A week ago, the nation settled in to watch the Rams battle the Bengals in the Super Bowl, but over on HBO, Euphoria fans gathered to watch a showdown of a different nature: Maddy vs. Cassie. At last, Maddy had found out about Cassie and Nate, a reveal that promised to pave the way for biggest fight East Highland had ever seen. But then…the fight never happened. To the grave disappointment of fans, the episode glossed over the feud entirely, skipping straight to the part where Maddy licks her wounds and moves on. Done and dusted, over and out.
Or so it seemed. This Sunday night’s episode retraced last week’s steps and flashed back to the Big Reveal, showing exactly what happened after Maddy (Alexa Demie) found out about the affair. But surprisingly, it wasn’t the violent showdown that fans imagined it might be. Instead, right after Rue reveals Cassie’s secret, Cassie sprints up the stairs and locks herself in her bathroom. Maddy charges behind and bangs on the door (the second time this season Cassie’s had to lock herself in a bathroom to hide from Maddy). “Open the door and tell me it was worth it!” Maddy says, sobbing while Kat rubs her backs and comforts her. All the huffing and puffing that was promised actually turns into a tender teen breakdown. No punches thrown, no hair pulled. Just a girl crying over the betrayal of her best friend. (Achingly portrayed by Demie, taking the baton from season 2 scene-stealer Sydney Sweeney.) Then, Maddy leaves, closing the Cassie chapter of her life.
And…that’s that. The full-circle start and finish of the big Cassie vs. Maddy showdown. The show teased it up just to tear it down, despite moments this season that seemed to amp up Maddy’s love of fighting—including, but not limited to, a scene where she slams a girl’s head into a wall. What really happens, though, is human and realistic, much more in the realm of how a girl who has constantly been abused and lied to by those closest to her would actually respond. Euphoria often pulls this kind of about-face on Maddy, proffering her bullying bonafides, then turning around and inflicting all kinds of violence on her, typically at the hands of Nate. Much of her season 1 storyline revolved around Nate abusing her at the carnival. Season 2goes much the same way, with the most recent episode showing Nate breaking into her room and threatening to shoot her, establishing an astonishing new baseline of sociopathy for the character.
Yet the underlying current of the episode is the rising zen of Maddy. In the previous episode, she got to hang out with her mentor, Samantha (Minka Kelly, in a role written for her), and hear some kind, sensible words of wisdom for how to get over Cassie’s betrayal. She’s also warmly portrayed in Sunday night’s episode, with Lexi’s controversial play shining a kind light on the Maddy character and emphasizing her role as a surrogate big sister, reminding viewers that Maddy moved in with Cassie’s family because her parents fought all the time. The play also pokes endless fun at Cassie and Nate (though the homoerotic splendor of the Nate-centric football scene was undercut by a weirdly homophobic tone). For once, Maddy has the upper hand and she revels in it, laughing at Nate’s embarrassment. Then, without lifting a finger, she gets the ultimate revenge at the end of the episode, when Nate gets so fed up with Lexi’s play that he breaks up with Cassie on the spot. Maddy, it turns out, never needed to fight Cassie in order to win the war.More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
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