so frantically filling in the gaps with color that the result is a disjointed, incoherent collage.
The play is particularly painful for Cassie. She’s portrayed as the vapid older sister, oblivious to how puberty has been much kinder to her than Lexi. From her seat beside Nate, Cassie observes her friendship with Maddy play out on stage. The two became inseparable in ninth grade, their bond bolstered by their shared strained relationships with their parents. And when the fighting in Maddy’s home became unbearable, she found refuge in the Howard household. In the same bedroom where Maddy used to weep at night, she storms after Cassie in a continuation of the argument from episode five. Maddy is quick to clarify that Nate is not the issue, but her underlying feelings come to light once her anger gives way to exhaustion. “He put me through hell, and now he’s with my fucking best friend,” she cries. “When is it gonna end?” Nate is a rot in Maddy’s life that perniciously infects everything and everyone around her including her dearest friendship.
Since moving in with Nate, Cassie has established a dangerous precedent with him. “You can control what I wear, what I eat, who I talk to,” she says, effectively relinquishing her selfhood for him. Per her offer, Cassie walks into school hand in hand with Nate with straightened locks, a new wardrobe, and even the necklace Nate gifted Maddy for her birthday. She looks awfully like her former best friend. “Aren’t you afraid people are gonna look down on you?” Nate asks. “At least I’m loved,” she replies. It’s an idea Levinson returns to again and again, that Cassie yearns to be loved. It’s a very universal desire, and the series considers that this simple need can turn destructive. It’s evident not just in Cassie but in Jules, too, who faced those same accusations from Rue in episode five (“You love being loved”). You can even make the case that it applies to Lexi, who, in her attention-starved frustration, has staged a play that could potentially destroy her friendships.
At least the play hurts Nate. The episode climaxes with a homoerotic spectacle starring Ethan as a stand-in for Nate. Set to “Holding Out for a Hero,” the audacious sequence pokes fun at gym-bro culture with hip thrusts, spandex, and flowing liquids aplenty. The crowd roars, bar one, as Nate storms out and breaks up with Cassie on the spot. Cassie has abandoned her friends and identity for Nate, and now she’s truly aimless. But before we can see her next move, the episode ends on a promise of more to come. (I know with complete certainty that the final image of a furious Cassie steaming up the auditorium door will become a meme.) With middling results, “The Theater and It’s Double” seeks to resolve certain story lines and leave others open for an eventful finale. But you can remain confident Euphoria will always deliver a scene to remember.
• Ethan just got dumped, and he brushes it off, plays a dozen roles in the play, and pisses off Nate?? MVP.
• It’s such a Euphoria thing for a scene to feel pivotal but awkwardly placed, which is how I saw the scene between Rue and her mother. Their conversation continues to build on the show’s inchoate exploration of Gia that began last week. Unbeknownst to Rue, her little sister has been getting detentions and precipitously dropping grades. Leslie nonchalantly gives Rue her blessing to take as many drugs as she wants. If Rue can’t get clean, then her mom’s priorities need to shift. “If I have to choose between losing one daughter or two, I’m going to fight to save” Gia, Leslie says. I think Euphoria is teeing up Gia for a promotion next season, and I love to see it.
• Will Rue and Jules be able to salvage their relationship? The two bump into each other for the first time since the intervention, and the atmosphere is uncomfortable. “It’s funny how I used to think we were meant for each other,” Rue thinks. “That feels like a lifetime ago.”
• In Kat’s ten seconds of the week, we see she’s slipped back into camming again. So … that’s it? Six weeks of dragging out this meager story line, and for what?
• Maddy hasn’t been a major focus, but her story line has quietly become one of the season’s most compelling and delicately handled. Since the breakup, she’s felt so defeated by her belief that she can’t escape Nate, but through her conversations with Samantha, she sees a possibility not just to be free from him but also grow up to be the woman sitting in the chair at the footbath.
• Jules’s special directly addressed her feelings toward Nate/Tyler, but the reverse is harder to get a grasp on. Nate is plagued by an icky nightmare about Jules and Cal, seemingly confirming that his attraction to her and his fears of becoming like his father are inextricable. But he also curiously didn’t hesitate to tell Jules last episode that what they had was real. I’m struggling to see how these threads coalesce.
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