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Euphoria’s pandemic particular Jules brings again the present’s intercourse and showmanship.

Euphorias Jules (Hunter Schafer) is deeply traumatized. Between her estranged mother’s drug problems, a scar hiatus at a children’s mental hospital, and her brutal catfishing (and blackmail) experience, she has endured far more than most of her noisy, rebellious counterparts on the show – not to mention her kind has turned the burden of maintaining Rues (Zendaya) sobriety. So it’s only natural that the second of Euphoria’s special episodes from the pandemic era would find her in a therapist’s office.

Co-written by Schafer and the show’s creator and director Sam Levinson, “Jules” features more intrigue than last month’s stagnant Rue episode, with a much grimmer outlook on its protagonist’s future. Where a recently relapsed girl found solace and tenderness in “Rue” – an episode with the aphoristic alternate title that insists on “Trouble Don’t Last Always” – our new titled teenager finds very little hope at this time.

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On this first visit to a new therapist, we see Jules talk so much through. She’s still grappling with the emotional tatters of her relationship with Rue and the devastating revelation that her sweet, loving “Tyler” was actually Jacob Elordi’s sinister Nate Jacobs. She reviews the motivations for changing sex and examines how many personal decisions she has made in the service of what she expected men to do. Her view of Rue’s addiction cannot help but be shaped by her own strained relationships with her mother. She also has nightmares in which an overdosed rue is depicted dead behind a locked bathroom door in an apartment they share. Uff.

Starting from the obviously COVID-restricted “Rue”, which was completely housed in a diner, “Jules” marks the return of Levinson’s eye-catching camera work, graphic sex scenes and swirling dream sequences, but also stares straight at the reality of Jules’ (lifelong and younger ) Pain and victimization. The result is uninterrupted trauma.

Schafer’s performance (and writing) heighten this episode significantly, drawing our attention with everything from a subtle lip tremor to a heartbreaking sob. In particular, she glows in the quieter, more joyful moments that tell the relationship between Rue and Jules, like in a scene where Rue gently injects Jules’ hormones into her before the two girls fall into bed together.

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The first season of Euphoria’s perspective on adolescent drug use, sex, and interpersonal relationships was dark, despite being disguised in glittery eye makeup and a funky score. “Jules” is even darker, with little flair or sparkling eyeliner to distract you from the desperation of our heroine. These two episodes were supposed to act as a little bridge from seasons 1 to 2, but they also seem to have changed something fundamental about the show itself. Even if the vaccine miraculously allows Euphoria to return to its rough roots – the current plan is to resume filming in March – it’s hard to imagine the show slipping straight into a frenetic, kaleidoscopic after these two devastating character studies World jumps back.

It is quite fitting for our COVID era of tremendous grief that the only environments that are relatively safe to film (although the jury is not yet sure if anyone should film at all at the moment) are those who do their fictional characters don’t allow fun. Levinson’s other quarantine project, Malcolm & Marie, encounters the same problem: Coronavirus precautions limited the size of the cast and scope of the movie. The result was little more than “an attractively photographed screaming match”.

The final moments of “Jules” show how the characters of Zendaya and Schafer reunited for the first time since their dramatic breakup at the end of season one. A pre-COVID version of this scene could have been explosive. Instead, we don’t even see the two touches before Rue’s abrupt departure. We leave Jules alone in bed and cry ourselves to sleep. Like so much in the world over the past year, Euphoria has changed and we may never return to what it was before.

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