While the opening of last week’s episode of Euphoria gave us insight into aspects of McKay’s character that explain his attraction to Cassie, this week, in Episode 7, we learn about Cassie’s background and how her childhood informs her current romantic life. Furthermore, we learn that Cassie has fallen into the quandary that her mother has been warning her against from the beginning of this season: pregnancy.
In other Euphoria storylines from “Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed,” we finally see the eruption of Kat’s stoic, impossible resolve to protect herself from vulnerability, and we again fall witness to the plunging depths of Nate’s sociopathy. Most importantly, we see the rekindling of Jules and Rue’s positive connection to each other after Jules carves out space for herself to feel free, and we learn about Rue’s mental illness and how it contributes to her addiction.
Cassie’s abandonment issues
In Cassie’s early childhood, her dad was inestimably important in her life. Her father doted on her and nurtured dreams of seeing her become a figure skater. Things were never entirely peaceful in Cassie and Lexi’s household, though: their parents often argued, and this discord was apparently rooted in their mom’s jealously over women who flirted with their handsome father.
Cassie began to bond more with her mother when she entered adolescence; conversely, she and her father began to grow more distant during this time. Cassie’s parents are shown to have opposite reactions to her burgeoning womanhood. Whereas Cassie’s mom reassures her about her looks and tells her that she looks beautiful, her father seems to feel discomfited by Cassie’s inevitable sexuality, dismissively telling her that she’ll be a “heartbreaker.”
By the time Cassie reaches high school, her parents have split. Cassie and Lexi’s dad’s visits become increasingly sporadic. He eventually becomes critically injured while driving drunk. In his recuperation, their dad is introduced to Fentanyl, and he becomes an addict. One night, Cassie’s dad wakes her up in the middle of the night to let him in so he can take valuables from the house, and that is the last time that Cassie sees her father.
She fell in love with every guy she ever dated, whether they were smart or stupid or sweet or cruel, it didn’t matter. She didn’t like to be alone.
Cassie’s ability to develop healthy relationships is severely impacted by the feelings of abandonment that her father’s desertion left her with. Because of her natural sexual appeal that makes McKay feel proud to be with Cassie, all the guys she’d dated previously had insisted on recording her performing sexual acts with them. Cassie, obviously reluctant but also hesitant to refuse from fear of abandonment, relents. So, now we know the story of Cassie’s sex tapes that have been alluded to and that have haunted McKay since Episode 1. Honestly, I think that’s pretty much what we expected regarding the nature and origin of the sex videos.
Finding out about Cassie’s history and her abandonment issues provides a rich context, however, for seeing how Cassie reacts to finding herself pregnant. First, she vaguely tries talking to her sister Lexi, asking her if she looks different…but that doesn’t go over so well. Again, Cassie finds herself unable to breach the issue with Lexi and a group of their friends, including Kat and Maddy. She finally tells McKay, and it is obvious that she, like many young women in this predicament, is hoping for a positive response from him. He, however, makes it clear that he is not ready for fatherhood and strongly discourages her from keeping the child.
Finally, Cassie goes to her mother. In a truly unexpected moment of grace, empathy, and courage, Cassie’s mother, although obviously pained by the news and by the definitive end of Cassie’s girlhood, reacts not with anger or accusations of disgrace but with loving support. In this moment, the dissipation of Cassie’s fraught anxiety and fear is palpable. Yes, she still must go through the ordeal of (presumably) terminating her pregnancy and her life won’t ever be quite the same, but she won’t be alone. In this moment, it is as though Cassie finds true solace from her sense of having been neglected and discarded by her father.
Kat’s resolve crumbles
In this episode, for the first time since Kat undertook her steely transformation in “Made You Look,” her true emotions break through. In Episode 3, we learned that Kat had a “serious” relationship with Daniel in the sixth grade, but that he dumped her after she gained weight on vacation. We can surmise that this harsh rejection at an early age predisposed Kat to deflect feelings of vulnerability and has contributed to this “above-it-all” attitude as she begins to experiment with sexuality.
Now, we learn from a flashback to the Halloween party in “The Next Episode” that Kat ended up having sex with Daniel after Cassie turned him down (and he cruelly disparaged Cassie’s personality in return). Kat, momentarily elated by sexually conquering the monolith of her feelings of rejection, is visibly wounded when Daniel dismissively tells her he doesn’t remember dating her at all.
It is clear that, during the oddly formal meeting that Cassie has called with her friends with the intention of telling them about her pregnancy, Kat doesn’t want her fling with Daniel to come to light. In any case, she gets burned in a way that she surely didn’t see coming. When Kat glibly disparages the long-term potential of Cassie and McKay’s relationship, Maddy, angry at the way Kat has been treating her friends, breaks Kat’s tough demeanor.
Kat storms out after Maddy tells her that they miss the old version of her (“who had a sense of humor and wasn’t a cunt”), and she sobs openly as she walks down the street in the most authentic display of emotion that we have seen from her. In this moment, it is as though she realizes that for all her posturing as a bad bitch, she will never escape feelings of emotional vulnerability.
Later, we also see her camming for the first time with a sadist instead of a masochist customer. When he insists on watching her undress with his screen blacked out, Kat cannot withstand the feeling of losing control of the exchange and exits the interview. In the final episode of Euphoria, Season 1, we will see whether Kat will find a way to validate her unacknowledged need for shared emotional intimacy and if she will be able to equalize her impulse to maintain full control in her social and sexual exchanges.
Nate’s toxic masculinity
At the end of Episode 5, “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” we learned that Nate’s father Cal has developed self-awareness about how his identity repression has instilled rage-filled toxic masculinity in his sons. In Episode 7, Cal confronts Nate about his inconceivable propensity for harming others. Although Cal is highly invested in his and his family’s public image that is bound up in status, he sincerely wants Nate to improve his character. Cal attempts to reason with Nate, intimating that he knows Nate was indeed guilty of assaulting Maddy and implying that Nate should be more reflective about the harm that his actions cause others.
Nate, in a detached manner, listens carelessly and, without responding, aggressively shoulders his father aside to go to his room and end the conversation. It is obvious that Cal, as foreboding as his character has seemed since his clandestine affair with Jules in Episode 1, does have a conscience and is grabbing at straws to inspire some sense of social responsibility in his son. Their dynamic does inspire curiosity about whether Nate’s chilling affiliation with Jules will come to light and, if it does, how Cal will react to his son’s insidious capability for harming others.
I don’t know how you got out of this situation…and I admire whatever it took. I just hope it didn’t teach you the wrong lesson.
Later in the episode, we see Rue naively asking Fezco to scare Nate with one of his guns because she knows that he’s somehow hurt Jules. Fezco dismisses this idea to Rue’s face, but he does eventually confront Nate when Nate comes to shop in Fezco’s store. Fezco suggests that Nate leave Rue and Jules alone, Nate responds with belittling comments, and Fezco bluntly states that he’ll kill Nate if he doesn’t back off.
Nate, in an act of remarkable cowardice that now has Euphoria enthusiasts on Twitter screaming for his speedy demise, calls the law on Fezco and reports him for distributing drugs. We don’t yet know the outcome of Fezco’s interaction with the police, but we can hope that Nate’s confidence in his own ability to manipulate law enforcement to his malicious intent will soon be shattered.
Rue and Jules: A tortuous bond
In Episode 7, we see Rue and Jules both separately struggling with severe attacks of depression that keep them in bed, both claiming they have the flu. True, in Jules’ case, her depression and week away from school are probably induced more by Nate’s threatening and shame-inducing blackmail of her, whereas Rue is legitimately struggling with bipolar disorder. Nonetheless, their simultaneous experiences with depression emphasize their underlying emotional bond.
Throughout the episode, Rue wavers between manic and depressive states. When she is down, she stays in bed addictively binging reality television, not getting up even to relieve her bladder (hence, the episode’s title). In her voice-over, Rue relates a strikingly relatable description of depressive mental states, explaining how depression has the effect of “collapsing time” in an “endless and suffocating loop.”
When reality TV begins to feel like work…you know you’re depressed.
In her manic state, however, Rue displays the tell-tale symptoms, i.e., extremely talkative, racing thoughts, intensely goal-directed activity. Despite the dark implication of her mental anguish, one scene of Rue in a manic state is one of the funniest, most imaginative, and most exciting scenes in the episode. While Rue speculates about Jules’ apparent involvement with Nate—deducing correctly that Nate is ShyGuy118, that Nate pretended to be the real Tyler who took the fall for Maddy’s assault, and that Nate was first compelled to mess with Jules because he is attracted to her—events are projected through the overlay of Rue’s imagination, in which she envisions herself as a hard-boiled detective and Lexi, her confidante, as her partner.
Later, again in a depressive state, Rue crawls on the floor trying to get to the bathroom because of the crushing strain she has put on her bladder and kidneys. Her mother Leslie finds her there and, in an act that mirrors Cassie’s mother’s loving support, comforts her. Rue submits to her mother’s care at this point, taking a bath while Leslie changes her bedsheets and generally tries to uplift her. Rue confesses to Leslie that she might need to be medicated for her bipolar disorder; Leslie responds by congratulating Rue for not relapsing in her addiction despite the anguish that she has undergone from her mental illness.
Jules, to escape the suffocating parameters of her obligatory contract to Nate and still wary of recommitting in her relationship with Rue, retreats to her hometown to visit with old friends. For the first time, we see Jules attempting to define her romantic friendship with Rue in the safety of conversation with her queer friends. Jules describes the suburbs where she is living as “claustrophobic” (to say the least!) and evasively summarizes her friendship with Rue: “It’s complicated.”
From Jules’ conversation with Anna, we can infer that Jules might feel uncomfortable in a relationship with another girl because she is still striving to establish her feminine identity. She describes her perception of having continually “levelled up” through her transition, first from wearing new clothes and makeup and later by taking hormones. She also discloses that she feels she hasn’t reached her full power as a woman. Anna gently prods at Jules’ fixed notions of womanhood and femininity when, for instance, she poses the question, “Why do you need a guy to make you feel feminine?”
If I can conquer men, then I can conquer femininity.
That night at the club, after taking a hallucinogen, Jules shares a salacious and (dare I say…) euphoric sexual experience with Anna. In this state, Jules is able to interact with the pent-up rage and confusion that she has been subject to through her experiences. In her mind, she sees Nate, sees their desire and hatred for each other, and seems to overcome his psychic hold on her. Ultimately, she sees Rue, and her vision of Rue lingers in a stunning, multi-colored strobe light effect.
That Rue becomes the focus of Jules’ desire, comfort, and inner stillness suggests that Jules might recognize Rue as her inner anchor. At the close of the episode, Jules texts Rue that she has missed her—Jules might be definitively open to an intimate relationship with Rue in the season finale. Overall, the finale of Euphoria, Season 1 will most assuredly ramp up its inherent tensions in characters’ interconnected stories. I expect that the cliffhanger will revolve mostly around the stark injustice of Nate’s deranged, consequence-free behavior while Rue and Jules’ friendship will sustain.
Check back in next week to see if I was right.