Well, after eight very long weeks, the second season of Euphoria has come to its grand conclusion — answering some questions, completely ignoring some others, and posing several new ones that will most likely be explored in the confirmed third season, set for release in 2024.
This season has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, with certain characters finally stepping out into the spotlight, others inexplicably retreating into the shadows, and more than a few staking their claim as reliable scene-stealers (I’m looking at you, Faye). Certain actions have made complete sense while others have left us collectively scratching our heads. But throughout it all, characters have continually done things that have significantly impacted their overall wellbeing.
So, as we reflect back on these past two months, analyzing who did what and how it all affected them in the end, NYLON is pleased to present a (completely subjective) ranking of all of this season’s key players, judged on how well they fared by the season’s end.
20. We, The Euphoria Viewers
What an exhausting season! And after all that, we’re still left with some very pressing questions!
In the finale, no one got a worse deal than Ashtray. I say this in the most literal sense, since, as you’ll already know, Ashtray doesn’t make it out of the finale alive. In what I can only imagine was an incredibly expensive shootout scene that felt transplanted in from an entirely different show, Ashtray tries to hold his own against an entire squad of armed officers (and successfully does for a bit, even getting one cop), before receiving a bullet straight to his brain.
Part of Ashtray’s poor fate comes down to poor writing. Ash has always been painted as violent and impulsive (never forget the hammer he took to Mouse’s head), but as the show’s quietest character, he’s also developed a reputation for being an astute observer. Ash was one of the first people to sniff out Custer’s shady demeanor, but he also heard Custer reveal that the cops were already involved. Having him, first, murder Custer for no tactful reason other than a lack of impulse-control, and later, lock himself in a bathroom for a blind gun-fight, seems out of character. Which, I guess, is exactly what actor Javon Walton is now — out of his character.
Okay. Yes. Custer also fails to make it out of this season alive, but given his ancillary status in the show — and his duplicitous cooperation with the police to bring down a fan-favorite character — something about his death feels far less meaningful. I mean, sorry for you, I guess?
Despite our pressing questions about her whereabouts, Laurie did not make an appearance in last night’s finale — at least not in person. In a quick-thinking diversion tactic, season MVP Faye tries to thwart Custer’s plans by redirecting the blame for Mouse’s death onto Laurie — a decision that could certainly draw some very unwanted attention onto the mild-mannered drug supplier’s quiet, apartment-run operation. Of course, we don’t know what isn’t shown to us, so maybe nothing happens to her at all? Either way, we do know that she’s down $10,000. And that’s not something you easily bounce back from — even when you’re a ruthless sex-trafficker.
Okay, maybe there are some other people on this list who fared worse than Cassie (who, it must be stated, is not dead or even imprisoned). But to some, being shunned by just about everyone you love (not just by the family and friends who turned their back on you after you aligned yourself with a sociopath, but also by that very sociopath, who left you without a second thought as soon as his masculinity was called into question) is a fate far worse.
“I can play the fucking villain,” Cassie proudly declares on stage after having her entire private life sensationalized for stranger’s enjoyment — and she certainly does, making a complete fool of herself in front of the entire student body as she admits to being the inspiration for her sister’s vapid sex-bomb of a protagonist foil. The secondhand embarrassment during that sequence stings. Cassie had already spent the season acting erratically in secret; now, she was doing so in full view, for everyone to see. “Do you know what’s funny,” she rhetorically asks Maddy after getting publicly beat-up on stage. “Nate broke up with me before I even went on that stage.” And with that, Cassie officially established herself as the most pitiful member of the Euphoria cast.
(But, hey, on the bright side, at least Cassie actress Sydney Sweeney may get an Emmy nomination out of it! More than any other supporting actress in the show’s sprawling ensemble, it’s Sweeney that has the most awards momentum following this season, thanks to her pitch-perfect personification of a teenage girl who has completely lost her marbles in love.)
My poor Fez! My honorable dealer! The love of my life! I feel so much for you in this episode. Though I am thanking the high heavens that you managed to weasel out of this season with your life still intact, I’m still devastated that you did not fare as well as you could have — and certainly not as well as you deserved to have, you sweet king. We can only assume that you are now rotting behind bars, a tragic victim of your complicated circumstance. Plus, you have incidentally disappointed a girl whose attention clearly brought you true joy for the first time, and who knows if she’ll be waiting around when you finally get the chance to explain yourself?
But perhaps worst of all, you are now forced to live the rest of your life knowing that Ash, the closest thing you had to family, died mere feet away from you. Since being saddled with the silent killer when he was only a baby, you have acted as both a surrogate father and adopted brother to Ash. You have been loyal to a fault, and now you’ll unfairly blame yourself for his untimely demise forevermore. You don’t deserve any of this. My heart goes out to you.
Before the finale, I was prepared to rank Cal Jacobs significantly higher on this list. Though I’ve previously noted that his dramatic exit from his family in episode four was not the “happy ending” someone in his position would hope for, something about it did still feel better than the alternative. After decades of torturing himself over his sexual inclinations, Cal was finally going out into the world to indulge them unapologetically; whether this late-in-life decision would be enough for him to ever feel truly fulfilled was another matter entirely.
But that was when I assumed we were done with Cal’s storyline. Instead, he appears again in the finale, now embracing his new life as an out-and-proud bachelor, setting up shop alongside a coterie of queer individuals who all seem more than happy to entertain this handsome piece of rough trade. But when Nate stops by to ruin the party, Cal’s new life implodes before his eyes. While he does end the season alive (a miracle in and of itself, given Nate’s obsession with pointing loaded guns all over the place), he doesn’t evade consequences for his year’s of bad actions, leaving his warehouse in handcuffs as cops arrest him on what are presumably sex offender charges. (He is wealthy though, so he’s in a slightly better predicament than Fez.)
To be honest, I don’t really know what to say about Nate. On one hand, he seems to have gotten everything he’s wanted this season: none of his own horrendous actions have caught up with him yet, he finally got to get “revenge” on the father he’s spent years self-righteously “protecting” (his words, not mine), and he even managed to make two of the hottest girls in his high school come to literal blows over their mutually conflicted feelings about him.
But on the other hand, he seems more depressed than ever — and no line illustrates his current mental state more than his declaration to his father that, “You don’t get to ruin our lives and then just move on and be happier.” That Nate has spent all this time stewing over his father’s post-moveout life when he could have been celebrating his own (now that he had finally been freed from the toxic relationship he once shared with him) is evidence that he is broken beyond repair. Nothing — not even “justice” for the father he blames for all his own shortcomings — will ever be enough to mend him. He can’t even recognize that Cassie, with all her mental damage, is perfect for him: the quintessential subservient lover who’d do anything to keep him happy. Now that he’s abandoned her too, he is truly alone, left with nothing but his own psychosis — and, of course, that gun he keeps whipping out for no apparent reason. (Chekhov is shaking.)
Agh, what to make of Kat, a character who, more so than anyone else this season, just seemed to not be there, even though she clearly was? Rumors of Barbie Ferreira’s relationship with showrunner Sam Levinson abound, but even when ignoring her notable lack of screentime, it’s still true that Kat doesn’t end this season in a particularly good place. Sure, some could argue that Kat is doing better now that she’s bitten the bullet and broken up with the doting boyfriend who couldn’t adequately satisfy her. But look at what said boyfriend just accomplished in the school play! For all we know, Ethan is now being hailed as a hometown hero; he very well may now be the coolest guy in school. He might not be Dothraki-adjacent, but you can’t convince me that Kat isn’t feeling some kind of way now that Ethan is no longer a textbook nerd.
Yet another character who we didn’t get to check in with, Gia has typically been one of the show’s most reliably stable characters, trusted to be good when everyone else…is not. Unfortunately, our last update concerned her falling grades. In the aftermath of her sister Rue’s terrifying freakout, the once brilliant student is now struggling where she once excelled. Sad.
In addition to responding to her youngest daughter’s struggles, Leslie is presumably still reeling from her eldest daughter’s recent antics as well. Leslie temporarily gave in to her exhaustion when she gave Rue permission to relapse, asserting that she was done fighting for Rue now that it’s openly affecting Gia. But one can also assume that she’s feeling better with each passing day that Rue stays sober. Throw in the small flirtations she’s been exchanging with Rue’s sponsor Ali, and it’s clear that things could certainly be worse for Miss Bennett.
From certain vantage points, Maddy has experienced some immeasurable losses this season. Not only did she lose her boyfriend, but she was continually tortured by him afterwards — with the sociopath even going as far as to threaten her with a gun (loaded or not). Then, she had to discover that her so-called “best friend,” who she had confided in for years, was secretly dating said boyfriend behind her back. In short, Maddy was playing the role of Alexander and season two of Euphoria was her personal Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
But who really lost? Nate Jacobs is awful, and finally getting rid of him would be anybody’s net-gain. Cassie stepping in to date him only distances Maddy further from him; she almost certainly won’t ever consider going back to him now. And that’s not it — after initially being robbed of the opportunity to properly confront Cassie, Maddy finally got her moment, and used it very wisely — getting an audibly satisfying slap to her enemy’s face (much to Jules’ delight) and later topping it off with a classic head-slam-into-a-brick-wall. All this and she ended up with an expensive new dress (for free), courtesy of her newly-minted friendship with Samantha.
Lexi experienced some of this finale’s highest highs, but also some of its lowest lows. The bad first: It wasn’t until the second season premiere that Lexi ever got to feel desired, when Fezco (untruthfully) referred to her as “the coolest person in here” at a New Year’s Eve party. Now, before Lexi was even able to parade her new love around screaming See-I-Can-Have-It-All, poor Fez has most likely landed himself in jail. To make matters worse, Fez was one of the only people who promised to not be offended by Lexi’s play. Without him, Lexi is now left to face the fire she’s ignited with others — most prominently, her sister, who wastes no time calling Lexi out for being “a fucking bystander” who has “never even fucking lived.” Though it’s Cassie who ends up looking the most foolish in this scenario, it must still sting to have your big moment in the spotlight once again upstaged by the antics of your naturally attention-grabbing sister.
But who cares when it feels like crack? Though she may have angered the few close peers whose personal histories inspired some of her play’s central storylines, she has presumably gained a whole host of fans throughout the rest of the school. (The confused audience member demanding answers about whether “Hallie” steals “Marta’s” boyfriend is one of the episode’s smallest highlights.) As stage-manager/veritable Lexi stan Bobbi tells her director while trying to cheer her up about the chaos her play has wrought, “It could be worse. It could be boring.” Lexi may not know what Little House on the Prairie is (seriously, wtf), but at least people know her name!
And, perhaps more than anything, Lexi got the chance to patch up her relationship with Rue, the only person whose love and approval she seems to crave more than Fez’s. In certain respects, Our Life was a love letter to Rue and the friendship they once shared. And though Lexi mined Rue’s darkest moments for material much in the same way she did her sister, Rue responds quite differently. “Your play was the first time I was able to look at my life and not hate myself for everything I’ve done,” Rue tells her former best friend, reassuring Lexi that turning pain into art could never be a bad thing. Given Lexi’s clearly stated need to feel validated about airing out other people’s dirty laundry, hearing that may be more important than everything else.
Much like Kat, Jules didn’t get much to do this season at all, which makes it much harder to tell how much she did or did not evolve as the season progressed. From one angle, Jules didn’t do so well — she got back with Rue out of a sense of guilty duty, then got tangled up in a weird love triangle, and then had to find out that both other members of said triangle were mutually lying to her about Rue’s continued drug use. And boom, she was single again. But perhaps that was for the best? After all, Jules could really use some time to figure herself out — by herself.
Nevertheless, Jules did conclude the season in disappointment, as her effort to reconnect with Rue (after being scolded by her for aiding in her intervention) failed to truly pay off. Though Rue did give Jules a quick hug, her deliberate silence in response spoke volumes. In voiceover, Rue remarks on Jules as her “first love,” stating that she’d “like to remember it that way.” But whether that’s just code for “I’m done with her forever” doesn’t really matter since, in the end, Jules is much better off without Rue anyway. Maybe this severance was what she needed all along.
When one-time Euphoria porn artist Chloe Cherry appeared in this season’s opener as an absentminded heroin addict who couldn’t even tell what day it was on New Year’s Eve, no one could’ve predicted that she’d be anything more than one of the show’s bajillion background characters. Instead, Cherry has ushered her character right into the center-stage, turning Faye into the season’s most beloved breakout by gradually revealing new layers within her character.
In addition to having hands made of steel — did you see the way she just scooped up those shards of glass from the cup she dropped — Faye proved to be quite the quick-on-her-feet thinker. Though she started this season as Custer’s girlfriend, Faye ended it on the right side of history: as a Fez loyalist, quickly erecting a plan to ensure that her new confidant didn’t unwittingly admit to anything incriminating while Custer tried to set him up. Pivoting blame for Mouse’s death onto Laurie and brilliantly foiling her ex’s nefarious plan, Faye concludes the season as one of its de facto MVPs. She may be in jail, but I believe she’ll work it all out.
After the harrowing experience that was her “rock-bottom” in the season’s fifth episode, no one could have predicted that Rue would conclude this season in better shape than she’s ever been. But here we are! Admitting at the end of the episode that she’s still clean, Rue spends her portions of the finale continuing her recovery process, now focusing on making amends as she opens up to people like Elliott and Lexi in a way that exhibits real momentous growth. Go off!
In fact, the only thing that could really bring Rue down is the lingering threat of sex-trafficking — after having $10,000-worth of drugs flushed down the toilet during her intervention, she still has no way to repay the quietly ruthless supplier Laurie. But, hey — the Euphoria writers seemed to forget all about that plotline in the finale, so I guess I have no choice but to do the same. So congratulations, Rue, for escaping what could have been a very unsavory fate.
Suze had a great time this season! Sure, the boozed-up mother to two vastly different daughters was forced to watch on as they took turns hurting each other in comparably different ways. But she also got to witness the birth of a future star — her daughter. “It’s not her fault. She’s a writer,” she says about her daughter Lexi as her other daughter Cassie screams about the play not being fair. Unlike Cassie, Suze seems positively tickled by the whole affair, even taking a second to shout out Ethan, whose impersonation of her “had me down to a science.” Watching as your popular daughter publicly implodes must be hard, but judging by Suze’s very enthusiastic support of just about everything in Our Life, it’s safe to assume that she feels pleased with herself nonetheless. After all, it’s not like she was counting on much from Cassie anyway. Though less traditionally cool, you know it was always the “genius” Lexi she expected big things from. The premiere of Our Life is, in the words of Maddy, “just the beginning.”
Despite being something of a series enigma — even chief scene partner-cum-IRL-girlfriend Hunter Schafer expressed initial confusion about what value his character added to the show’s overall dynamic — new character Elliott (singer Dominic Fike) concluded this season of Euphoria in one of its most favorable positions. In the finale, Elliott reveals that he hasn’t talked to Jules much since Rue’s intervention, but he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about it nor do we have a reason to believe that the pair are on explicitly “bad” terms. Rather, it was Elliott’s relationship with Rue that seemed to be up in the air after he “snitched” about her drug use. But in the finale, Rue forgives him, even going as far as to thank him, admitting that he “accidentally saved [her] life.” Plus, he got to steal a solid four minutes of screentime to perform a new acoustic song (guitar and all), which is certainly a positive sign for Fike’s working relationship with showrunner Sam Levinson (who clearly values his character more than, say, Kat).
Did anyone finish this season off stronger than Ethan? Sure, prior to Lexi’s school play, Ethan’s season-long arc basically involved getting dumped — and subsequently gaslit — by the love of his life. But does any of that really matter when you just secured yourself a permanent spot at the Cool Kids lunch table by taking the piss out of one of the school’s most notorious bullies? Who cares about girlfriends when you’re getting standing ovations? For playing multiple roles?
1. The Our Life Audience
Imagine being one of the lucky few people who get to say, “I was in the audience when Maddy Perez slapped Cassie Howard in the face while Cassie’s mom ran around praising Ethan’s impersonation of her?” You’ve just witnessed literal history! Those are the real winners.