“Euphoria” is a televised representation of teen identity: the good, the bad and the ugly. The show has garnered widespread attention for its fresh representations of classic teen identities and renewed discussion of issues such as trauma, mental illness, drug addiction and abuse.
The show is written and directed by Sam Levinson, who has stated that much of the story is informed by his own experiences as a teen and a drug addict. Season one, which premiered June 16, 2019, followed Rue Bennett (Zendaya Coleman) as the main character. The season allotted each character their own focused episode, but Rue and her relationship with Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer) were the driving force of the show.
The series has been renewed for a second season, but unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the cast from filming. So, Levinson decided to write and direct two one-hour specials about Rue and Jules, which are greatly restricted in their scope due to COVID-19 regulations. The first episode, “Trouble Don’t Last Always,” aired Dec. 6, 2020, and the second will air Jan. 24, 2021.
“Trouble Don’t Last Always” is unlike anything “Euphoria” has done before. The series is known for its rapid pace, dynamic visuals and overlapping storylines, whereas this episode is one hour of measured dialogue between Rue and her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Ali (Colman Domingo). While technically a Christmas episode, as it takes place on Christmas Eve, it lacks traditional holiday presentation. Instead, the episode opens with a dream sequence of Rue and Jules, quickly transitioning to Rue eating pancakes with her sponsor. The episode loosely includes Christmas themes of family and hope but crafts them into their own narrative.
This episode provides the show’s most involved character development yet, as the painful experiences and resilience of both Rue and Ali are revealed. The true devastation of addiction is addressed by Ali, who spends the episode trying to convince Rue why she should get clean. Her repeated insistence that she is “just a piece of shit” is met by Ali’s experienced response, “You’re not a drug addict because you’re a piece of shit. You’re a piece of shit because you’re a drug addict.”
Rue maintains a barrier for much of the episode, refusing to be convinced of a higher purpose, redemption or hope. Her face twists between apathy, pain and defeat as Ali tells her that addiction is a disease and that the “hardest part of the disease, other than having the disease, is no one else in the world sees it as a disease.”
Occasionally, the plot drags or strays with Ali’s dialogue, which jumps between discussions of faith, the Civil Rights Movement, capitalism and his own story of addiction. Although it can be hard to follow the direction of conversation over the hourlong period, Ali’s appeal for Rue to get sober is some of the best dialogue on the show. Viewers learn more about Ali and Rue than ever before, with heartbreaking revelations of both Ali’s past and Rue’s beliefs about her future.
The show maintains the essence of its signature lighting and camera angles even within the stationary diner. Sometimes, the pair is filmed through their adjacent window, which blurs their portrayal just slightly, or more often, the angle is just slightly off-center. Compared to Euphoria’s usual rapid tumbling and twisting of camera movements, the cinematography of this episode is quite subtle.
“Trouble Don’t Last Always” directly challenges many of the show’s critics, who have argued that “Euphoria” glamorizes drug addiction. Well, this episode portrays with painful sincerity that drug addiction is not glamorous. It is not about partying or hedonistic pursuits of pleasure: It is a degenerate disease that ruins lives and relationships. The episode is also primarily about hope, though, as Miss Marsha (Marsha Gambles) — a waiter in the diner — tells Rue, “Baby, trouble don’t last always.”
While the pacing of the episode and its lack of visual aesthetics may disappoint some viewers, the depth of discussion around addiction, family and even death makes “Trouble Don’t Last Always” one of the most heartbreakingly realistic episodes of the series.