How 'Euphoria' Uses Dreamlike Visuals to Capture Self-Destruction

Sydney Sweeney as Cassie Howard in 'Euphoria'Credit: HBO/A24
I don't think I could ever get over how beautiful this ending sequence was.

Euphoria is a state of mind. It’s the state of mind we are in as we watch the beauty and chaos and violence unfold in front of us, reaching out to hold us close and tell us everything is fine for just one, singular moment. 

Editor's note: spoilers for Euphoria.

For Rue (Zendaya), her intoxicated state of bliss plunges the world around her into a vivid hallucination, and no trip has been more affecting than her downward spiral at the end of episode 4 in the second season. Rue imagines herself in the arms of a church singer (Labrinth) and then her late father. 

The episode concludes with a stunning montage that bounces from character to character, observing their respective crises through Rue’s euphoric lens. The sequence is breathtaking, allowing the show to flex its fantastical dream logic through a series of memorable images. 

Angus Cloud as Fezco in 'Euphoria'Credit: HBO/A24

The fantastical sequence starts with Fezco (Angus Cloud) sitting inside the warmth of his yellow living room as the camera watches him through the window in the rain. The lens flares distort the image, turning the window into an oil slick that threatens to bring the outside world’s reflection into Fezco’s home. His world is closing in, and Fezco is running out of places to feel safe. 

Then the images focus on the characters that haven’t gotten much screen time this season, showing how each of them is being swallowed whole by their emotions. 

Jules guiltily bathes in golden sunlight as harsh shadows as the shadows of rainfall flow down her face. When she looks away towards the camera that is pushing out, she is covered with harsh shadows that hide her from what she has done to her relationship with Rue. Maddy (Alexa Demie) floats in a pool that is perpendicular to the suburbs below her allowing her to contemplate the state of her existence and her relationships with Nate (Jacob Elordi) and Cassie (Sydney Sweeny). 

Both Lexi and newcomer Elliot (Dominic Fike) are at a crossroads: one nervous to put their life on display in the form of a school play and the other anxious about his journey to sobriety.

Kat (Barbie Ferreira) is feeling nothing as she sits in a car with her boyfriend who is driving in an empty void. 

Hunter Schafer as Jules Vaughn in 'Euphoria'Credit: HBO/A24

None of these shots in the sequence are more indelible than Cassie’s heartbroken heartbreaker image. She sits there, trapped in her vanity, surrounded by garlands of pink and white roses that mimic her tear-stained face. The image is inspired by Mexican religious tableaus, according to the show's creative team.

Cassie has been going through it this season. All season long, she has been a catastrophic figure, kicking things off by hooking up with her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, Nate, becoming more delusional with each passing episode, losing any sense of who she is. Cassie begins each day at 4 a.m. to squeeze, stretch, and moisturize her skin to the point of excess, making sure her makeup and outfit are perfectly composed to capture a glance from Nate at school, who has almost always refused to acknowledge her existence while there. 

Cassie radiates desperation, finding herself on the edge of a breakdown at the slightest imperfection with her life. On the outside, she can look put together, but she is cracking on the inside. The duality of the character’s state of being is captured in this still image that shows beautiful girls fall from grace. 

Cassie's mirror shot in 'Euphoria' season 2Credit: HBO/A24

The clever duplication of the set with the mirror shot allows Cassie to be sucked in the mirror’s reflection, unable to escape the false beauty of the flowers given to her in secret. The bright light is distressing, making the viewer uncomfortable yet sympathetic toward Cassie’s current state. Cassie's image in this sequence of equally stunning shots of Euphoria’s key characters puts a dreamlike lens on the portraits of self-destruction. 

Euphoria's visuals have always highlighted the emotional states of the characters. "You Who Cannot See, Think of Those Who Can" allowed a visual style used specifically for Rue’s debilitated state to infect the world of Euphoria, and it was intoxicating to see visuals that captured the minds of our characters. 

What do you think of Euphoria’s sophomore season so far? Let us know in the comments below!      

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