Let's tackle the ramifications of THAT kiss from episode 4 of 'Euphoria' and whether it means that Rue is actually in love or if it means we are seeing the beginnings of a potential tragedy.
(If you are not caught up on Euphoria, stop reading now.)
Since Euphoria premiered in June, the show has pulled no punches when it comes to sex, nudity, and drugs. But so far, the show has really managed to impress with its unflinching look at the bad, the ugly, and the uglier when it comes to the pitfalls of addiction.
And Rue (Zendaya), the show’s protagonist, has been the vehicle for this, showing us all of the things she is compelled to do because of addiction — including lying, stealing, and gross manipulation. Still, she’s managed to find a seemingly positive force in Jules (Hunter Schafer), who encourages her to get clean and is adamant about not wanting to be friends with “someone who’s gonna f—ing kill themself”. In the midst of this, however, fans of the show have been wondering out loud about whether the two are truly falling for each other (particularly after episodes 3 and 4) or if Jules is a mere replacement for Rue’s reliance on drugs.
Based on the last two episodes — as well as Rue’s fellow addict Ali (Colman Domingo) blatantly stating that Jules may be a drug replacement for Rue in episode 4 — we’re inclined to go with the latter theory.
And here’s why:
1. Timing. Rue and Jules become friends and potential lovers right as Rue returns from rehab.
In the pilot, Rue meets Jules exactly two to three days after returning from rehab at Chris McKay’s (Algee Smith) party and they quickly become friends after Rue asks to accompany Jules home.
The speed of which they become friends or even best friends isn’t as concerning if you’ve actually met people in high school or remember being in high school yourself (i.e time is of no consequence). However, it is interesting that the beginning of their relationship, the timing, quite literally coincides with what is supposed to be the end of a horrible chapter (rehab) in Rue’s life—even though she herself tells us that she technically has no plans to stop doing drugs. It just begs the questioning as time goes on: if she purportedly had no plans to stop, did she in fact just trade one drug for another (Jules)?
2. Rue constantly refers to Jules as “the best thing that has happened to her in a really long time”.
At this point in the story, Rue’s relationship with Jules is about the only thing that is going well for her. She knows this, we the audience knows this (as Rue is quite literally a hot mess), and she states just as much by constantly saying that Jules “is the best thing that has happened to her” recently.
Emphasis on constantly, with it coming to an emotional head in episode 3, right before their first kiss and in the aftermath of the kiss during episode 4.
Of course, basing your entire capacity for happiness on some external force or person leaves too much up to chance and too many variables in the air. In addition to this, this is a lot of pressure to put on anything or any person. To expect someone to be everything to you. And on top of this, even with all the time we’ve spent with Rue, she’s has told us nothing about any of her other interests or fascinations. We don’t know if she likes to dance or how she likes her steak or even what her biggest pet peeve is. We don’t even know if she even likes going to school.
We just know that she likes drugs…and Jules.
Which makes one want to look at Rue’s fascination and preoccupation with Jules as highly obsessive. Or suspect that it at least has the potential to become obsessive and, you guessed it, extremely addictive.
Which ironically leads us to the next point:
3. In episode 3, when Rue kisses Jules and she doesn’t respond with elation, Rue spirals and tries to distract herself with her original obsession: drugs.
Episode 3 has been the most revealing episode thus far for a variety of reasons, but chiefly because this is the episode where Rue’s feelings for Jules are openly expressed.
Near the conclusion of the episode, Rue and Jules apologize to each other for their brief spat over Jules’ being semi-careless about her safety when meeting men from dating apps. After they make up, Rue is caught up in the moment and kisses Jules. However, when Jules doesn’t immediately reciprocate her feelings, Rue panics, runs away, and soon ends up back on Fezco’s porch, begging for more drugs.
It is very telling that when Rue thinks she has destroyed her relationship with Jules (“the best thing that has happened to her recently”), her gut reaction is to attempt to distract herself from the pain and shame of being presumably rejected by Jules with drugs. And building upon the previous point, it should be more than a little concerning that experiencing any non-positive reaction from Jules is enough to completely change her entire mood and ruin her day.
4. Where cinematography is concerned, almost all of the drug trip scenes in Euphoria have a “dreamy” aspect to them. Many of Jules and Rue’s scenes together reflect the same.
Theories like this one and even the “Rue Is Dead” one tend to sound like they came from someone who wears tinfoil hats for fun. But every now and then, the cinematographers of Euphoria throw us a bone and grant some merit to these theoretical musings.
This has been the case for scenes where characters are high as a kite. The latest episode saw Maddy and Cassie gassing each other up in some alt-dimension hall of mirrors after going on a trip via Molly in episode 3. We don’t know where there are or what time it is.
In addition to this, the most famous of the drug trip scenes include Rue stumbling down the hall after snorting coke in the pilot. The hallway starts to take the most kaleidoscopic turn and the audience finds themselves watching a pretty impressive homage to Inception. And once again, because of her trip, we as the audience are made to question the reality of what happened and how much time has passed.
Which is to say that these scenes — these trips — have this dreamy, otherworldly aspect as if they are existing out of time.
A number of Jules and Rue’s scenes share this “dreamy” aspect as well. This first occurred in episode 2 right as they both agree to get high. During Rue’s trip, they stare at each other in a dimly-lit tent that Jules was initially and dreamily awaits Rue in. She calls out to her in a slowed-down voice, with glitter literally covering her entire face. And they converse in equally slowed-down voices. We don’t know what time it is and we don’t know where they are. But despite that, we zoom in on Rue’s face. She is at peace. She is happy. And she is also crying… glitter.
Another “dreamy” and reality-bending scene of theirs occurs in episode 4 when they kiss for the second time. Right before, a montage of Rue and Jules hanging out together plays. Per the mind-bending nature of Euphoria, the scene is dizzying and chronicles their short friendship by literally making the room spin. It’s on theme too, with it mirroring the effect of a merry-go-round and with it being the season’s carnival episode. For every turn, we are given a past, fairly warm moment and then spin back to Rue holding Jules and lying in bed. And it continues. And continues.
Both of these Rue and Jules scenes are very well-done and are clearly supposed to invoke and mirror the simultaneous comfort and disorientation that a drug trip does.
And that can’t possibly be coincidental.
Of course, as a Rue/Jules shipper, this is obviously a devastating hypothetical. And since both Rue and Jules have been through so much, one would think that a potential romance between the two would be a good thing. But as this show continues to attempt to unglamorously teach us, nothing — not even teen love — is that simple or innocent when addiction is involved.