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Jason Parham writes about pop culture for WIRED.Across its mostly terrific eight-episode first season, which concluded Sunday, Levinson introduced explicitly hard-to-swallow themes—drug addiction, domestic abuse, the hazards of online hookups, pedophilia, depression—and didn't hold back with regard to the physical and psychological violence these issues havoced on his characters. In one early-season scene, Rue (show lead Zendaya), who is a recovering addict, is forced to lick liquid fentanyl off of a knife by a sinister drug dealer. The performance is full of tension and sorrow. You watch her wanting to resist, but know she can't. The act throws Rue back into a dark spiral of dependence. Elsewhere in the series, town paragon Cal Jacobs (Eric Dane) seduces underage transwomen to hotel rooms, where he sadistically records their sexual encounters, and 16-year-old Kat (Barbie Ferreira), beset by feelings of insecurity, turns from writing Tumblr fanfiction to secretly working as a cam girl. Euphoria has the surface texture of teen dramas like Degrassi: The Next Generation and Skins but the feel of a three-day acid trip—which is to say it is a modern coming-of-age story about drug use and sexual liberation but told with doses of manic whimsy.The show is frighteningly hard to watch—it didn't temper my anxiety one bit all season—but its choice to skid easy definitions around difficult topics is what makes it an important cultural engine of our time. Levinson doesn't sugarcoat reality, however uneven or insubstantial storylines may seem to viewers or critics. I didn't grow up in a suburban enclave like Rue or Kat, one wrecked by secrecy and dependency issues, but the show's talents are gripping enough that anyone, no matter where they were raised or what experience they had in high school, can identify with what's transpiring on screen.Euphoria privileges real issues that warrant time. In the penultimate episode, Rue twists into a tomb-like depression. She locks herself in her room, gorging on episodes of Love Island, and cycles through feelings she can't seem to control, which only spurs her imbalance more. Even a simple act like using the bathroom proves impossible. For me, it felt like the first true depiction of adolescent depression rendered thoughtfully on screen, a genuine excavation into the interior of the mind without the prick of judgement. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.Binge culture doesn't allow for that same kind of viewer contemplation—we sit with characters for hours over a weekend or late at night for ungoldly amounts of time, but just as quick as they enter our lives, so too do we shuffle them out, making room for others. That's partly the joy of an anti-binge show like Euphoria; it's not meant to be fussed over in 72 hours. The characters demand examination. Splayed out across eight weeks, we begin to find common ground, even with characters we never thought we would (notice how Angus Cloud's Fez went from a periphery note to a universal fan favorite). In a weird way, they become a bit like family. They're people we know. They mirror issues we've seen or have been challenged by up close. The beauty in that kind of difficulty is that when a show like Euphoria ends, it doesn't feel rushed and we don't feel totally cheated by it, because it's earned our love and respect over time. We're able to see it for what it really is: an imperfect but valuable thing, scars and all.
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From the outset of Ramy, Hulu's newest half-hour comedy about a first-gen Egyptian-American in North New Jersey, its millennial disposition is apparent. Played by 28-year-old comedian Ramy Youssef, its eponymous lead is locked in a state of moral unsteadiness much like the Devs and Hannahs before him.