“Euphoria” may be best known as the HBO series with a TV record for showing so very many penises. And it is pretty explicit, as it portrays teens dealing with sex, betrayal, drugs, and identity. In some ways, it’s like Netflix’s “Sex Education,” but a dark, cynical, even nihilistic version. Created by Sam Levinson, based on an Israeli series, “Euphoria” is a brooding portrait of teen self-destruction.
The show works its bleak magic on you, but only if you’re prepared to be a voyeuristic spy on the lives of some unhappy kids and their most twisted secrets. It has triggered outrage in certain circles for its edgy content, but, you know, no one is forcing anyone to tune in.
You have to enter the world of “Euphoria” expecting to be disturbed and provoked. It’s heated up, it’s blunt, it’s lurid — but artfully so. Levinson has an appealingly clear command over the mood and imagery of his story. And he withholds the moral twists like those we see on the CW, as he adheres to the struggles of his specific characters.
The performances are also a big plus. As the recovering drug addict at the center of everything, Zendaya is extraordinary. She’s haunting and haunted, as she seeks euphoria but winds up with emptiness. As Jules, her new best friend — and perhaps more — Hunter Schafer is a revelation, a trans girl who may be ready to move beyond harmful relationships.
The show finishes its first season on Sunday night.