Euphoria special episode ‘Trouble Don’t Last Always’ review: A stripped down marvel

Zendaya in Euphoria special episode "Trouble Don't Always Last"
Zendaya in Euphoria special episode "Trouble Don't Always Last" /

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Euphoria shocked audiences when it first premiered in 2019–if not for its controversial sex scenes, use of nudity, or drug abuse, then for its breathtaking cinematography, original music featuring British singer/songwriter Labrinth, and its insanely talented lead in Zendaya. Whether you love or hate the HBO show, you can’t ignore it. It has the beauty and the heartbreak both in its storyline and in its visuals that seemingly only an A24 production can do right now.

It was a no-brainer that Euphoria would be renewed for a second season, with the announcement coming even before the season finale aired. Filming was supposed to begin earlier this year, but of course with the ongoing safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, that was put on hold indefinitely.

Fortunately, however, creator Sam Levinson was able to use limited resources to come up with two special episodes to hold fans over until production is able to begin for season 2. And after enlisting Zendaya (Rue), Colman Domingo (Ali), and Hunter Schafer (Jules), the first of the bonus episodes, titled “Trouble Don’t Last Always” dropped on December 3–a few days earlier than scheduled.

What was I expecting out of this bonus episode? Certainly not what I got. But that’s what makes it so, so special. Euphoria, which is known for its NSFW content, bright lights, and fast-paced scenes and storylines, stripped that all away in “Trouble Don’t Last Always.” In this episode, we see the real Rue in ways I hadn’t imagined, and it further proves that Zendaya is remarkable–as if we didn’t know that already from her Emmy win this year.

The episode begins with that all too familiar song, “All For Us” by Labrinth. Rue and Jules are together–seemingly happy–and once again I was thrown into being torn between wanting to root for them and wanting Rue to do better for herself. Jules is Rue’s downfall, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to see Rue using again.

What happens next is a sequence that fills up the rest of the episode: Rue’s conversation with Ali. Instead of dream-like, drug-induced visuals or plot-driven action, “Trouble Don’t Last Always” features an intense, emotional, and overall beautiful conversation in a diner on Christmas Eve.

Rue and Ali cover all the bases when talking about drug abuse and beyond, discussing why Rue doesn’t want to get clean and what she should do regarding her relationship with Jules. Ali addresses the stigma against addicts, and shares some of the lowest points of his life while he was using drugs. The dialogue is so carefully and beautifully woven that it’s difficult not to feel like these are real people you’re watching.

Colman Domingo - Euphoria
Colman Domingo in Euphoria – Photo Courtesy of Eddy Chen/HBO /

One of the highlights in this episode is when Ali steps out to smoke a cigarette, and decides to call his daughters to wish them a Merry Christmas. He’s estranged from his family because of his past, and the phone conversation is upsetting, sweet, and most of all, real. Moses Sumney’s track “Me In 20 Years” starts playing after we see Jules text the song to Rue, making for a highly emotional and satisfying scene.

We also get to see that maybe Rue isn’t as reliable of a narrator as we thought. She explains what happened with Jules to Ali, telling him that she cheated on her and that the two were in a full-fledged relationship. Ali is quick to call her out, asking if they even ever discussed making things official.

There’s no real solution or “aha moment” to Rue and Ali’s conversation, which makes it all the more real. Rue is just trying to get by day by day, and some days are much harder than others. Whether or not she keeps using is a question we’ll likely get answered in the next episode, but for now she’s got a lot to consider after her time with Ali.

During a behind-the-scenes video for HBO, Levinson explained of this episode:

"Normally we have a show that moves relatively fast, that has a number of locations and scenes. The challenges of making these episodes is that it doesn’t allow us to get comfortable in a form. It forced me to upend the entire structure of the series and look at these characters from an entirely different perspective in service of the emotional reality of where Rue is in her life."

While having filming restrictions for these two bonus episodes was not ideal, I can’t help but feel appreciative for that. This episode of Euphoria is as powerful as ever in such a different way. Even without the visually heavy and fast-moving experience, the gut-punch moments are still so real. Strip down all the glitter, and there’s quite a profound narrative here.

As a standalone episode in between seasons, Euphoria‘s “Trouble Don’t Last Always” is fantastic.

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