Spoilers ahead!

The return of the hit television series “Euphoria has been delayed yet again. In late March, HBO announced that shooting for season three would not start in the next few months as initially planned because show creator Sam Levinson was still writing the scripts, according to Deadline. In the ensuing days, rumors flew that the network was considering replacing Levinson, who recently incited controversy over the infamous and short-lived series “The Idol.” And since the last season came out, many of the cast members have exploded in popularity: Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Colman Domingo, Storm Reid and Jacob Elordi, just to name a few. Whether “Euphoria” will ever return remains unknown — a true ‘see-it-t0-believe-it’ situation. 

Although the show has now become the butt of entertainment industry jokes, “Euphoria” was massive when it first premiered in 2019 — a pre-pandemic world, for context. After releasing two special episodes during COVID-19, the show’s second season came out in January 2022. At the time, the season two opener pulled in 19 million viewers, and the show was second in views only to “Game of Thrones.” 

When “Euphoria” was actively releasing episodes, it seemed like every high school and college-aged person in the United States was tuning in every Sunday to see what trouble Rue Bennett (Zendaya) and her orbit of drama-prone friends would get into next. The show inspired new make-up trends and aesthetics, served as the theme for every other college party for a good year and generated a slew of memes still in frequent circulation. To call the show a cultural phenomenon is almost an understatement. But, now, “Euphoria’s” over two-year hiatus and a myriad of production challenges beg the question of whether the show needs a neat final season or if it is better left as an excellent, if incomplete, work of art. 

To help answer this question, I returned to the place where “Euphoria” got its start, the show’s June 2019 pilot. And, to my delight, it’s just as good as I remember it.

The element of the show that sets it apart, even from the first episode, is its formal design, which suggests that no production detail was left unconsidered. Within the first 10 minutes of the show, we see a graphic depiction of Rue’s birth, vignettes of the tragic suicides of artists that share Rue’s mental health diagnoses and the technicolor, gravity-defying psychological state of a young woman who uses drugs to escape reality. And the show doesn’t slow down from there, using inventive lighting, cinematography and sound to create an atmosphere simmering with barely contained chaos.

Filtered through the eyes of this self-consciously unreliable narrator, we learn of the different dynamics that govern Rue’s social ecosystem. We get the stories of the various key characters in a dizzying, fragmented fashion, but what the narrative lacks in linearity it makes up for in depth; the emotional stakes and flare points are immediately clear. The premiere beautifully balances the necessary world-building with a genuine artistic flair. At the end of the episode, all the different puzzle pieces come together at a house party that turns violent — as will happen several times throughout the show — and we (finally) see Rue and Jules’ (Hunter Schafer) first interaction, grounding us in the budding relationship that will animate the rest of the series. 

Perhaps most striking in this first episode is Levinson’s masterful understanding of space. One of the most jarring, tense scenes in the entire show occurs in season two, episode five when Rue destroys her family home after her mother, Leslie (Nika King), throws away her drug stash. The narrow, wood-paneled hallways become an arena for Rue’s anger as she overturns bookshelves and kicks down doors. 

But as early as the premiere, Leslie is left chasing Rue down maze-like corridors until Rue shuts the door in her face, leaving her mother to yell at a wall — the first of many door slams in the series. As always, Rue’s younger sister, Gia (Storm Reid), is hidden but in earshot, a fearful witness to her family’s dissolution. Later in the episode, the spatial stakes become even greater as an entire hallway starts to spin on its axis after Rue gets high, an effect Levinson achieved by building an actual rotating set

On the level of plot, “Euphoria” hews more closely to the standard fare of teen drama television shows, if the stakes were dialed up to max volume. Although “Euphoria” is propelled by sex, drugs and violence that I imagine are not the norm of the average high schooler’s experience, its themes feel quite grounded in reality. “The world’s ending and I haven’t graduated high school,” Rue remarks to Fezco (Angus Cloud), her surprisingly principled drug dealer. The young men in the show, like Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi), are plagued by porn and toxic masculinity brain rot. Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Kat (Barbie Ferreira) desperately need validation. Jules (Hunter Schafer) wants to fit in in a new town. The show takes the typical anxieties and insecurities of the 16-year-old mind and transposes them onto a world of neon lights and free-flowing pills. 

The show also speaks in a true Gen Z idiom. Unlike other series oriented toward a young adult audience, “Euphoria” understands how we communicate, our patterns of speech and even our social media habits. Most of all, at the show’s core is an existential dread which seems to be the humming undercurrent of our generation. After all, Rue’s parents spent the days after her birth in the hospital, watching as news channels ceaselessly reported on 9/11 and its aftermath. I was born two weeks later.

Honestly, when I first planned to rewatch the “Euphoria” premiere, I expected to find it overhyped and perhaps a little outdated. What I instead discovered was an innovative, moving beginning to a show that blossomed over its existing seasons, though the series’ quality had its highs and lows. The second season became increasingly cluttered with loose plotlines and was thankfully saved by moments of stark vulnerability and impressive acting. But despite how much I enjoy “Euphoria,” I still think the series should end as is. 

To accommodate the maturing cast, Levinson proposed a five-year time jump for the third season. I’m hesitant about time jumps in general, but I feel especially strongly in the case of a show like “Euphoria.” The characters are, for the most part, deeply selfish people, and the grace of youth helps us understand them as humans in the process of becoming. To cut out any stage of their development feels like a huge loss for the series, especially someone like Rue who can change so quickly, so unexpectedly, and I’d argue that it’s better to leave the characters as they are than skip ahead. Let them be, if we can’t see how they become who they are.

What the series finale offers now is a series of possibilities: the possibility for Rue to stay sober and repair her relationship with her family and Jules, the possibility for Nate to work through some of the trauma inflicted by his father, the possibility for Maddy and Cassie to figure out who they are outside of their shared boyfriend. In a show that depicts characters who make the wrong choices time and time again, this ending asks us to have faith that, for once, they’ll do the right thing. This ambiguity offers a variety of positive futures for Rue and her friends, ones they deserve to have after all that they’ve endured.

All this being said, I root for these characters and love the world of this show, so if a third season ever does get made — I will surely tune in.

Idone Rhodes is a junior in Pierson majoring in English and Film and Media Studies. She will be writing a regular film column for WKND. Rhodes was formerly a managing editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine.