“’03 Bonnie and Clyde” tackles relations both romantic and familial, and explores the legacy they leave behind.
This recap of Euphoria Season 1, Episode 5, “’03 Bonnie and Clyde”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The word of the week in Euphoria Season 1, Episode 5 is “juxtaposition”. The episode’s title, “’03 Bonnie and Clyde”, could easily apply to any of the show’s on-again-off-again dysfunctional pairings, many of which are picked apart and explored in this latest episode, each held in stark contrast to the next, each lovely and terrifying in different ways and different degrees.
The focus, primarily, is on Maddy; she’s the subject of the opening flashbacks and narration of “’03 Bonnie and Clyde”, with Rue’s disinterested, matter-of-fact tone leading us through her glamorous childhood and subsequent sexual awakening, details of which she — cleverly, one assumes — kept from Nate. Not that it matters. Much of Euphoria Episode 5 dealt with the fallout of Nate choking her at the carnival, which became publicly known after she was unable to hide the bruising — or her drug-induced comedown — from the go-getter principle, who proceeded to interview half the school and put together a damning picture of the night’s events.
Nate’s arrest has a knock-on effect for everyone, from his father — more on him in a bit — to Rue and Jules and Cassie and McKay. With the scandal public, everyone feels perfectly willing to contribute to it openly, with information about Nate’s sexually-confused photo albums passed around as freely as nuggets about Maddy’s promiscuity and drug use. “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” captures high school as an ecosystem, where slander is passed up and down the food chain until nobody knows who said what — but it all becomes equally true, the whispers louder and louder.
In contrast to Maddy’s diverse and manipulative sexual history, Rue’s is simpler and, according to her, more nightmarish. But it’s something she has to come to terms with now she’s “a thing” with Jules. Euphoria Episode 5 sees her happier and more content than she has been thus far; totally clean, optimistic about the future, but terrified of the idea that it’ll all collapse around her — an idea that Ali, not unkindly, tells her is virtually an inevitability. Nothing in high school ever lasts, after all.
Apparently, nothing in adulthood does, either. Cal’s long-time homosexual infidelity is beginning to catch up with him in “’03 Bonnie and Clyde”, especially now that he’s seeing it reflected in Nate’s behavior. And where else does he turn than to another shady late-night rendezvous with a gay man in a motel? It’s the best conversation in Euphoria Episode 5, as he ruminates on how what we do ripples through the generations; our children become what we are, are shaped by how we behave. To hammer the point home, as he leaves, Maddy, having been given secret instructions to meet Nate, pulls into the same motel.
And then there’s Kat. Still dressing up on webcam for financing, she’s starting to buy into her own hype, strutting through the mall and hooking up with random men, unable to hide her smile every time she receives any praise or encouragement, and unable to hide her frown as Ethan, permanently perplexed, tries to figure out why she’s holding him at arm’s length. The juxtaposition here is in how who she really is clashes with the caricature of herself that flourishes online and in one-night-stands. The mask only holds so long. Eventually, it’ll slip.
Euphoria Season 1, Episode 5 is the show, I believe, at its best, really taking the time to examine not just the behaviors of its characters but their cause. Its greatest problem is still how everyone is blown out to exaggerated proportions, all the better to function as stand-ins for broad examples of certain behaviors — addiction, promiscuity, abuse, and so on. But that also fits well with the show’s underlying theme of excess, even if it isn’t always helpful to the plot or character development. But “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” was a fine example of how to root around in that excess for something substantial, and it’s a tone that suits Euphoria‘s objectives. I hope it continues.