Be warned. Nothing is off the table in HBO’s disturbing new teen drama, Euphoria.
Violence, drugs, language, alcohol, full frontal nudity, sexuality, guns, mental health, self-harm, sexting, d*** pics, child drug dealers, pornography, suicide references…. it’s all here.
The 8 part drama, based on an Israeli series, is adapted by writer Sam Levinson (The Wizard of Lies, Assassination Nation) and depicts a group of high school students in a middle-class American suburb.
Landing as a post-millennial Skins, it centres around 17 year old drug addict Rue (Zendaya), diagnosed as obsessive compulsive, bipolar and then some. She is fresh out of rehab but unapologetically drawn back to her destructive addictions when faced with her mundane existence.
“At some point you just make a choice about who you are and what you want,” she despairs.
Amongst her circle of peers -I’m reluctant to call them friends- is local jock and bully Nate (Aussie Jacob Elordi) who struts around shirtless, treating young women as his sexual plaything, referring to them as sl*ts and whores and resorting to physical violence. But there are deep issues on the home front….
Body-conscious Kat (Barbie Ferreira) does not have the cheerleader physical attributes of her friends and is pressured into losing her virginity at a boozy party with devastating consequences.
Jules (Hunter Schafer) is the new girl on the block and currently transitioning. She has her own defence mechanisms and self-esteem issues while Lexi’s (Maude Apatow) friendship with Rue is exploited and abused like a cheap commodity.
Various others portray teen footballers, girlfriends, siblings, and parents including Eric Dane in the creepiest role he’s ever undertaken….
The kids are collectively hooked on social media and YouTube, communicating on apps, swapping nude photos daily, lacking self-respect and all but devoid of personal nourishment from hopes, dreams and ambitions.
There is frequent drug-taking, uninhibited full frontal nudity (including a blurry prosthetic erection which may have to be excised) and an overwhelming bleakness to 2019 America.
Yet the performances are arresting, notably Zendaya and Jacob Elordi, which combine with inspired, vivid direction from Augustine Frizzell and Levinson himself.
As this story spirals downward the net effect is that it is hard to look away. Holding a mirror up to a generation, Euphoria raises grim questions, not just about how society degenerated to this, but what is it doing about it…?
Some will criticise it for going too far, where others will see it as a wild ride and confronting taboos. Much will depend on its final episode and whether there is redemption, a way out of this tunnel. I’ll be watching to find out.
Euphoria airs 9:30pm Monday on FOX Showcase.