The second season of Euphoria has been, in a word, a clusterfuck. In addition to seemingly sidelining key characters, such as cam girl Kat (Barbie Ferreira), the show has paired up two completely disparate characters (Cassie, played by Sydney Sweeney; and Nate, played by Jacob Elordi) in the name of fan service, as well as given sympathetic narratives to out-and-out villains like pedophile Cal (Eric Dane). Although it’s only a few episodes into its second season, many fans on social media appear to view the show as having gone off the rails, an opinion that’s only been fueled by juicy rumors of on-set tension.
The first stirrings of on-set tension have focused on Ferreira and writer/director Sam Levinson, the auteur behind the edgy teen drama. According to a tip published on the celebrity gossip Instagram account DeuxMoi, Ferreira expressed her disappointment with her character’s storyline this season, prompting her to walk off set and Levinson to significantly reduce her presence in this season’s storyline. (As of episode four, Kat has appeared only briefly on the show, largely in a tepid storyline about the burgeoning relationship between her and nice-guy Ethan.) While neither Ferreira nor Levinson have publicly commented on such rumors, her absence at the season two premiere prompted many on TikTok to speculate about her future on the show.
Two actors who have spoken out about the trajectory of their characters, however, are Algee Smith, who plays football player McKay; and Sydney Sweeney, who plays the lovelorn, overly attached Cassie. Smith has also barely appeared in the second season of Euphoria, expressing consternation about his storyline to a Daily Beast reporter: “I think that’s a question we have to ask our creator [Sam Levinson], where he sees it going. We haven’t even gotten that far in the conversation, him and myself, on this, actually,” Smith said when asked about his character’s relative absence this season.
By contrast, Sweeney, a rising Hollywood star who also appeared in HBO’s The White Lotus this year, has gotten plenty of screen time on Euphoria this season. Yet fans have criticized the show’s overly sexualized depiction of her character, particularly Cassie’s many gratuitous nude scenes. In an interview with the Independent, Sweeney herself said that she was uncomfortable with how many nude scenes she was asked to do, though she says Levinson was receptive when she asked him to cut some of them. “There are moments where Cassie was supposed to be shirtless and I would tell Sam, ‘I don’t really think that’s necessary here,’” she said. “He was like, ‘Okay, we don’t need it.’ Sweeney added, “I’ve never felt like Sam has pushed it on me or was trying to get a nude scene into an HBO show. When I didn’t want to do it, he didn’t make me.”
Nonetheless, many fans of Euphoria jumped on Sweeney’s comments, using them to fuel criticism of the show and Levinson himself. Though consulting producer Jeremy O. Harris jumped into the fray, attempting to defend Levinson and quell the rumors with a series of TikToks, there’s a general sense on social media that the show may have jumped the shark, with the cliffhanger ending of the latest episode only serving to fuel the fire.
This week on Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast about TikTok and internet culture, co-hosts Ej Dickson and Brittany Spanos pour a piping hot cup of Euphoria tea, as well as discuss the debut of TikTok pop band FutureX, the breakup of social media darlings Chris Olsen and Ian Paget in a very special segment of Straight People: Gay Edition, and viral Julliard reject/professional himbo Axel Webber (and his subsequent villain arc).