Euphoria Zendaya

Euphoria season 2 episode 5: we need to take a moment for Zendaya’s stellar acting in her painful intervention scenes

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Euphoria’s most recent episode centred on Rue, her painful addiction journey and an emotional intervention by friends and family – it’s the episode that will undoubtedly see Zendaya win another Emmy, writes Stylist’s Morgan Cormack. 

Warning: this article contains spoilers for season two, episode five of Euphoria.

Throughout the new season of Euphoria, fans have been quick to comment on everything from fan theories, ending outcomes and character arcs.

Generally, a lot of viewers of the HBO drama have been vocal in their opinions around the lack of Rue (Zendaya) in the latest season, but that all changed with the series’ most recent episode.

It may have been long awaited but we stand firm in our belief that this standout episode is what will likely bag Zendaya another Emmy

Euphoria Storm Reid
Storm Reid as Gia in HBO's Euphoria.

Entitled Stand Still Like A Hummingbird, we’re immediately thrust into what could be any regular family dispute. As Gia (Storm Reid) sits in her room, we hear an angry Rue get increasingly louder as she accuses Gia of “ratting” her out to their mum about smoking weed.

It’s a side of Rue that we haven’t seen in a long time but hints at the inner turmoil that has been going on with the protagonist under the surface – something we may have not been privy to because of the other dramatic plotlines of the current series.

It’s easy – too easy in many episodes – to forget that Rue is actually a struggling drug addict. Underneath the chilled-out façade and happy-go-lucky persona, she’s actually someone who needs help and has only recently been enabled by newcomer Elliot (Dominic Fike), and this episode revolves around that.

The first 15 minutes of the episode are painful to watch: Rue kicks Gia’s bedroom door in with so much aggression that her mother tries to slap her out of it. She also tries begging her mother for her pills – what seems like an addict’s plea is actually something much more sinister because we all know that the suitcase of pills belongs to the enigmatic drug dealer she’s recently struck up a deal with. 

Euphoria Hunter Schafer
Hunter Schafer as Jules in HBO's Euphoria.

As well as spiralling between sheer rage and upset, stating “I want to get clean – I can’t do it,” Rue then transforms into a character we haven’t yet seen when she discovers Jules (Hunter Schafer) and Elliot in the living room, listening to everything that has been said.

“You’re fucking dead to me,” she says to Jules and goes on to explain how meeting Jules is the biggest regret of her life. The fan-favourite pair seemed to be on the road to redemption in earlier episodes but this powerful scene encapsulates the fact that we’ve never really known what Rue is thinking. “You fucking left me when I needed you,” she screams.

It’s harrowing to watch, but most of all, you can’t tear your eyes away from Zendaya’s honest performance. You hold your breath not quite knowing what will come next and just when you think she’ll accept help, she dashes out of her mother’s car. Similarly, when you think her friends are getting through to her, Rue uses Cassie and Maddy’s drama to make another quick exit.

We’re constantly on the move for the episode – it’s manic but very, very honest in its depiction of drug addiction. 

Euphoria Nika King
Nika King as Rue's mother Leslie Bennett in HBO's Euphoria.

While the entirety of the episode sees Rue running around town, coming into close contact with ongoing traffic, police officers and avoiding her mother, it was her character’s intervention that haunted the actor, she revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“It was so intense and scary to tackle, and obviously something that would be incredibly emotionally taxing, but also physically taxing,” says Zendaya.

“Also, I care about Rue and I hate when she’s in pain. And I think this whole episode, there’s so much pain and it’s bubbling to the surface, and it’s also crossed with her withdrawing, which is extremely physically painful.” 

Talking about fan concerns over Rue taking more of a backseat this season, Zendaya also said: “We don’t ever leave Rue and what she’s dealing with.

“We’re with her the whole time. There’s not much internal dialogue, and unlike the other episodes where there’s always an opening, ours just kind of starts immediately with violence. We just jump right into it.”

Euphoria Zendaya
Zendaya as Rue in the most recent episode of Euphoria.

Discussing the importance of this episode as a whole, she adds:

“I think if we can still care about her after this, then I hope that other people can extend that to non-fictional characters, to real people, or just be a little bit more understanding and empathetic over the experience of addiction and what it does to people, what it does to their families.”

While the episode was a difficult one to watch, Zendaya’s stellar acting came as no surprise but definitely affirmed that she is the backbone of Euphoria – something we may have forgotten in the midst of the romance, scandal and teenage angst. 

With the good news that Euphoria has been renewed for a third season, we can only wait and see what is next for Rue but what we do know, though, is that this episode will likely be the basis of another Emmy win for Zendaya.  

Episodes 1-5 of Euphoria season 2 are now available to watch and will also air weekly on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW. Stream Euphoria with a NOW Entertainment Membership.   

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Images: HBO

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