Upon the announcement that the writing for Season 3 of Euphoria has begun, the Internet had one thing to say: “Keep it.”
The HBO hit, which chronicles the journey of a teenage drug addict, Rue Bennett (Zendaya), as she tries to get sober, is currently the network’s fourth most-watched show of all time, leveraging just behind House of the Dragon, The Last of Us, and a little indie called Game of Thrones. At its peak in 2022, Euphoria averaged a whopping 16.3 million viewers per episode. And while newer HBO offerings may have bumped it down a few spots, it remains one of the network’s greatest triumphs, achieving the rare feat of becoming an Internet monolith every Sunday night and boasting one of Hollywood’s most current and coveted casts. So how has a show, once praised for its record-breaking accolades, faced such an Icarian downfall in the court of public opinion?
It’s impossible to talk about Euphoria without weaving in the swarm of criticism it has faced since its premiere in 2019. Discussions on the show’s excessive nudity and sexual content make regular rounds across both the critic and TikTok sphere. But it’s perhaps the critique of the show’s creator and principal writer, Sam Levinson, that pillars the case for the Internet’s predominant distaste toward Euphoria’s upcoming season—and has us all questioning whether or not we need it to begin with.
A slew of accusations have also been thrown against Levinson, from using a gratuitous amount of nudity in his projects to being a difficult person to work with (to name a few), that have arguably tainted the public’s overall impression of the show. We also can’t ignore Levinson’s other HBO endeavor, The Idol, which was released last summer to an absolute colossal wave of criticism. The fans’ reactions quickly shelved any chance of its renewal and has arguably decreased our expectations of Euphoria Season 3. While all of these factors lean into a larger conversation of separating the art from the artist, one that social media always seems keen to have, it’s moot to ruminate over when your artist isn’t particularly all that great. Levinson may be many things, but one thing he’s proven to be consistently great at is inconsistent writing.
Euphoria constantly see-saws between tremendous highs and utterly disappointing lows. Its first season was arguably near perfect, fleshing out its characters with each episode, introducing well-worthy stakes that we wanted to see resolved, and giving us a main character to relentlessly root for through Rue. Other wins include a handful of episodes from Season 2, including its fifth episode, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” which can be considered one of television’s greatest hours. But then—there’s everything else.
The loose strings that tied Euphoria’s first season were completely dwindled by the release of its second, with a hell-bent Levinson haphazardly introducing new stakes (and characters)—which would have been fine had he figured out what to do with them. To put it into perspective, by the end of Season 1 we were already curious about what was going to happen between Rue and Jules (Hunter Schafer), Nate (Jacob Elordi) and his dad, Fezco (Angus Cloud) owing money to his supplier Mouse, what Maddy (Alexa Demie) was going to do with the tape of Jules and Nate’s dad, and perhaps Euphoria’s most important plot point, what was going to happen to Rue after her relapse.
Rather than attempting to resolve any of these issues with the courtesy promised to his audience in Season 1, Levinson instead decided to top the already tilting cake with even more icing, adding in the Nate, Maddy, and Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) storyline, Ashtray (Javon Walton) killing Mouse, introducing Elliot (Dominic Fike) as an obstacle to Rue’s sobriety and her relationship with Jules, and that whole subplot with Laurie (Martha Kelly) wanting to pimp Rue out for money (plus that cursed suitcase). While a show introducing new faces, places, and cases with each season is expected, it’s doubly necessary for any new addition to make sense in its grander scheme. In Euphoria’s case, Levinson lazily assembled a second season in a desperate bid to stay provocative rather than conclusive, while also somehow managing to sideline two of Season 1’s most promising characters—Kat (Barbie Ferreira) and McKay (Algee Smith).
By the end of Season 2, it seemed that the show had entirely lost its plot. Euphoria began as a story about Rue, and our entire affinity toward its third season is built on what’s going to happen to her. Zendaya’s Emmy-winning performance has undoubtedly anchored the show so well that it took a few weeks before conversations on its half-baked second season widely began. We all want to see Rue win, and asking yourself whether or not you still care about her character arc gives you your answer on the need for Season 3.
In fact, asking yourself if you’d still care about where any of the show’s characters end up by the time of Season 3’s release gives you even more of an answer. So far, no production date has been confirmed by anyone, but HBO did announce that Season 3 is slated for a 2025 release date. That’s a hefty three-year gap between seasons, and considering that Euphoria is packaged as a capsule for such a specific time on the Internet, Levinson is going to have to make some serious creative changes to allow the show to still feel relevant. He may have to swap out the Tumblr chic for a more timeless aesthetic that hasn’t been plagued by the micro-trend curse. Plus, there’s the very real fact that most of Euphoria’s cast would be entering their 30s, so the whole high school gone bad bit can’t really work anymore. Even Jacob Elordi jokingly addressed Levinson’s urgency to work against time, saying during an interview on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon that he hopes production starts soon or, “They’re going to have to Benjamin Button me or something. I’m going to have a bad back walking down the hallway.”
The pressure to deliver is at an all-time high for Levinson. He’s not only tasked with maintaining relevancy and neatly tying up Rue’s story with the courtesy it deserves, but he’s also undertaking Angus Cloud’s tragic passing. Is it hard to trust Sam Levinson to do either of these things? Absolutely, which makes the case for Euphoria Season 3 particularly turbulent. Costume designer Heidi Bivens did hint that there would be an approximate five-year time jump in the next season, which, if true, could save Levinson by granting him leeway to work around loose plot points (rather than picking up at Season 2’s blistering cesspool of a mess) and his cast’s ages.
In a conversation with Interview Magazine, Bivens shared that Zendaya once told her, “There’s two versions of Euphoria: the TikTok version, and the real story that digs a lot deeper.” The actress is right. But which version Season 3 lands on is entirely up to Levinson. Will he continue to sacrifice the “real story” for nudity and shock value? Or will he finally deliver on a story of addiction, the facilities that fail it, and a society that’s unwilling to forgive it? While it seems that Euphoria Season 3 is returning to an uninterested audience and that its cast have arguably outgrown it, time will tell how the new season will actually be received. There’s one thing for sure though: If Levinson decides to open up his writers room, the show might have a chance to have a great finale. Here’s to hoping our Rue Rue gets the sendoff she deserves.