“And Salt the Earth Behind You” is at times an unsatisfactory finale, leaning too heavily into its style and not enough into its resolutions, but it still manages to land an emotional gut-punch to close out a compelling debut season.
This recap of Euphoria Season 1, Episode 8, “And Salt the Earth Behind You”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
I heard someone say the other day that “style over substance” is a meaningless criticism. Some films and shows are primarily visual, and it’s all about figuring out what those visuals mean, brah; deciphering the artistic vision through the use of filmic language and composition and color and — look, shut up, okay? I get it. I get how aesthetics inform theme and sometimes that they’re engaging for their own sake and on their own terms. But the idea that fancy-pants flourishes aren’t sometimes used to obscure a lack of narrative progression or character development is demonstrably false. And you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up in relation to Euphoria Episode 8, “And Salt the Earth Behind You”. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you.
Throughout its first season, which has been consistently compelling even if it hasn’t been of a consistent quality, this is a show that has twisted outlandish visual storytelling into its teen-drama DNA. At its best, it has used stylistic flair and clever juxtaposition to reinforce powerful moments of drama or to bleed the reality out of events that might have been too real for some to handle. But at its worst, it has used its own cleverness as a crutch. Whenever it wasn’t sure exactly what it wanted to say, it said nothing at all.
“And Salt the Earth Behind You” isn’t quite like that — but it is a little bit. It represents the explosive build-up of a full season’s interweaving story strands, and parts of its structure are designed to reflect that. It abandons Rue’s opening narration. It plays out non-linearly, with the sequencing intentionally obfuscated. The feeling is of approaching calamity; a ticking clock, a lit fuse, whatever metaphor you like. But the detonation never amounts to what was promised. It’s like one of those joke guns that, when you fire them, unfurl a little flag with “BANG!” written on it.
Euphoria probably had too many characters with far too many issues to ever resolve everything satisfactorily in a single episode. Some personal journeys are resolved too quickly, and without much ceremony, while some, intentionally or otherwise, aren’t resolved at all. A second season seems mandatory after Euphoria Episode 8, yet I can’t guarantee it would have ended any differently were the potential for a follow-up not there. It’s just that kind of show.
Ambiguity isn’t inherently bad. Neither is refusing to draw a neat line under characters and scenarios that were never neat, to begin with. But you sometimes get the sense in “And Salt the Earth Behind You” that the show could be interrogating its ideas more and is just relying on its aesthetic as an excuse not to. It doesn’t make it any less pretty, but it definitely makes it a bit less meaningful.
Still, with things left unresolved for almost everyone, the chances of a second season are — ironically — high. From abortions to drug violence to relapses to teen love in all its many forms, Euphoria Episode 8 ran the gamut of young-adult anxiety and angst, capping off a daring and original season with a truly emotional ending — even if it wasn’t entirely an ending, in the true sense of the word.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.