RECAP: ‘Euphoria’ showcases a calm before the storm in ‘A Thousand Little Trees of Blood’

Boyce Rucker, Staff Writer

This review contains spoilers for episode six in season two of “Euphoria.”

Last week’s tumultuous episode is easily the show’s most chaotic chapter yet as we saw Rue’s (Zendaya) self-destructive antics come to a head before she returned home. This week, we retreat to a slightly more stable episode as we shift focus back to the other main characters in “A Thousand Little Trees of Blood.” Though this aftermath is one of the quieter and less eventful episodes of the season, it does not mean the characters get to relax now. As the season finale approaches, this episode is more akin to a calm before the inevitable storm.

Zendaya in ‘A Thousand Little Trees of Blood’ (Euphoria 2022). (HBO/The Vulture)

After returning home, Rue tries to make amends with Leslie (Nika King), Gia (Storm Reid) and Ali (Colman Domingo). An emotionally wrecked Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) tries to justify her love for Nate (Jacob Elordi) despite betraying Maddy (Alexa Demie). Meanwhile, Kat (Barbie Ferreira) tries to end her relationship with Ethan (Austin Abrams) on her own terms. With Cal (Eric Dane) gone, Nate takes the first steps to build a new beginning for himself.

The episode opens with Rue alone at the dinner table struggling to unwrap a jolly rancher and on the brink of tears. The withdrawal process is taking its toll on Rue as she is presumably too weak to open the candy. Leslie then helps the weakened Rue back to her bedroom. Gia then joins Rue in her room as Leslie cleans the rooms from Rue’s rampage. Returning to narrate, Rue expresses regret for her actions, saying that “no one would forget the trauma of me not being clean.” She specifically regrets scolding Ali in the season’s third episode, prompting her to call and apologize. She struggles to apologize when she calls him, but he quickly expresses forgiveness and accepts her apology. Ali then joins Rue and her family for dinner and cooks for them.

Angus Cloud and Maude Apatow in ‘A Thousand Little Trees of Blood’ (Euphoria 2022). (HBO/WesttNewss)

The episode centers around forgiveness throughout, and Rue is the optimal character to open with. Last week’s episode tests out tolerance with the character and reinforces our desire to see her get clean from drugs. Her comments toward Ali in episode three marks the point where we start to question her moral sensibility, as she turns on someone who is debatably her biggest supporter for getting clean. Ali’s forgiveness is the first step towards progress for Rue, as we see her finally able to unwrap the jolly rancher. For anyone who has done drugs, or anything some would deem unforgivable, forgiveness from others is one of the most invaluable things for anyone undergoing recovery. While Rue seems to be on a good start to sobriety, she is not quite there yet. 

Ali tells Gia and Leslie that Rue has to find hope in order to progress in recovery. Prior to their first fallout, Rue saw Jules (Hunter Schaefer) as her motivation to get clean, and it worked for a time until Jules left Rue in the season one finale. However, Rue no longer cares for Jules, possibly still owes Laurie for the drugs and tarnished her friendships last week, making it hard to find motivation to get clean. While Leslie wants to help her, Gia is still hesitant on whether or not it is worth trying. This ties into what Ali says about losing faith in an addict after so many failed attempts to rehabilitate. The episode ends with Leslie pleading with a rehab center to take Rue out of fear that Rue will kill herself. This happens as Rue and Gia peacefully sleep in bed. The ending shows that Rue has a support system in Gia and Leslie, but it may not be enough to counter Rue’s self-destruction and prevent another relapse.

Alexa Demie in ‘A Thousand Little Trees of Blood’ (Euphoria 2022). (HBO/Tech Radar)

After Cal’s departure, Nate’s family is changed but not exactly for the better. Nate and his mother Marsha (Paula Marshall) have an open conversation that is more concerning than cathartic. As they talk about him dating Cassie over Maddy, she is enthusiastically proud of him for choking Maddy in last season’s carnival episode. But he denies choking while showing a slightly regretful expression. She points out that Nate only inherited Cal’s bad qualities but none of his good ones, and while not saying it, she gives the impression that he may be a psychopath. At the same time, Cassie is in shambles because Nate will not return her calls, leading Suze (Alanna Ubach) to make Lexi (Maude Apatow) hide the kitchen knives out of fear that Cassie will attempt to harm herself. Her desperation for Nate mixes with her anxiety, causing her to try hurting herself with a corkscrew. Lexi points out how pathetic her attraction to Nate is when he was making fun of her some time ago.

As these scenes are shown back to back with each other, we get a greater impression that Nate and Cassie are not good for each other. Nate almost looks like he is about to turn over a new leaf, but that is doubtful given how the show’s characters eventually give in to their worst impulses. Without Cal, Nate is closer to making his dream from episode two a reality as he plans to inherit Cal’s construction business and maybe commit to a relationship with Cassie. When we look at Cassie’s prior relationships, Nate seems like an optimal partner in her eyes. Whereas McKay (Algee Smith) encouraged her to get an abortion and Daniel (Keean Johnson) insulted her by saying guys just want her for sex, Nate seems like he is attracted to her on a deeper level. However, it is hard to forget the torturous act of him ignoring her calls, which contributes to her mental breakdowns. Whereas Maddy still has a fixation or connection to Nate, she excommunicates herself from Cassie in this episode. Aside from mental stability and pride, the only thing that the relationship cost Cassie, in her mind, is her friendship with Maddy. 

Sydney Sweeney in ‘A Thousand Little Trees of Blood’ (Euphoria 2022). (HBO/Get India News)

Nate’s psychopathic tendencies go to new extremes when he confronts Maddy to steal back the Jules and Cal sex tape, thus protecting his family’s reputation and securing a clean business future. Nate grabs his father’s revolver and surprises Maddy in her bedroom with the loaded gun. She feigns ignorance at first before he puts the gun against her head. He then unloads the gun, leaving one bullet, and plays Russian roulette while aiming the gun at himself. His actions play on the love that Maddy still has for him. She breaks down and gives him the video disc, and he tells her the gun was never loaded. He leaves her and takes her necklace with him. Nate decides to give the tape to Jules and apologizes for manipulating her throughout season one. Afterwards, he calls Cassie and invites her to stay at his house. He ends the call by saying he loves her, possibly for the first time ever.

Nate desperately tries to contradict his mother’s view of him, but his method is still flawed. Using the love that Maddy and Cassie feel for him as a means to keep breaking them. By turning the gun on himself, he exposes Maddy’s borderline worship of him and demonstrates the power he still has over her as she stops him from killing himself. It can also be that Nate partially wants to punish himself for all he has done and leaves his life up to chance with a game of Russian roulette. His lie about the gun being unloaded even devalues her in a sense, making it seem like she is not worth his life or time. It is even safe to say that Nate is done with Maddy as he takes the necklace that we see Cassie wearing in next week’s promo. Nate giving Jules the tape is also a noble act, but not one that we can commend him for given his motivation. The video comes more out of self-interest as he wants to have a clean slate with his new lifestyle choices. He uses Jules’ forgiveness as a way to convince himself that he is a good person. He may be becoming self-aware of his own flaws, therefore losing his god complex from prior episodes, but it does not mean he is redeemed when his actions this week were just so he could make himself look like a savior.

Hunter Schafer and Jacob Elordi in ‘A Thousand Little Trees of Blood’ (Euphoria 2022). (HBO/The Vulture)

This week has tested how far we’re willing to excuse or forgive the characters for their behavior and if redemption is on the table for them. Next week’s episode is sure to make some of the characters self-reflect as they watch Lexi’s play which is inspired by them. After countless deplorable and self-destructive acts throughout the series thus far, a look in the mirror might be what the characters need for their own good.

This review is the sixth of a weekly schedule that will recap each episode of “Euphoria” for the current season. Come back every Monday to read our take on this season!