RECAP: A night at the theater offers the ‘Euphoria’ characters a look in the mirror

Boyce Rucker, Staff Writer

Season two’s first episode quickly gave us plenty to look forward to for several weeks. Elements such as Rue’s (Zendaya) relapse, Nate (Jacob Elordi) and Cassie’s (Sydney Sweeney) faulty entanglement and Cal’s (Eric Dane) self-realization drove us to speculation every week. “The Theater and It’s Double” gives us our best look at Lexi yet. If Nate & Cassie’s relationship is the MVP subplot of the season, then Lexi’s (Maude Apatow) play is like a stealth plane that surprises us and elicits so many emotions within the hour. While this episode does not have much plot progression until the end, it offers a lot to analyze as the characters see themselves through Lexi’s play.

Lexi debuts her play, titled “Our Life,” and presents a story that draws from the lives around her. Each main character is in attendance as they view their counterparts onstage. Fez (Angus Cloud) dresses up in preparation for the play, but he never makes it to the event.

The episode opens with Lexi sitting backstage in silence before she is notified that the production crew is ready. We then cut and dissolve to the episode’s “overture” alongside the image of a printed golden plant as the orchestral music swells. The following scene takes us back to the reception after Rue’s father’s funeral from Lexi’s point of view. The flashback features Lexi consoling Rue while she crushes and snorts her late father’s pills. Lexi reads Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” to Rue. The memory then becomes a present-day opening scene to Lexi’s play with a full audience watching, Rue amongst them. Lexi then narrates that she realized drugs are greater comfort to “Jade”(Rue’s stand-in) than she ever could be. After introducing the play’s characters, it becomes more apparent to Maddy (Alexa Demie) and the other central characters that the play is based upon them.

Maude Apatow in ‘The Theatre and its Double,’ (Euphoria 2022). (TVLine/HBO)

Just from the intro, we can understand that “Our Life” is not meant to simply be a dramatization of the character’s lives but more like a wake-up call. As toxic happenings and circumstances take hold over the characters’ lives, it can be hard to get through to them on a grounded level. Lexi acknowledges this when talking about the grasp drugs have on Rue. When we think of Lexi’s role throughout the season, she fits the bill of an observer, one who rarely intervenes but has a keen eye. The play is as much of an emotional downpour for Lexi as it is a look in the mirror for everyone else. Being a realist, but also the least emotionally scarred of the characters, Lexi utilizes her passion for the performing arts to express what could easily be ignored or discarded in a one-on-one conversation with the others. The play is a sad, funny and heartfelt plea to the others for self-improvement and openness with one another for the sake of friendship. But with “Euphoria” being “Euphoria,” it seems doubtful that some semblance of emotional stability would last given that toxicity drives the show’s drama. 

The play even presents a more confident side to Lexi than we have ever seen before. It was obvious from her interaction with Fez in the premiere episode that she would have more character development this season. As two characters with contrasting backgrounds, they easily influence change over each other. The season has not allotted much screen time for their relationship and more interactions, but we can see the influence as she sheds her passiveness to become more vocal and energetic. Her change shows as she tries talking sense into Cassie in the previous episode and demonstrates a calculated strictness over the production crew mixed with passionate excitement. 

Nika King and Zendaya in “The Theatre and its Double,” (Euphoria 2022). (TVFanatic/HBO)

Between instances of the play, we get brief scenes from the reality of each of the characters’ lives. To name a few, we see Rue and Jules (Hunter Schaefer) ignore each other when they are both in the restroom, an upset Maddy pounding on Cassie’s door soon after finding about her and Nate, and Leslie (Nika King) telling Rue she’ll simply just let Rue kill herself with drugs if she cannot stop. We also see Nate and Cassie walking together in public for the first time, with Cassie now sporting makeup and clothes that easily make her look like a Maddy knockoff. One of the more surreal scenes shows Nate seducing Jules in a hotel room, like the one she met Cal at in the series premiere, and Nate takes Jules’ prone position with Cal sexually preying on him.   

These scenes display the emotional distance the characters put between themselves and their loved ones. Rue’s scenario is more obvious, but it is underlined by the ambiguity of Leslie’s intent. Whether it be reverse psychology or Leslie has really given up on Rue, her lines are still something that will stay with Rue for some time. Given Leslie’s efforts to nurse Rue, the former seems more likely, and more saddening, as it shows the emotional lengths she has to go to in convincing her to stay clean. Whereas the fifth episode shows Maddy angry at Cassie after the revelation, we see her sad soon after as she pounds on the bathroom door and says that she never would have done anything similar to what Cassie did. While Maddy may have a perceived coldness, she is mostly loyal to her friends. Cassie continues to see Nate despite him abusing Maddy in season one and displaying darker tendencies, further highlighting how she puts her own satisfaction, or seeking approval, above friendship. 

Sydney Sweeney and Jacob Elordi in “The Theatre and its Double,” (Euphoria 2022). (The Ringer/HBO)

Although “Our Life” shows Lexi’s perception of her friends’ actions, it is not particularly a takedown on any of them. It not only recalls the darkest times, but also the brightest times for them. The most surprising is seeing her early interactions with Maddy, who does makeup on her. Ironically, this shows Maddy being a better sister to Lexi than Cassie’s been recently. Another shows the likely origin of her Bob Ross costume from the season one finale, where she smokes weed with Rue for the first time at Fez’s place. After she falls asleep, Rue squiggles a beard on her face which reminds Fez of Bob Ross, and he humorously refers to her as the bearded artist. Maddy, Kat (Barbie Ferreira) and Jules seemed unsure about the play at first, but they, along with Rue, enjoy it by the time it reaches a racy musical number.

Ethan (Austin Abrams) plays “Jake,” a Nate stand-in who headlines the play’s dance sequence set to “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler. The homoerotic dance number shows the young men in a locker room sitting shirtless in football padding pants. The sequence features thrusts, moaning, allusions to sexual imagery and spanking in humorously theatrical fashion. Lexi wins the crowd over with this conclusion to the first act, but also inadvertently angers Nate. Nate storms out of the auditorium with Cassie following him. He criticizes the play for being “homophobic” and tells Cassie to move out of his house, believing that she knew what Lexi wrote. The episode ends on Cassie looking through the auditorium door’s window with an eerie look as the music score from the Italian horror film “Cannibal Holocaust” plays and the words “To be continued” appear on-screen.

Alexa Demie and Jacob Elordi in ‘The Theatre and Its Double’ (Euphoria 2022). (Cheat Sheet/HBO)

Nate has been confused about his sexuality throughout the series, and feels like he’s being forced to confront it at this point. Although Cal is gone, Nate’s trauma from watching his tapes still remains if his latest dream is anything to go by. It is suggested throughout the series that Nate is not necessarily gay, but maybe bisexual, given his trauma and relationships. It now seems like he is trying to suppress his sexual preferences by establishing control over Cassie and Maddy. It can be said that he misinterprets Lexi’s play however, as it seems more like it was making fun of homophobia and deconstructing macho male stereotypes. She likely does not mean to make fun of him, but seeks to make him more comfortable with his sexuality. He is in denial of his sexuality and so he takes his anger out on Cassie.

As this is only the first act of “Our Life,” Cassie takes a darker turn and Fez’s fate is in question again, we can only guess how the finale will wrap things up next week. If next week ends on a dark note, then we can always look back to Ethan’s dance numbers, which Kat clearly neglected.