Euphoria starts with an overdose. Season 1 also seems to end with one during finale “And Salt the Earth Behind You.” Both times, the person in crisis is Euphoria protagonist Rue Bennet (Zendaya), a girl so terrified of the world she is constantly searching for something, anything, to quiet the noise in her head. First painkillers achieved those few seconds of titular euphoria for Rue. Then, her best friend/love interest Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer). With the latter gone by the end of the finale, Rue returns to her former addiction in the last scene of “Salt.”
It's a heartbreaking conclusion that leaves us wondering if Rue is dead. While we can expect to find Rue in a dark place come an already-confirmed season 2, you can rest assured Euphoria’s favourite girl is still alive. Just look at all the evidence, including that supposedly suspicious marching band scene.
From a pragmatic production standpoint, it’s nearly impossible the HBO blockbuster would kill off its main character and greatest star. Yes, Jacob Elordi is a breakout internet hunk and both Hunter Schafer and Barbie Ferreira have proven to be stars this season. But none of them are Marvel hitmakers with a massive ex-Disney star following behind them and an Oscar-nominated movie on their resume. You don’t let Zendaya go. Especially not when her Euphoria character is an avatar for the series creator’s own teenage struggles with anxiety and addiction, as Sam Levinson himself admitted in June.
If Levinson, now 34, can survive his mental health battles, there’s no reason Rue shouldn’t either.
Even the actress herself confirmed she would be returning to the dark, glitter-paved streets of Euphoria before “Salt” ever premiered. Zendaya ended a lengthy Instagram caption about her gratitude for the series by writing, “Can’t wait to do it all again! With all this being said, the finale episode 8 tonight.”
Beyond the practical matter of making television, “Salt the Earth’s” fantasy-flavored final scene hints Rue hasn’t died. That is if you pay attention to the music. The beginning of the marching band number — which features Euphoria music supervisor Labyrinth’s remix of his song “All For Us,” now with Zendaya — seems like a goodbye. After three months of hard-earned sobriety, Rue stumbles out of her room fresh off a line of what we can assume are painkillers. She hugs her mother Leslie (Nika King), kisses her sister Gia (Storm Reid), and dances with her late father Robert (Bruce Wexler). The scene takes place in the daylight.
Then she is pulled outside, as if by some unseen force. Out there it is nighttime. It is darkness. Rue is met by dozens of gospel singers and, eventually, a marching band. The singers repeatedly throw Rue around as she sings the main refrain of the song, “Doing it all for love.” In this case, we can assume Rue is probably referencing her return to drugs as a response to the current love of her life, Jules, leaving her for the city. Rue only turns to pills again in the absence of Jules’ affection (a tragic outcome Rue’s sponsor Ali predicted weeks ago).
But, as Rue climbs up the teaming mass of her drugged-out fantasy’s many performers, she sings, “I hope one of you come back to remind me of who I was. When I go disappearing. Into that good night, good night.” It’s a hopeful sentiment that reminds you there are people who love Rue — like her mom and sister — who can still bring her back from the brink of “disappearing.” In her heart, she wants to be protected. Still, Rue flings herself off the pile, into that mysterious “good night” she was talking about. We have no idea where she lands.
It’s not a death, as one could easily believe, but instead 16-year-old Rue taking the plunge back into the lonely throes of drug abuse.
This is a similar journey Levinson himself took during his teenage years. “Sometime around the age of 16, I resigned myself to the idea that eventually drugs would kill me and there was no reason to fight it. I would let it take me over, and I had made peace with that,” Levinson said during the June premiere of Euphoria. Then, at 19, he went to rehab, found the quote that changed his life (“In the end we are nothing more than an amalgamation of our actions and that’s ultimately what defines us”), and has stayed sober for almost a decade and a half.
With Rue now similarly resigned to her perceived fate, she seems poised to follow in Levinson’s footsteps and enter in-patient rehab during season 2. That is certainly what will happen if Leslie learns Rue is doing drugs again.
Euphoria itself hints such a future is possible for Rue with the final words of season 1. After Rue pleads for someone to remind her of herself after “disappearing,” the screen fades to black. Then we hear a man’s voice say, “Until then.” Those words are optimistic. They’re not “We’ll see” or “Maybe.” They signal there is an inevitable tomorrow where Rue is saved and we’ll probably find that hereafter somewhere in season 2.
We all just have to hold on long enough to see it.
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