After the season reached its halfway mark last week, HBO announced that the hit series Euphoria is coming back for a third season. On the heels of that exciting news came the show’s most emotional episode yet. In episode 5, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” the chaotic frenzy of an attempted intervention goes awry, and Rue (Zendaya) unleashes on all her loved ones.
Spiraling since Jules (Hunter Schafer) left her at the train station in the season 1 finale, Rue’s ongoing drug abuse is confronted by her mother. When she realizes her suitcase full of drugs (which she was supposed to sell for a drug dealer) is gone, Rue’s palpable anxiety and rapturous withdrawal symptoms hit a boiling point when she becomes physically violent towards her mother Leslie (Nika King) and her little sister Gia (Storm Reid).
After Jules chimes in to tell her the drugs have been flushed, Rue realizes her destructive episode was being listened in on by her girlfriend and new friend Elliot (Dominic Fike). “I’m really thankful that Jules did tell Rue’s mom,” said Schafer in a behind-the-scenes clip. “It’s one of the more mature decisions Jules has made. I think it comes down to her prioritizing Rue’s safety and health and future.”
The 15-minute-long fight montage displays some of the harsh realities of addiction, and how it affects the world around you. In the post-episode featurette Enter Euphoria, Zendaya proclaims her love and empathy for her character, but says watching her pick apart all of her loved ones takes its toll. “Episode 5 has always been just a really difficult episode to tackle,” she said. “And it shows, I think, the devastation addiction can cause. Not only to the person who’s dealing with it, but also the family that has to get them help.”
Jumping out of the car and into traffic to avoid going to rehab, Rue finds her way to the Howard household, only to tear down the remaining relationships she has there, by exposing the Cassie-Nate-Maddy secret triangle in response to some unsolicited advice from Cassie on taking it “day by day.”
Escaping the confrontation and her mother by the skin of her teeth, Rue robs the house of a wealthy stranger out of desperation, like all other things she’s done throughout the episode. Prompting the police to hunt her down on a chaotic high-speed foot chase, Rue narrowly escapes, but finds herself in even more danger.
Euphoria has often been accused of glorifying or glamorizing addiction, but episode 5 spun that around and showed the harsh realities. Proving there to be consequences for every action, Rue is found at her lowest with no one to turn to, after alienating everyone in her life. “The most important thing was to not shy away from how ugly those moments can be,” said Zendaya.
Euphoria creator Sam Levinson added, “If this show is going to be honest about addiction, it needs to be honest about the person that addiction can turn you into. The one thing that’s certain about doing drugs to the degree that Rue’s doing drugs, is it’s going to get increasingly more chaotic. And the plane’s gotta crash. I wanted to kind of portray what an intervention looks like, just from a family perspective. And how hard it is to reason with someone who’s in a state of true irrationality.”
In a performance like no other, Zendaya displays a heart-wrenching authenticity to the role, causing Twitter to go ablaze with fans’ hopes that the star and executive producer receives her second Emmy Award. (A turn of events also echoed by her co-star, Cloud.)
The last scene Zendaya starred in that caused such a frenzy was one that earned her her first Emmy Award in 2020. In season 1, episode 3, Rue sobs and begs Fezco for pills after he refused to give them to her — placing Zendaya as the youngest woman to ever win best actress in a drama series.
Hoping for others to find some empathy for Rue, Zendaya took to Instagram to express her hopes in how both her character and the episode would be received. “I think in this show, and this season more specifically, she hits rock bottom. It’s my hope for people watching that they still see her as a person worthy of their love. And worthy of their time, and that she has a redemptive quality still, and that we still see the good in her even if she can’t see it in herself,” Zendaya wrote.
“I think that if people can go with her through that, and get to the end, and still have hope for her future, and watch her make the changes and steps to heal and humanize her through her sobriety journey and her addiction, then maybe you can extend that to people in real life. If you can love her, then you can love someone that is struggling with that same thing, and maybe have a greater understanding of the pain they’re facing, that is often of their control. So for me, that is the most important thing.”
She went on to express, “I care about her deeply. I also care about the people who care about her, because I think many of them share her story of addiction and sobriety, and many of them share a lot of her emotional disorders, and I think it’s important that we continue to have that love her her. I don’t know, that was a long-winded way of just saying that I think it’s important that we have characters that are flawed. And remember that we are not the worst mistake we’ve ever made. And that redemption is possible.”