After weeks of being announced as a representation of Boring Girl, Euphoria finally gave Maude Apatow’s Lexi her moment in the spotlight. It was, literally, of her own design: throughout Season 2, she wrote a play based on her life, and in Episode 7, it became a full-fledged play, very well-funded production. And while Lexi was most concerned with how her sister would receive it, the splash radius was actually much wider, given that most of the main characters were the inspiration for her very slightly fictionalized performance.
With “The theater and it’s double”, Euphoria is part of the great tradition of staging a play in another medium in order to understand what the characters have experienced. It’s a convention that goes back quite a long way — Hamletnotably, used the trope to compel villains to confront their deeds – but it’s also designed for some pretty fantastic TV moments (see: The simpsons‘ the recreation of Hamlet). Euphoria twists convention for all it has.
After all, the show is just as prone to imitating high art as it is to result in incomprehensible choices, like Kat neglecting her boyfriend until he breaks up with her. There is reason to think that high school is the scene of so many intermittent and non-linear transformations. But more than any Twitter feed or artist statement, a staged recreation of events (on stage or otherwise) manages to both capture the narrative wrinkle while ironing out some of the awkwardness that surrounds it. . To see: Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s “The Ember Island Players,” a virtual clip of the entire series reinterpreted by the autocratic Fire Nation, finally elucidating for audiences what we were supposed to think happened to Jet at the end of Season 2. “You know, it was really unclear,” Sokka shrugs.
Perhaps most importantly, the game in another thing is a way of reviving and processing characters’ feelings that doesn’t involve some mindless therapist bringing them to fissions of their psyches only to say “it’s our time. “. There’s beauty in watching a reaction overwhelm someone in real time, whether it’s Abed’s father watching his son’s divorce art film in Communityor Ted Mosby in how I Met Your Mother struggling to process his complicated feelings about his fiancée, leaving it to turn into someone else’s rom-com. It tells us something deeper about how these two people shaped and were shaped by their relationship.
In Euphoria‘s “The Theater and It’s Double,” these moments are largely wordless, at least for the audience. We are not aware of the whispers between Maddy and Kat. People deal mostly in isolation, but it shows how they check in with each other – Rue takes most of the tell-all stories Lexi shares about their friendship in stride, but often scans the crowd for reaction of Jules or Nate.
Euphoria has already managed to change perspective, but with a limited point of view. After a full season of amusing storytelling of Rue sharing the stories of those around her, Jules’ special episode uniquely gave her the reins to tell her own story. In her episode, her dreams and fears slipped from scene to scene. In this week’s episode, Lexi gets the same treatment, with writer-director Sam Levinson letting Lexi’s attention wander between her onstage memories and the past they hold for her very present concerns.
Cassie is, in a way, an important part of both of those things. She’s also perhaps the character most caught up in the frenzy of Euphoria, unwilling or unable to confess to choosing to sleep with her best friend’s ex. Unsurprisingly, his consideration goes mostly to Nate during the performance and how he deals with this perspective on his life. But during a father-daughter dance staged with her character, Cassie also turns to her mother, who doesn’t seem to even think to look back. Instead, Cassie rips and pushes the moment on her own.
The sheer impossibility of writing and directing a play to get your sister across only adds to the sweetness of the whole thing. Euphoria has been constantly plagued with unnecessary questions of “realism”, and “The Theatre” ostensibly shrugs it off, as the sheer production value of a play (written by a student!) gives way to rotating sets and to a massive, homoerotic musical number. As the crowd gives a standing ovation for the number, freshly dropped Cassie escapes from the hallway, while Fezco’s fate is left somewhere beyond the ellipses of “To be continued…” The entire episode is indulgent and theatrical , and this is exactly the kind of thinking Euphoria should shoot more often.