Let’s quickly set the stage for Euphoria episode 7, the first of what appears to be a two-part season finale framed through Lexi’s school play. (If there was any doubt the series could be more artsy fartsy than interpretive dance and didactic dick-pick fourth wall breaks, we give you: a work of semi-autobiographical fiction using unreliable narration to frame a play which is itself autofiction based on the experiences of a fictional character in said general work of narrational semi-autobiographical fiction. But we’ll get to all that.)
The last two episodes featured a series of breakups that will contextualize all the hormonal energy going into the school performance—one which seems to have a higher production budget than real television shows. (Just California public school things, we suppose.) Rue told Jules she never wants to see her again—after she and Elliot told Rue’s mom about her drug use. Maddy learned that Cassie was hooking up with Nate and told her their friendship is over. Kat broke up with Ethan. And then Nate seemed to formally break up with Maddy, choosing Cassie instead.
All those parties are in the audience for Lexi’s play, which chronicles her own strained relationships with Rue, Cassie, her mother, and Maddy since freshman year. The play seems to have the effect of catharsis on each of them, as they watch a character version of themselves reenact their own life choices. The device of using fiction within fiction—writer and director Sam Levinson’s use of a play within a show—seems to be saying something about art’s potential for healing. Throughout the production, Rue, Cassie, Maddy, and Nate all seem to learn uncomfortable truths about themselves, and we see them visibly regretting (or, in the case of Maddy, validating) many of their decisions—Rue keeps looking over at Jules, Cassie sits uncomfortably next to an even more uncomfortable Nate, and Maddy seems ready to finally move on from all this toxicity.
Perhaps this was the effect on Levinson himself after writing and directing Euphoria, a series based slightly on his own struggles with substance abuse. He once labeled the series “emotional realism,” meaning that even if the show is stylized and not literally true, it embodies real emotions, and so feels true.
Lexi’s play is no doubt closer to her world than Euphoria is to Levinson’s lived experience. Still, the play’s effect on the audience is similar to Euphoria’s effect on us. At least, we think that’s the idea of the device.