Usually, you can tell a lot about a television series by its name, but that’s not the case when it comes to HBO’s brand new drama, Euphoria. While on the surface it might look like just another series that takes a closer look at the lives of teenagers today, when you pull back the curtain it’s a much deeper look as to what it means to be a young person today. It also follows the ups and downs that come with navigating high school — and those ups and downs also include getting high and leveling out.
Euphoria revolves around Rue (Zendaya) a 17-year old girl who’s just gotten out of rehab for the summer after overdosing. She returns to school and tries to restart a normal life, but she can’t stay away from her prior life of drugs and partying. That is actually the normal life for her and the rest of her classmates in Tampa, Florida.
In case you haven’t picked up a dictionary lately or brushed up on some SAT vocabulary, Euphoria means, “a feeling of well-being or elation.” That certainly rings true for the series, as the kids here are constantly chasing that next feeling of happiness, whether it comes via sex, alcohol, drugs, or a mixture of all of them. (According to Urban Dictionary, Euphoria is now more commonly used to describe feelings related to the Korean boy band BTS. Hey, the more you know!)
Early in the first episode of the series, Rue actually explains what this feeling means for her, describing it as everything stopping:
“And then it happens. That moment when your breath starts to slow. And everytime you breathe you breathe out all the oxygen you have. Everything stops. Your heart, your lungs, and finally your brain. Everything you feel and wish and want to forget it all just sinks. And then suddenly, you give it air again. Give it life again. I remember the first time it happened to me I got so scared, I wanted to call 911 and be kept alive by machines and apple juice. But I didn’t want to look like an idiot. I didn’t want to fuck up everyone’s night. And then over time, it’s all I wanted. Those two seconds of nothingness.”
For Rue, that’s her euphoria — those two seconds when everything is just gone and that’s the high she continues to chase during the show. That nothingness is Rue’s happiness, and unfortunately, the only way it can be fueled is via a cocktail of different drugs.