‘Euphoria’s’ bizarre ending reflects show’s priority for sensationalism over substance

Denise Emerson

Throughout its whole first season, “Euphoria” skirts the line between hard-hitting narratives and scandalous, shameless cop-outs. The show teeters on the edge of catering to an impressionable, adolescent audience and a critical, adult audience.

While “Euphoria” relies on sex, rebellion and angst to fill the hour-long episodes, the breathtaking visuals and cinematics further muddle its messages of insecurity and recovery. This is a dangerous decision on the creator’s part because the winding, provocative ambiance of the show glorifies the mistakes and downfalls of the cast.

The framing of the characters’ dilemmas — ranging from the questionable empowerment in Kat’s (Barbie Ferreira) sexual exploration of Nate (Jacob Elordi) and Maddy’s (Alexa Demie) abusive relationship — makes these situations appear enticing or thrilling. Along with the radiant visuals of drug use, these portrayals send mixed messages of the morality of these actions.

The finale does not complete many themes and situations explored by the show. The characters remain as naive as they started and any positive outcomes they achieve are not well-deserved. Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), and Fezco’s (Angus Cloud) storylines, two of the most resounding stories, are left up in the air. The finale flips between the characters, unable to stick around long enough to drive home the point of their suffering.

The finale only sufficiently appreciates the heart and soul of the show, Rue (Zendaya). The weight, implications and reasoning for her return to drug use are delicately executed. Time has been taken to ensure the audience understands Rue despite her drug use. The show laboriously presents the negative consequences of her addiction, grounding her story as something memorable among often-flighty narratives in teen dramas.

Everything surrounding Rue in the finale, from her mother’s echoing speech to her desperate stare at Jules (Hunter Schafer) on the train, was enacted with precision and care. When the musical act interrupts, the audience must blink a few times to realize they have been ripped from what could’ve made the show worth it. The final-scene-turned-music-video comes as an out-of-place endnote. Although it was meticulously executed, it completely distracts the viewer from what the show best offers — intriguing characters deserving of change and growth.

Sultry, controversial scenes and HBO’s pompous use of every single hit of the past two years in the soundtrack are not what makes “Euphoria” original. The elaborate cinematography and grandiose style of the show, which are given to side scenes of little narrative value, also are not what make this show original. Rather, it is the actors’ performances and the potential for these characters to undergo positive changes.

Between the foggy, neon bike rides and trippy, glittery parties, “Euphoria” shows tender youth deserving of growth. The second season will reveal if the creators want to make important statements with the narrative — an ethical action they should take for adolescent viewers. If viewers are disappointed, the show will still offer some of the most stunning visuals dramas have to offer.