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Euphoria Season 1 Finale Explained
Before Euphoria found its voice as a funny-but-trippy, heartfelt-but-brutal look at relationships and growing up, it was a pretty labor-intensive watch—you can’t exactly follow ketamine-dripping Gen-Zers and rogue locker room dicks for more than an hour at a time.
But after a couple episodes, Euphoria thankfully stopped trying to shock the olds, and instead focused on its protagonist, Rue. This gave us these inventive, surreal moments—like an ingenious spin on Rue’s manic-depressive episode as an old-school detective thriller (“I’m Morgan fuckin’ Freeman and this is the beginning of the third act”), or the dick pic seminar to end all dick pic seminars. And that’s not even mentioning her time with Jules—which made for one of the best relationships on TV in years.
Last night’s episode—the finale of Season One—was Euphoria at the peak of its powers. It’s a complete jukebox episode (which is saying a lot for this show) set at a school dance that views like an hour-long music video thriller—wrapping up every character’s storyline in a very loud, but very satisfying way. In no particular order: Lexi gets Gatorade drunk, Nate footballs pretty hard and realizes he probably shouldn’t be with Maddy, Cassie has an abortion and vows to enjoy her single-ness, Kat and Ethan share one of the sweetest scenes of this season, and Fez gets in some shit.
But like the entire season, the finale is at its best when the cameras are on Rue and Jules. Near the end of the episode, Rue hatches a plan to pack their shit and run away to a nearby town. After Jules steps on the train, Rue backs out, saying she couldn’t leave her family. In the after-episode interview with Zendaya, she explains that even though Rue loves Jules, “I think she’s just repeating and thinking about all the trauma that she’s already kind of caused her family. In that split moment, she just thinks about her mom and her little sister, which is something that we’ve never really seen her do.”
The rest of the episode turns into a brilliant, haunting examination of memory, the ways in which we love and hurt our family, and what it truly means to relapse. As Rue walks home, sobbing, we see intercuts of her dancing and laughing with her mom and sister, a particularly awful fight where Rue’s mother physically pushes her away, and we find out that Rue’s favorite red hoodie was her father’s.
When Rue gets home, she breaks her three-month sobriety and falls back on her bed—which is when things start looking like a Childish Gambino video. Set to an original Zendaya song, “All of Us,” Rue is hurled through her living room and outside, where a massive choir is waiting for her. They chant, toss Rue up and down, and form a small hill amongst themselves. In the closing moments of the finale, Rue climbs to the top of the choir, looks at the sky, and jumps out of focus.
At first watch, you’d think that Rue overdosed again—possibly fatally. As she’s being dragged away, Rue hugs her family in the living room as if she’s seeing them for the last time—not to mention posing like a corpse when the choir hoists her in the air, and, well, the jumping off-camera thing.
But if you listen to the final few “All of Us” lyrics, Zendaya sings, “When it all comes down to it // I hope one of you come back to remind me of who I was // When I go disappear // Into that good night.” “All of Us” echoes the old English-major staple, Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.” And not to go English major on you, but Euphoria calls for it—Thomas’s poem isn’t about submitting to death, it’s about resisting it. He writes: “Do not go gentle into that good night // Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
When you look at the entirety of Euphoria, Rue is sober for the better part of it, and often even happy—she’s seen outlasting prescription bottles that (literally) call to her, engaging with her recovery group, and eventually opening her heart to Jules—only to make one of the hardest decisions of her life by choosing her family over her love for her.
The finale isn’t about Rue relapsing and returning to heavy drug use again. It’s about her slipping even when she’s doing everything else right—like a human. To use Rue’s therapist’s words, which becomes a sort of refrain in the last two episodes: bad times still happen in the good ones. “I guess it’s true. Life is always this way,” Rue says.