Has Euphoria's lead character been dead the whole time?
(If you are not caught up on Euphoria, stop reading now.)
It’s been three weeks since Euphoria, the TV series many have referred to as Skins on steroids, debuted on HBO. And since its debut, the show has managed to commandingly grab ahold of headlines each week, while minimizing rating dips. It’s hard not to see why, especially with the shows unflinching look at and use of drugs, sex, violence, and nudity where teens are concerned.
The pilot episode featured the terrifying overdose of the show’s titular character, Rue. The second episode featured an astounding 30 penises in one locker room scene (which is unheard of considering how male nudity in TV and film is treated by the viewing public), and character Nate most likely auditioning for the future role of Patrick Bateman in a reboot of American Psycho. And the third episode featured a micropenis and an X-rated scene between fictionalized versions of former One Direction band mates Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles, which itself was allegedly based on Tumblr fanfiction.
But of course, those aren’t the only things viewers are buzzing about. On the contrary, a pervasive theory that central character Rue Bennett has actually been dead this entire time has steadily gained steam since the pilot. And after the latest episode, it’s getting to be pretty hard not to entertain this interesting idea.
Why do I say that? Well, consider the following:
1. Rue is the all-knowing narrator, via voiceover.
During the show’s pilot episode, the audience is quickly herded into the world of Euphoria by Rue’s voice. In her voiceovers, she has intimate knowledge of not just her character, but all other characters — including Jules, Nate, Kat, etc. — throughout different stages of their lives, sharing them as she sees fit. And the scope of her knowledge about them is so vast that one wonders if she is, in fact, all-knowing (which I doubt since the show hasn’t ventured into the fantastical).
2. Rue is an unreliable narrator.
It would seem that Euphoria creator Sam Levinson felt some would find Rue’s narration cumbersome and decided to make it a little more interesting by having Rue straight-up tell us she’s an unreliable narrator.
“There are a couple of versions of what happened that night. It all depends on who you ask, and to be honest, I’m not always the most reliable narrator,” she admits in the pilot.
Initially, I assumed these gaps in narration had to do with Rue’s addiction and how that might create a disconnect between her and the events that are happening around her. However, as time goes on, her spotty narration reads as someone trying hard to remember things in the correct order. And this begins to make more sense when you consider she is relaying all of these events in the past tense — as if they have already happened.
Which is something someone who is dearly departed might do.
3. In the pilot episode, Rue talks about “losing” for the last time. What if she’s referring to losing to her addiction?
In the opening of the pilot, we see an embryo in someone’s womb and it quickly becomes clear that said embryo is Rue. As this is happening, she tells us how happy she was until she was born — three days after 9/11. But, her exact wording raised my eyebrows on a second viewing:
“I was once happy, content, sloshing around in my own private, primordial pool. Then one day, for reasons beyond my control, I was repeatedly crushed by the cruel cervix of my mother, Leslie. I put up a good fight, but I lost, for the first time, but not the last.”
In the context of the “Rue is dead” theory, the line “I put up a good fight, but I lost, for the first time, but not the last” seems pertinent. When speaking about things like addiction, diseases, mental health, or even suicide, we usually refer to dealing with them as a sort of fight or struggle. And if Rue is, in fact, dead, this could be her way of foreshadowing that fate for us, telling the audience that she did try to fight her addiction, but she lost — for the last time — and is now telling her story.
4. According to “The Rule of Three” in episode 3, three characters confront Rue about “killing herself.” Could this be another attempt at foreshadowing her impending death?
The “Rule of Three” presents itself differently depending on the field. In math, it has to do with finding ratios. When it comes to specifically writing essays or speeches, it has to do with emphasizing your point, making it memorable, and keeping your audience engaged. In television writing, it can be used as a gag in a comedy or for literal dramatic effect in dramas.
Euphoria’s third episode manages to combine multiple aspects of the rule of three by getting three characters to be transparent about Rue’s self-destruction and how they will or won’t be a part of it — with the specific mention of “killing herself.”
Jules makes it clear that she is very upset with Rue after she almost OD’d on Fentanyl, stating, “I’m not kidding, Rue. I’m not trying to become best friends with someone who’s gonna f—ing kill themself.” When we’re later introduced to Ali, a former addict who sees right through Rue’s “60 Days Clean” charade and gives her his card, he says, “Let me know when you want to stop trying to kill yourself and eat some pancakes.” And finally, Fezco refuses to let Rue into his house or sell her drugs, saying, “I’m not gonna help you kill yourself, Rue.”
If these were confrontations that happened separately across multiple episodes, I’d be less suspicious that Rue and the writers were trying to tell us something. But since all three of these interactions happen in one episode and in succession, I assume this is being done for emphasis and as a warning to us, the audience, that Rue may succumb to her addiction.
Once again, this is pure speculation and has the basis of a conspiracy web crafted by Teen Wolf’s Stiles Stilinski himself. But only time will tell, as will — perhaps — Rue.