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"Every time I feel good, I think it'll last forever, but it doesn't."
Rue Bennett
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Euphoria is an American teen drama TV series created and written by Sam Levinson (known for Assassination Nation among other works) for HBO, made with assistance from production companies including A24. A loose remake of an Israeli television series of the same name, it stars Zendaya alongside an ensemble cast including Maude Apatow, Eric Dane, Storm Reid, Sydney Sweeney and Colman Domingo.

Born in the wake of September 11, 2001, teenager Rue Bennett (Zendaya) has spent the better part of her life chasing after a complete and total absence of feeling, culminating in a destructive lapse into drug addiction that ended up putting her in rehab. Having returned home, she now has to deal with her wary mother and friends who are alternately worried about her and incredulous that she really intends to stay clean.

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When she goes back to high school, Rue enters an environment of people with varying identity-based insecurities stemming from traumatic pasts, and comments on their lives and backstories as the series' narrator. As she tries to keep her head above water, she navigates a world ruled as much by vengeance and deceit as it is love and passion, making friends and enemies along the way, and learns the disturbing lengths some will go to hide their own issues or expose those of others.

The series premiered on June 16, 2019, its first season running for eight episodes through August 4. While its graphic content was not without controversy, a second season was renewed in July. Production was slated to begin in March 2020, but the COVID-19 Pandemic caused the season to be suspended indefinitely just days before the start of filming, shifting future plans for the series.

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The setbacks ultimately led to the production of two hour-long specials, both produced under pandemic guidelines, that bridge the gap between the first and second seasons. The firstnote  had a TV premiere on December 6, 2020, while the secondnote  had a TV premiere on January 24, 2021note . The former centered around Rue, and the latter around the character Jules, both specials focused on catching up with their central character following the events of the first season, taking place during Christmastime.

Production for season 2 finally began in March 2021, wrapping in November of that year. The season later premiered on January 9, 2022 and ran for eight total episodes through February 27. On February 4 of that year, the series' renewal for a third season was announced.


This series contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • McKay and Cassie's relationship comes to a quick end at the beginning of Season 2 after she starts hooking up with Nate and he leaves her at the New Year's Eve party, and is not shown again.
    • Kat's role was significantly reduced in the second season, being relegated to a very inconsequential storyline with her being dissatisfied by her relationship with Ethan. There's barely any acknowledgement of her being a camgirl from the first season until the penultimate episode, where she's briefly shown to have gone back to doing it following her breakup.
  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Cassie gets an abortion, which isn't portrayed as bad in itself, but she clearly had some mixed feelings about having it, as McKay had pressured her into doing this.
  • Actor Allusion: A possible subtle example. "Hold Up" from Beyoncé's Lemonade is played over the title card during "Pilot." Zendaya, who plays Rue, appeared in the accompanying Lemonade film. Perhaps a coincidence, but the fact that "Pilot" is considered to be Rue's episode makes this seem like this choice was made purposefully.
  • Addiction Displacement: Implied. Rue compares Jules to fentanyl on numerous occasions.
  • Adults Are Useless: One thing most of the main cast has in common is that their parents have all failed them in various ways, usually through either causing their mental hang-ups directly from childhood trauma or just barely keeping track of what they're up to.
    • Nate's dad Cal has left his son with various misogynistic ideals and explosive anger issues as a result of his problematic teachings of masculinity in his childhood (along with his own internalized homophobia).
    • Meanwhile, Jules' dad means well but is probably a bit too lenient with her, paying little mind to her late-night journeys out of the house or her obvious changes in behavior throughout the show. The same can also be said for Cassie and Lexi's mom Suze, who genuinely loves her daughters but is also so lax in her parenting style that she's barely able to discipline them (particularly Cassie).
    • That being said, Rue's mother Leslie is a heartbreaking deconstruction. While both she's responsible and kind, her husband died several years prior to the series, forcing her to work herself to the bone to keep the family out of poverty; she's so busy that she's barely able to keep an eye on Rue's chaotic and dangerous behavior until she's already gone too far.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Mouse simply won't take "no" for an answer when offering Rue fentanyl. Justified as she's already a drug user, and he wants to make a sale (she either gives him the money or sex). Fezco thankfully rescues her by paying for it.
  • Aimlessly Seeking Happiness: This is entirely the point of the series, as most of the characters all seek out some extremely destructive or unhealthy habits to get enough pleasure to distract them from problems in their lives. For Rue, it's her drug addiction and later her obsessive relationship with Jules; for Jules, it's random hookups with men; for Cassie, it's receiving love from her inattentive boyfriend McKay; for Maddy, it's being in a relationship with the misogynistic Nate; and for Kat, it's being a camgirl.
  • Alcoholic Parent:
    • Maddy's dad is supposedly "between jobs," but he spends much of his time passed out drunk.
    • While never actually shown drunk in the present day, Lexi and Cassie's mom definitely is this as she's constantly shown drinking whenever she's at her home.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Averted. Though non-straight characters (such as Rue, Jules and Cal) are shown as sexually active, so are most of the characters on the show. And Jules seems to have far more straight sex than gay sex.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Everyone has their moments, but Rue and Jules have most of these scenes when they're wandering through school isolated by depression and secrets.
  • Alone with the Psycho: In "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird," Rue stays with her drug dealer Laurie for the night. We know Laurie's up to no good, even hinting that she will get Rue addicted to morphine and working as a Sex Slave, but since Rue is in a state of hysteria, she doesn't realize this until the following morning.
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Mostly averted in Rue's case.
      • She was confirmed to have OCD, ADD, and anxiety by a psychiatrist as a child. That same psychiatrist tells Rue's parents that she's not sure if Rue has a bipolar disorder because she was too young to tell. In "The Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed", she speculates this herself, and her manic phases are pointed out by Lexi and Fez.
      • Throughout the series, Rue mentions feeling depressed and feeling numb, implying she may also have some form of depression. By "And Salt the Earth Behind You" she's been diagnosed officially and given Lexapro to treat it.
    • Jules was committed to a juvenile ward showing signs of severe anxiety, dysphoria, and self-harm, while the exact diagnosis is not mentioned. It's also implied that her mother had some sort of mental illness of her own (in addition to being a drug addict).
    • Laurie muses to Rue that she has never felt angry in her entire life, while she explains to her in an eerie monotone that she will sell her into (at best) sex slavery so she can get her money back; this heavily hints on her being a sociopath.
  • Am I Just a Toy to You?: Played with. McKay does seem to like Cassie, but whether or not he actually loves her is pretty questionable. She does love him (and loves everyone she's ever dated) and thinks they're in a relationship, but he denies it in front of Nate. She's hurt and demands to know why he said it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: A pretty major plot point in the first half of season 2 is Cassie entering a relationship with Nate behind Maddy's back, and the conflict and guilt she endures as a result of hiding it from her. In "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird," when Rue's mom tries to stage an intervention for her with the help of all her friends and Suze, Rue ends up getting the attention off of herself with one question.
    Rue: Hey, Cass?
    Cassie: Yeah?
    Rue: I have a quick question for you.
    Cassie: What?
    Rue: ...How long have you been fucking Nate Jacobs?
  • Art-Shifted Sequel: The show's visual direction was revamped for the second season, with the pristine neon colors being replaced with a grimier Polaroid-esque look, going so far as to replace the digital cameras with ones that used Kodak Ektachrome film stock. According to cinematographer Marcell Rév, the decision to do this was in order to invoke "some sort of memory of high school."
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: While Jules and Maddy get bruises from encounters with Cal and Nate, respectively, they're easily covered up. Rue also doesn't look particularly bad when she has a drug-induced breakdown.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me:
    • One of the things Cassie likes about McKay is that he doesn't only value her sex appeal.
    • Kat chose her first boyfriend primarily because he didn't care what others thought about him or his attraction to her.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jules is a sweet and friendly girl, but she goes absolutely ballistic when Nate threatens her in the first episode.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Kat is portrayed getting a lot of male attention due to her confidence after she's accepted her own figure and starts regarding herself this way.
    "There is nothing more powerful than a fat girl who doesn't give a fuck."
  • Big Damn Kiss:
    • Jules and Rue finally share a kiss at the end of "Shook Ones, Pt. II".
    • Kat and Ethan share one in “And Salt the Earth Behind You”.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Implied when Kat's jaw drops at the sight of Luke's package, but ultimately subverted when she admits she didn't have an orgasm, and the whole situation just strengthens her argument that men are pathetic.
  • Bigot with a Crush: Played for Horror. Nate Jacobs, who has extremely fucked-up ideas about how women should look and behave, becomes obsessed with trans girl Jules, who he knows would not meet his exacting standards, and sets about trying to force her to "reform" under threat of having her arrested for underage sexting.
  • Big Sister Instinct:
    • After seeing Troy getting a bit too friendly with Gia, Rue and Lexi haul him aside and threaten to sic some very mean guys on him if he tries to feel up Gia.
    • Throughout "The Next Episode", Lexi runs interference to prevent McKay from finding out that Cassie's with another guy. Technically a subversion since Lexi is actually the younger sister.
  • Bisexual Love Triangle: Trans girl Jules is pursued by Jerk Jock Nate (although she doesn't know it's him at first, thanks to the Internet), and female best friend Rue. Since her transition, Jules feels the need to sleep with random men from the Internet to feel validated, which Nate (in his persona of "shyguy"), gives her. However, Jules didn't know that Nate was catfishing her because she had sex with his dad. Rue, meanwhile, genuinely and near-unquestioningly adores Jules, but also depends on her for her sobriety, which leads to Jules meeting Nate in person and being blackmailed by him. Nate's obsession represents Jules' desire to be comfortable with her gender and her need to keep her secrets, while Rue provides Jules with genuine love, but can also fall into being manipulative by needing Jules too much, so Jules feels suffocated by providing Rue with stability.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 2 ends on this note. Rue is on her way to sobriety, having rekindled her friendship with Lexi and gotten a healthy closure with Jules, though she still owes Laurie her money. Lexi's play goes off without a hit and is well-received by the audience and her friends. However, Fez has been arrested and Ashtray is killed in a police shootout trying to save him, with Lexi having no idea why the former missed her show. Nate breaks up with Cassie after Lexi mocks him in the play, leading to Cassie briefly hijacking the show to berate Lexi and attack the actress playing her. Though Maddy finally gets her revenge by beating up Cassie and the feud between the two seems to have come to an end, their friendship is still completely destroyed and Cassie has permanently cut ties with her family and friends.
  • Blackmail: It's revealed that Nate's cyber relationship with Jules was really for this, so he could get nude photos of her that legally count as child porn since she's underage and so she wouldn’t rat out his father, Cal for having sex with a minor. He later uses the blackmail to get Jules to give testimony "clearing" him of his abuse charges.
  • Black Comedy: While the show is ostensibly a drama, there are a lot of over-the-top, darkly comedic moments present throughout every episode; examples include a flashback montage of an intoxicated Rue crashing her bike while trying to ride it in the pilot and a violent Imagine Spot in the season one finale where Rue daydreams of brutally murdering Nate.
  • Book Dumb: Downplayed. Rue is shown to be extremely crafty and sly but doesn't particularly care about school or her education.
  • Bookends: Season 2 begins with Ashtray killing Mouse and ends with Ashtray killing Custer, both times to protect himself and Fezco.
  • Bottle Episode: The special episodes, one released in December 2020 and the other in January 2021, had to be produced under COVID-19 guidelines, and as a result use significantly fewer locations and smaller groups of main characters. Rue's episode near-exclusively takes place in a diner, with her meeting Ali for late-night pancakes, while Jules' is mostly in the office of her therapist.
  • Break the Cutie: Gia's been through a lot of things for a thirteen-year-old girl. Lampshaded by Ali, who seems to partially blame Rue for what her sister has had to deal with.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Kat's relationship and break up with Daniel was a big part of her life, as he was her first love, and their breakup was such a blow to her self-esteem that it made her reevaluate her life. When she encounters him later, however, it's revealed that he doesn't even remember any of it.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Inverted. In "You Who Cannot See, Think of Those Who Can," Cal is the one who obliterates his entire family with "The Reason You Suck" Speech, not Nate.
  • Catfishing: Jules is catfished by classmate Nate after the latter finds a video of Jules having sex with his dad. He poses as "Tyler" and convinces Jules to send him topless photos of her, which he initially intends to use in order to blackmail her into unspecified "good behavior". After he gets arrested for abusing his girlfriend, he uses the photos to blackmail Jules into implicating someone else in the abuse so that he can beat the rap.
  • Christmas Episode: Both of the special episodes center around select characters during the holidays; the first follows Rue and Ali on the night of Christmas Eve, and the second focuses on Jules.
  • Closet Key: Jules for Rue, who never really enjoyed any previous relations she had with boys but fell hard for Jules. The second special episode "Fuck Anyone Who's Not a Sea Blob" reveals that this goes both ways as Jules tells her therapist that Rue was the first girl she ever fell for and she doesn't want to ruin it.
  • Cool Car:
    • Maddy's Chevrolet Impala SS qualifies.
    • There's probably no choice more fitting for Nate than his Ram 1500. Big, conventionally masculine, and probably compensatory. His dad's F150 probably falls under the same attributes, though his job in construction is probably enough of an explanation.
  • Cutting Back to Reality: A truly haunting example in "You Who Cannot See, Think of Those Who Can". After taking a fentanyl patch from Laurie's suitcase, Rue envisions herself walking into a black church, being embraced by the church singernote , and breaking down crying as she then imagines herself hugging and speaking to her late father. The sequence ends with a distant shot of Rue gently dancing by herself in a silent trance, her arms outstretched to hug someone that isn't there.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • Johnny United, the guy online who pays Kat to perform privately, starts masturbating at her mocking, as it turns him on.
    • There's a disturbing example in the flashback when Jules is sent to the psych ward, where a man masturbates aggressively on seeing the female doctor with her (he's placed in isolation, or "the quiet room" for this).
    • At the beginning of "'03 Bonnie and Clyde", Rue masturbates while fantasizing about Jules.
    • In "And Salt the Earth Behind You," Nate does this after being unable to have sex with Maddy.
  • Daydream Surprise: "Trouble Don't Last Always" opens with Rue with Jules in an apartment happily together. Any hopes for the audience that they got back together are dashed, as it's shown that Rue is imagining this as she gets high.
  • Death by Origin Story: Rue and Gia's dad died sometime prior to the start of the series, and was the catalyst for Rue's addiction, as she started taking his leftover painkillers as a way of numbing her grief.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • For a literal example, BB goes from being a supporting character to barely even being shown onscreen, which may have been due to behind-the-scenes drama.
    • Kat is a more minor example. She goes from being a very prominent character on the same level as characters like Maddy or Cassie, to being very Out of Focus and having only a few scenes structured around her storylines. In the second season, her feelings of dissatisfaction with Ethan are only given a few scenes before the two break up in the sixth episode, with Kat kept to the background thereafter.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Cal has sex with both men and women who look very young — several of whom are outright underage — while being married to a woman.
  • Destructive Romance:
    • Maddy and Nate are agonizingly unhealthy. Nate is a poster-boy for toxic masculinity, belittling Maddy, and physically attacks her at points. Maddy is unable to separate herself from him and frequently goes back, but also won't accept being submissive to him and frequently antagonizes him.
    • It's implied Rue and Jules are headed this way, as Jules makes herself into Rue's emotional crutch, taking far, far too much on herself. Indeed, at the end of the first season, they separate.
    • Cassie and Nate's relationship is the most extreme example of this so far in the show. Because of Cassie's abandonment issues and need to be loved by someone else, she quickly develops feelings for Nate after the two have a fling, but Nate does not share the sentiment at first. This ends up forcing Cassie to take more desperate actions to win his affection, and while she eventually does, it required her to alienate her friends and family. Ultimately, Nate breaks up with her anyway.
    • Jules and Cal were this, though it's arguable how much of a "romance" it was.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rue's dad died of cancer in years past.
  • Domestic Abuse: Nate strangles his girlfriend Maddy. Despite her trying to cover this up later, and vehemently not wanting to press charges, this is quickly discovered. He gets arrested, suspended, cut from the football team and the students are made to watch a film about abuse. Maddy still insists he loves her no matter what and meets with him at a motel when he calls.
  • Dramatic Irony: Rue's mother throws away the drugs she has in her room before their intervention. Rue immediatelly breaks down and demands to know where her pills are, even to the point of getting physical, while the fight is intensely emotional, everybody else doesn't know that the drugs were actually 10k dollars in drugs that Rue was supposed to sell for Laurie under the threat she would be sold into sexual slavery if she failed.
  • Drugs Are Good: Zigzagged.
    • Rue says "drugs are kinda awesome" before admitting this is before the negative effects it has on your appearance, family, etc.
      "It's actually a very narrow window of cool."
    • Season 2 amps up the amount of damage Rue goes through due to her drug addiction, especially in "Stand Still Like A Hummingbird", which shows the physical and mental toll the drugs take on her and her family in full, excruciating detail, playing more into Drugs Are Bad.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Virtually every character in the series is suffering from addiction, trauma, or other psychological issues. This includes Rue's drug addiction, Jules' feelings of self-loathing, Kat's body image issues, Maddy's abusive relationship with her boyfriend, and so on.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Jacobs family, though it is even clearer in season 2. Cal Jacobs constantly cheats on his wife with multiple people he meets on Grindr and plays favorites with his children, and Nate Jacobs is a psychopathic mess that brings tragedy to everyone in the main cast. Despite Nate being Cal's favorite, Cal and Nate deeply hate one another and Nate even fantasizes of the day his father would finally die. Both Cal and Marsha, his wife, are aware that their children are a mess and have some degree of fear of Nate. Nate and Marsha also have such a dislike for Cal that when he walks out on them, they spend the next morning drinking and celebrating it—while at the same time, Marsha confesses to her son that she's disappointed in how he turned out.
  • Everyone Has Lots of Sex: Kat being a virgin at 16 is treated as an abnormality, especially by Jules who tells her "Bitch this isn't the 80's, you need to catch a dick!" Characters ask each other what their "number" is and are surprised when it's either low or nonexistent, and many of the main characters participate in casual or anonymous sex.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Subverted. The third episode shows Jules texting a catfishing Nate and quickly falling in love with him, though Nate is, of course, putting on an act... Though the fact that he does seem to enjoy texting her in some way makes it more complicated.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Johnny United, a quite obese man with a micropenis who has paid Kat to mock him as he masturbates and to be his financial dominatrix.
    • Also Jules's relationship with Cal. She is beautiful, but the relationship as a whole is very disturbing.
    • Sex scenes between Maddy and Nate. They're both very attractive people, but their relationship is very toxic and disturbing, given Nate's verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of her. The same is true for Nate and Cassie's later sex scenes, for the same reasons.
  • Fantasy Forbidding Mother: The only thing Maddy was ever passionate about was the child pageantry circuit, and her mother pulled her out of it after hearing about a pageant director being arrested for child molestation. Maddy has never forgiven her mom for it, and thus when her mother presses charges against Nate, she thinks her mom's just trying to ruin her life again.
  • Fille Fatale: Jules, Maddy, and Kat are young, attractive women who have had relations with adult males (or rather cam sessions, in Kat's case) but merely use this role as an image they put on, and the girls are deeply unhappy and trying to find happiness wherever they can. Cassie received this treatment from her parents' friends and it has affected her.
  • Flowers of Femininity: Cassie is surrounded by them in the closing shot of “You Who Cannot See, Think of Those Who Can.”
  • For Your Own Good: Fezco cuts off Rue's access to drugs after her fentanyl misadventure, being justifiably afraid that if she keeps doing drugs, she'll overdose again. Rue is not exactly grateful for this at the time. She does later thank him, however.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the second episode of Season One, Rue narrates Nate’s “mental checklist” of things he likes and dislikes in women. While Maddy and Jules both individually fit a couple of the criteria, it’s Cassie who marks off every one of them.
    • When Ashtray kills Mouse in the Season 2 premiere, Rue narrates that Ashtray loves Fezco so much he would "go to war like a brother" for him. This is reiterated tragically in the season finale, in which Ashtray initiates a shootout with the raiding police force in a last-ditch effort to save the two, and ends up being killed for it.
  • Frame-Up: Nate has Tyler framed by coercing him into falsely confessing he assaulted Maddy, and blackmailing Jules into claiming she witnessed it.
  • Funny Background Event: In “Made You Look,” a very out-of-focus Kat and Maddy can be seen pantomiming having sex behind Suze while she yells to McKay and Cassie.
  • Gainax Ending: Season 1 ends with Rue snorting a line of something at an unknown time, immediately going into a musical number with dancers and a marching band, and throwing herself off a hill made of said background dancers. It immediately cuts to black and an ominous voice says "Until then...". We're later given clarification in "Trouble Don't Last Always" that Rue did indeed return to using drugs after being left at the train station, and that the musical number hallucination was from snorting a line of what was revealed to have been oxycodone.
  • Gaslighting:
    • Rue's strategy to get away with using marijuana and other drugs is to gaslight her younger sister Gia into thinking she's having such bad panic attacks that she feels marijuana is the only thing that's going to keep her from committing suicide. This is depicted in a slideshow presentation, with "Gaslight" being its own slide.
    • Kat attempts to do this when she breaks up with Ethan in Season 2. First she lies about having a fatal disease, feigns offense at his incredulousness, and then accuses him of trying to break up with her. Ethan sees right through this and dumps her.
  • Gay Cruising: Cal Jacobs's compulsive cruising habit sets off the events of the first season, as one of his sexual partners happens to be trans girl Jules Vaughn, who happens to go to the same school as Cal's son Nate. When Nate finds out that Jules slept with his dad, he becomes obsessed with her and stalks her. In Cal's case, this is bisexual cruising since he picks up a huge number of young men and women to have sex in motels.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Rue gets a tattoo on the inside of her mouth, Jules tells her that she's not going to get one. Cue the next shot with her getting one.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In the Season 2 finale, the camera cuts away from Ashtray just as he's killed by a police officer.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • In "Made You Look", Rue gets very jealous when Jules talks about her new male crush. It doesn't help that Jules enlists Rue to take topless pictures of her in her underwear to send to "Tyler".
    • In "Shook Ones, Part II", Lexi does not look too thrilled when Gia tells her that she thinks Rue is in love with Jules.
  • Halloween Episode: "The Next Episode."
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Two female duos (Rue/Jules and Maddy/Cassie) apply this trope: Rue and Maddie are dark-haired and both are edgy and moody while blonde-haired Jules and Cassie are sweet and more approachable.
  • Harmful to Minors: 13-year-old Gia finding her sister after the latter overdosed. Also, in a flashback, 11-year-old Nate finding his father's videos.
  • Hollywood Beauty Standards: All of the main characters are unusually good looking, even more so than most shows aimed at young people.
  • Homage: The opening scene of S02E04 features Rue and Jules recreating iconic scenes from various movies, like Brokeback Mountain.
  • Hope Spot: The season 2 premiere, "Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door", makes it look like Rue and Jules were getting back together and were slowly going to work on their relationship. Unfortunately, "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird" destroys any hope for them, culminating with Jules finding out about Rue's relapse and telling Leslie about it, which causes Rue to angrily break up with Jules.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Faye crudely and repeatedly calls Rue out for being a “junkie,” while shooting heroin into her own thigh.
    • Aaron is frequently regarded as the black sheep of the Jacobs family, with Nate and Marsha calling him an idiot behind his back and Cal straight up showing his disgust with the porn he watches. That's coming from someone who likes to videotape his hookups with very young-looking people (Cal), Jules's catfish (Nate), and Cal's spurned wife (Marsha).
  • I Am Not Pretty: Kat — who's a beautiful girl by any standard — spent a lot of her life thinking her looks were subpar because her childhood sweetheart dumped her for gaining weight, and thus she assumed that the fault was with her rather than her ex (who's since become a jerkass.) Her main character arc is gaining self-confidence over the course of the show.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episodes (all except the pilot and last two) of the first season are named after popular rap songs from the 1990s and 2000s.
  • Informed Attractiveness: It's implied that Lexi is the "less pretty sister," as opposed to popular blonde Cassie, while both of the characters are played by extraordinarily beautiful actresses.
  • I Have No Son!: In "All My Life, My Heart Has Yearned for a Thing I Cannot Name", Cassie completely disowns Lexi as her sister by abusing and mocking her after Nate breaks up with her because of her play. Rue is disgusted and horrified by her actions, especially since she herself had hurt Gia's feelings due to her own addiction in the past and is making up for it.
  • Incest Subtext: Nate compulsively viewed the tapes of his father Cal having sex with very young people, including Jules, who is his age. As a result, Nate has continuously had intrusive thoughts and fantasies about having sex with Cal.
  • Initiation Ceremony: "The Next Episode" has McKay at the receiving end of a hazing ritual that has frat members hold him face-down to the floor and call him "McGay" several times, just as he is about to have sex with Cassie. It falls into the "humiliating" aspect of the trope.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • In "Made You Look", Jules doesn't realize that Rue has a crush on her and thus doesn't realize how much it hurts Rue when she asks her to take racy pictures to send to "Tyler." On the other end of things, Rue doesn't realize how much it hurts Jules when she casts aspersions on "Tyler." It's one of the few times Rue and Jules argue.
    • One episode had Cassie worried over whether she was pregnant and she asks Lexi, looking at her abdomen sticking out if she looks okay a few times, and Lexi gets angry and tells her not to rub in her status as the sister who receives more attention for her looks in her face.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • Rue is shown wearing masculine, oversized clothes throughout the whole show, but the first season finale reveals that these clothes belong to her late father.
    • In Season 2, that Rue is short for Ruby. This one gets Played for Drama because, despite presumably everyone else in the show knowing it, only Laurie calls her that, revealing that she knows more about Rue than even she realizes.
  • Jerk Jock: Nate is a football star with a very twisted way of treating those around him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Nate Jacobs shows very few redeeming qualities throughout the entire first season.
  • Jobless Parent Drama: Maddy's father can't find a job, which causes a great deal of friction between them and leads to Maddy clinging onto her abusive but wealthy boyfriend Nate.
  • Kick the Dog: Increasingly consumed by her drug addiction, Rue has two big examples in "Ruminations: Big and Little Bullys": She covers up her using by gaslighting Gia into believing that she's just smoking weed, bringing up her suicidal thoughts to sell it, and when Ali attempts to confront her on showing up with a suitcase to an AA meeting (knowing she's still using, if not that the suitcase if full of 10k worth of drugs) Rue cruelly throws back in his face his lack of involvement in his children's lives and his moment of hitting his wife in the throes of his addiction, two things he shared in his own attempts to guide her in her sobriety.
  • Lady Drunk: Suze Howard, Lexi and Cassie's mother, is an alcoholic.
  • Lady in Red: Kat sometimes wears red during her camming sessions.
  • Lap Pillow: Rue ends up curled up in Jules's lap in the second episode after getting high on fentanyl.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • In the pilot episode, Nate catcalls Jules from his car and causes her to fall off of her bike. Later that same night when he tries to humiliate her further, she turns the tables and pulls a knife out on him in front of everyone and even cuts her own arm to prove that she will not hesitate to fuck him up, which scares him away.
    • Maddy pees in the bathroom at a party only to realize that there isn’t any toilet paper left, forcing her to resort to wiping with a hand towel before she tosses it behind the curtain into the shower, where it lands directly on Cassie’s face, where she had been lying in the bathtub hiding from Maddy after having sex with Nate.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: During her “How to Get Away with Being a Drug Addict” powerpoint, Rue brings up the act of escaping reality by watching television—while she stands inside a TV set. Doubles as a Company Cameo: the HBO jingle plays briefly during this discussion.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine:
    • Brunette Maddy and blonde Cassie. The former wears outfits with darker colors like purple while Cassie's outfits have lighter tones like pastel blue. Maddy is more seductive and brooding. Cassie is sweet and desperate for love.
    • Rue and Jules similarly have brown vs blonde hair while wearing darker or lighter colors. In Rue's case she's a troubled drug addict who's pretty cynical and keeps aloof a lot (except for from Jules). Contrasting this, Jules is more light-hearted, open and wants approval. They date, but have a difficult relationship.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: When Rue and Jules get together, Rue centers herself around her new girlfriend, glowingly indicating she can stop drug use because "she's met someone"... but at the cost of making herself rather codependent on Jules. It is telling that when Jules leaves L.A. at the end of the season that Rue does drugs again after being several months clean.
  • Long Title: Season 1's penultimate episode "The Trials and Tribulations of Trying to Pee While Depressed."
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: The whole theme of the show is that the teenage protagonists are deeply unhappy and traumatized kids looking for happiness through unhealthy means only to end up worse off; this includes things such as constant sex, drugs, and unstable relationships.
  • Love at First Sight: A platonic version that swiftly turns romantic between Rue and Jules. It only takes one sleepover for Jules and Rue to fall into a very intense friendship.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: In-Universe. The adolescent characters often label girls as either "sluts" or "prudes."
  • Male Frontal Nudity: There are many scenes where men (or teen boys) are naked, namely one infamous supercut of genitalia in the second episode. They are almost never played for fanservice. An exception is Kat's sex fantasy in season 2 about a large Dothraki warrior with a very long penis that's shown erect before he has sex with her.
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: In "Trouble Don't Last Always," Ali complains that advertisers and businesses have weaponized "revolutions" to sell things, which he thinks stops actual change or at least controls the impact. He relates Nike promoting a sign reading "Our people matter" (about black people) while still charging a bundle for sneakers, which costs them nothing, looks good, and lets them still charge the same huge price (he notes they were likely made by slaves or near enough in China too).
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Rue is pretty tomboyish, compared with Jules's highly feminine attire and looks.
  • Masochism Tango: Nate and Maddy's relationship, particularly underlined as she continues insisting that he loves her no matter what.
  • Meta Fiction: Lexi was a fairly Out of Focus character in season 1. Season 2 makes a joke out of it by revealing in an episode focused on her that she always felt like an observer in life, and copes with her family situation by imagining herself as the director of a TV show about her observing others, after which the story briefly shifts into a mockumentary of a show that she imagines herself writing and directing titled This Is Life.
  • Misery Poker: The conversation between Rue and Ali in "Trouble Don't Last Always" enters this territory a few times. Although Rue and Ali are talking about the misery they caused their loved ones due to drug use.
  • Missing Mom: Jules' mom Amy, implied to be a drug addict, is notably missing in the present. Rue remarks that something big must have gone down since Jules' father has full custody of her, seeing that men rarely get full custody of the child. The second special reveals that Amy is an alcoholic who relapses after Jules rejected her.
  • Morton's Fork: In the Season 1 finale, Rue chooses not to run away with Jules to the city out of fear of what her mother and sister will think and because she thinks it's an unhealthy choice for her recovery from addiction. This immediately leads to Rue relapsing into drug use anyway out of pain from being separated from Jules.
  • Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls: Kat's written a lot of fanfics on Tumblr, most of them explicit and NSFW.
  • Never My Fault: After sleeping with Nate and starting a quasi-relationship with him at the start of season 2, Cassie repeatedly insists she didn't really betray Maddy since she and Nate were broken up at the time. Everyone from Nate to her own mother lampshades that this still breaks the fairly basic principle of "don't have sex with your best friend's ex", with the relationship angle just a way to assuage her own guilt, and mentions of their relationship's toxicity largely giving Cassie justification to indulge in her own deeply unhealthy obsession with Nate.
  • New Year Has Come: The Season 2 premiere, "Trying To Get to Heaven Before They Close The Door", is set over New Year's.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Obliterated. "Made You Look" not only namedrops Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles when Kat writes about Harry giving Louis a blowjob before a concert, but the story is then fully animated with anime character likenesses of them both.
  • One-Hour Work Week: As typical of teen dramas, basically no time is spent on schoolwork or worrying about academics. Lampshaded when Rue lies to her mother by saying she has homework to do, which Leslie says she knows isn't true.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Miss Marsha, who works at Frank’s, and Nate’s mother Marsha Jacobs.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Though some characters like Kat (Katherine), Maddy (Madeleine), and Nate (Nathaniel) are also occasionally called by their full names, many with names associated as with being nicknames (Jules, Cassie, and Lexi) are not.
    • Christopher McKay is referred to by his last name by everyone except adults.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In "The Next Episode," Rue and Lexi both realize something is wrong with Jules when she gets drunk.
  • Pedo Hunt:
    • In "Stuntin' Like My Daddy," Maddy convinces Nate that she was blacked out when she had sex with Tyler, and Nate, being the violently-overprotective boyfriend that he is, goes and beats the shit out of Tyler, secure in the knowledge that because Tyler is over 21, he won't be able to report Nate without going to jail for statutory rape. Kat also makes Roy delete the video of her and tell people it was someone else after threatening to report it as child porn since she's underage.
    • Two episodes later in "Shook Ones, Pt. II", Nate reveals that he was only courting Jules in order to get her to send him nudes so that he could blackmail her into not reporting his dad for having sex with a minor and filming it by threatening to report her for producing and distributing child pornography.
  • Perspective Flip:
    • Remember Jules getting piss drunk throughout the entire Halloween party midway through the first season? When told from Jules' point of view (in the second special), it's revealed that her mother Amy — whom she had rejected shortly before —- had relapsed and was hospitalized the day of the party and Jules had left after overhearing this conversation, which in addition to her blackmail by Nate, adds even more depth into her actions on that night.
    • The entire special "Fuck Anyone's Who Not a Sea Blob" is told from Jules' point of view and reveals a lot of her insecurities. One of these notably being her fear that she is the only thing that's keeping Rue sober, which causes a massive weight on her shoulders.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Kat wordlessly abandons Ethan at the carnival after seeing him talk to another girl and assuming that he was flirting with her, when she was really just talking to him about his sister covering a shift. She then continuously pushes him away and throws herself deeper into casual sex to get over it, leaving him hurt and confused.
    • Jules and Rue's relationship falls apart because Rue doesn't explain to Jules that she promised her mother that she would wait before having sex, which causes Jules to fear that her being trans is an issue, while Jules doesn't really ask Rue if she's okay with Jules seeing Anna on the side, causing Rue to fear that Jules will eventually just leave her for Anna.
  • Promotion to Parent: Fezco raises his younger brother Ashtray due to their mother's illness.
  • Properly Paranoid: Fezco keeps a supply of Narcan (an opioid blocker) on hand, just in case.
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship: Rue and Jules hold hands, cuddle, often fall asleep together and tell each other "I love you". Jules even references Puella Magi Madoka Magica at one point. Episode four, "Shook Ones, Pt. II," sees their relationship finally become a romantic one.
  • Put on a Bus: After being largely Out of Focus for Season One, McKay appears briefly in the Season Two premiere to finalize his breakup with Cassie and is then absent from the rest of the season.
  • Really Gets Around: After transitioning, Jules began to have sex with a lot of men. Cassie also has this reputation.
  • Romance and Sexuality Separation: Jules doesn't really feel anything for the guys she's had sex with, and possibly the only reason she falls so hard for "Tyler" is that his supposed distance means that they are unlikely to have sex anytime soon, forcing her to develop other kinds of intimacy. On the other end of things, she hugs, kisses, cuddles, and holds hands with Rue frequently, and her ideal living arrangement is one where she and Rue fall asleep together every night, even though she never expected to feel any sexual attraction towards Rue.
  • School of No Studying: And how! Characters are occasionally shown going to class, and that's about it.
  • Secret-Keeper: Nate knows of his father Cal's videos. In the Season 1 finale, it's implied that Maddy knows, too.
  • Secretly-Gay Activity: Rue initially asks to sleep over at Jules' house because she's high and doesn't want her mom to find out. However, after watching Jules undress in front of her, Rue decides to keep contriving reasons to sleep over, because it means getting to snuggle up with a scantily-clad Jules. It eventually becomes an actual explicit relationship between them.
  • Self-Harm: Jules used to cut herself as a coping mechanism over her dysphoria and other issues.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: In Season 2, Cassie shows 4 out of 7 of these in Season 2:
    • Envy: Her jealousy, hatred and resentment towards Maddy, Lexi and Rue and the fact they get all the advantages in life that she doesn't.
    • Lust: Her desire for sex and pleasure with Nate and willingness to let him do things to her.
    • Pride: Her ambition for popularity and high status after getting together with Nate.
    • Wrath: Her Ax-Crazy abusive behaviour when her friends and family threaten her perfect future.
  • Sex in a Shared Room: Maddy and Tyler have sex in public at the swimming pool at Nate's party.
  • Show Within a Show: Lexi’s play in “The Theater and its Double,” "Our Life", is an semi-biographic story of her life, telling about the relationship between her and the other lead characters, and between each other, from her perspective.
  • Shout-Out:
    Rue: "Fucking Jordan Catalano."
    Ali: You're playing pool with Minnesota Fats.
    • When Rue finally hits rock bottom and one of her first attonements is to call Ali begging him for forgivness, she has barely spoken ten word until Ali asks her to stop talking so he can say : "I Forgive you, Rue". When she asks how could he, he simply answer "The Hour is certain to come, so we must forgive graciously", him quoting the Qur'an.
  • Slash Fic: Kat's written plenty of those. In fact, she was supposedly the one who "started" the Larry Stylinson ship.
  • Slut-Shaming: A frequent topic of discussion on this series.
    • In the first episode, Cassie's nude photos become distributed, and the guys all assume that she's some kind of sex fiend when in reality she's no more sexually active than any of the other girls. This becomes why McKay decides to heed Nate’s advice and become overly aggressive during their first time having sex. Later, it turns McKay against her as he doesn’t want to admit they’re dating because of the reputation she has, and it manages to get worse when she gets high on ecstasy and has a public orgasm on the carousel.
    • Maddy is often subjected to this at the hands of Nate.
    • In the second episode, Kat has to deal with the fallout from footage of her having sex being put online. However, she manages to turn it around and becomes a cam girl.
  • Stepford Smiler: Although McKay appears to be pretty relaxed, he's actually got a lot of pent-up rage inside him. His father taught him to repress it in most cases, but he released it on the football field until he reached college, where he was often benched.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: Season 1 ends with Rue in the center of an extravagant musical number set to her actress Zendaya's remix of "All for Us", complete with a church choir and marching band.
  • Tagline:
    • "Feel something." — Season 1
    • "Remember this feeling." — Season 2
  • Take That!: "Made You Look" takes a rather vicious shot at horny fangirl writers of homoerotic Real-Person Fic with an explicit, fully-animated extended sequence from one of Kat's fanfictions where Harry Styles fucks Louis Tomlinson.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Played with. Even characters like Jules who are ultimately good-hearted have some serious problems, Rue is constantly in some kind of severe pain, and then there are straight-up awful monsters like Nate and eventually Cassie.
  • Teeny Weenie: Kat gets paid for an online cybersex session by a guy with a very small penis. He likes being mocked for it, oddly enough.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In the Season 1 finale "And Salt the Earth Behind You," Rue's fantasy of what she'd like to do to Nate is shooting him repeatedly in the head. While he's tied to a chair. And on fire.
  • This Is Reality: In the premiere, as McKay and Cassie are hooking up at Nate's party, Rue-as-the-narrator pauses the scene for a second to talk about what teenage guys like McKay usually see in porn: women being all but brutalized during sex and apparently enjoying it. The scene resumes with McKay using this "knowledge" to choke Cassie, which she immediately and furiously stops. A stunned McKay can only reply that he thought she would like it.
  • Title Drop:
    • In the Season 1 finale, "And Salt the Earth Behind You," Rue says this to Jules after the latter says she wishes she could just burn the town down.
    • "Trouble Don't Last Always" is derived from a piece of advice given to Rue by Miss Marsha, a waitress at the diner the episode takes place in, who says she got it from her grandmother.
  • Tone Shift: Played for Laughs. At one point, as a manic Rue is roping Lexi into getting to the truth behind Nate, her manic episode plays out as if she's the hyper-attentive lead of a detective show. The film is notably grainier, the colors are warmer, Rue and Lexi inexplicably wear detective-esque outfits at school, Rue replaces her water filter with coffee, and she assembles a String Theory on her floor late at night.
  • Trans Equals Gay: The men whom Jules has been with all make a point of insisting they're completely straight because they appear to fear that this trope is true.
  • Trans Tribulations: Jules is one of the kindest characters on the show, but because she's a trans girl, she has to deal with crappy paramours and a creep who's blackmailing her.
  • Troubled Teen: Most of the main cast are teens with some very bad problems. Rue is a reckless painkiller addict, Jules Really Gets Around, Cassie is dating a college boy, Kat is running an underage webcam, Maddy is in an abusive relationship and keeps cheating on her extremely possessive boyfriend, and Nate is a ticking time bomb of rage and toxic masculinity.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Teenagers here are encouraged and do drink heavily, do drugs, and have lots of casual sex, including unprotected sex, camming, and with much older partners. Being a virgin is seen as a bad thing. Physical and emotional abuse is rampant, few characters have any responsible guardians to rely on, and almost nobody seems to actually care about school. This is somewhat Justified In-Universe, as every main character focused on has experienced some type of traumatic past and cope with it in unhealthy ways; there are characters without major hang-ups, like Ethan and Lexi, but they're mostly relegated to supporting roles.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: In the pilot, Maddy gets back at Nate by having sex with Tyler in the pool at Nate's own party. Everyone sees and knows exactly what's happening.
  • Unreliable Narrator: By her own admission, Rue is not the most trustworthy recaller of events.
    • In "Trouble Don't Last Always", Rue tells Ali that she and Jules only talked about getting matching lower lip tattoos, but we actually see this happening within the events of Season 1. It is unclear in this case whether she is an unreliable narrator to Ali or to the audience.
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • Nate points out that Fez has little room to take the high ground when he makes his living selling drugs to teenagers, regardless of whether or not he's friends with any of them.
    • Once again, Nate of all people makes valid points about Cassie's selfish and nonsensical behavior when he delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Cassie in S02E04 ("Something in the Water").
  • Virgin-Shaming:
    • Jules is aghast that Kat is still a virgin, telling her that You Need to Get Laid.
    • Kat also tells Ethan that she won't sleep with him (a virgin) since virgins are too clingy and shy, but it comes off as more of a product of her own insecurities with sex and her desire to push him away due to her feelings for him.
  • Wham Episode: "All My Life, My Heart Has Yearned for a Thing I Cannot Name," the Season 2 finale, in which Fezco's home is raided, resulting in him being arrested and Ashtray, his thirteen-year-old brother, being killed in the ensuing shootout.
  • Wham Line: "Ruby Bennett." This is an Internal Reveal for the audience, who didn't know that Rue's name was anything other than Rue, and because Laurie, the terrifying sex trafficking drug dealer, is the one who reveals that she knows it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the pilot episode, we see a photo of Nate’s family including him, his parents, and two siblings. The audience meets one of his siblings, older brother Aaron, though the other sibling hasn’t been mentioned (even in the second episode, where Nate’s family is formally introduced via Rue’s narration).
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: While the location of the show is never explicitly mentioned, there are some hints here and there that suggest somewhere in California:
    • There is a scene when Rue and Jules are dancing at a party, and Rue only sing along to the music when the lyrics mentions Oakland, California.
    • Palm trees can occasionally be spotted in the background.
    • Car license plates take the likeness of the current Californian plates down to the patterning of the registration. Although the generic slogan "Drive Safely" is used in lieu of a state name, the font between the two is practically identical. In a shot of a police car, "Exempt" plates can be seen.
    • A Los Angeles Metro bus can be spotted early in the first episode.
    • However, it's left ambiguous in that Derek told Cal that he was going to college "out west"...given that you couldn't get further west than California, it's not clear where they were supposed to be, given that Cal inherited the Family Business.
  • Wild Teen Party: On numerous occasions.
  • Wrong Insult Offence: Rue once called Jules a whore, which made Jules explode and Rue hurriedly amend it with slut, which made Jules give her a look that said "Damn straight I am a slut!"

"I'm just saying, love is a million things. Sometimes it feels good and sometimes it doesn't."

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