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Why the ‘Euphoria’ 2-Part Special is Getting Raving Reviews

“Who knew “Euphoria” could offer such a beaming ray of light?”

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If you’re looking for a moment of stillness in all the noise, the filming constraints of the pandemic have gifted Euphoria fans two hours of extraordinarily intimate TV gold.

Euphoria’s two-part special is now first on Showmax, express from the US. It’s as far removed from the frenetic pace of Season 1 as you can get… and the critics are raving about it.

Last year, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man) became the youngest ever best actress Emmy winner for her performance as 17-year-old addict Rue, who returned home from rehab and fell hard for the new girl in town, Jules (played by trans superstar Hunter Schafer).

Zendaya also scooped the 2019 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Drama TV Star, a 2020 Black Reel Award and a 2019 Satellite Award for the role, while the series won 2020 Emmys for Original Music and Lyrics for All For Us by Labrinth, as well as Contemporary Makeup (Non-Prosthetic).

The HBO drama series put a surprise in our Christmas stockings at the end of last year with Trouble Don’t Last Always, the first episode of a two-part special bridging the COVID-19-enforced gap as we wait for Season 2.

The first episode picks up directly after the Season 1 finale, focusing on Rue facing Christmas alone in the aftermath of the train station. Though Jules features briefly, the episode is a pensive, slice-of-life two-hander that sees Rue and her sponsor Ali (fellow Season 1 star Colman Domingo) pick apart life, loss and addiction over Christmas Eve pancakes in a diner.

Part 2, titled F*ck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob, has just arrived, express from the US; here’s where we finally get Jules’ side of the story and catch up with her in a painfully honest therapy session.

In addition to Hunter and Zendaya, Part 2 features Critics Choice nominee Lauren Weedman (Tales from the Loop, Arrested Development) as Jules’ therapist, and John Ales (Bosch, Sneaky Pete) as her dad, as well as a couple of not-so-welcome guests.

Series creator Sam Levinson says they had prepped the entire Season 2 before the pandemic shut down production just three days before they were due to start shooting. “My instinct immediately was, ‘What can we do in the meantime? What’s a way to do more contained pieces that allow us to continue the emotional evolution of these characters?’”

Part 1 of his answer to that question drew a 96% thumbs-up from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. “The first season of Euphoria moved at a breakneck pace… Not so with this special; this long, enveloping conversation is covered with skill and panache, yes, but with unending patience, stillness, comfort in the discomfort,” says Collider. “An unorthodox, gripping, reflective, and supremely effective piece of television storytelling… and some of the best acting you’ll see on television this year.”

RogerEbert.com calls it “one of the best hours of TV in 2020… incredibly moving,” Indiewire asked, “Who knew “Euphoria” could offer such a beaming ray of light?”, and Decider has already tipped Zendaya for another Emmy nomination for the special episode. “Zendaya continues to demonstrate exactly why she so deserved the best actress Emmy,” echoes The Guardian, adding that, “As the older, wiser Ali, Colman Domingo is simply extraordinary” and calling the episode “frequently as funny as it is grim. Ultimately, its message is one of forgiveness, of others and of oneself, of empathy and understanding. It quietly calls for good will to all men, even whip-smart, heartbroken, navel-gazing teenagers.”

And Rue is indeed heartbroken. “Rue is in a very vulnerable place,” Zendaya says. “She’s trying her best to convince herself that she has something figured out… Rue does not have it figured out. Rue does not know what she’s doing. And I think the only person who can cut through the noise and truly understand her is Ali.”

“What’s special about Rue and Ali’s relationship,” says Sam, “is she can’t bullshit Ali, and not only can she not bullshit Ali but Ali doesn’t judge her.”

The result, Zendaya says, is that Rue is able to “slowly open up and kind of take these layers off, because really what is the point of that when someone can see right through to who you are?”

Hunter herself co-wrote and co-exec produced the second part alongside Sam, marking her debut in both roles.

“Jules feels the pressure of Rue’s sobriety resting on her,” says Hunter. “Jules is really worried that if she makes the wrong move with Rue, it could go straight back to relapsing. And that’s countered with the two of them being very in love.”

Sam explains that Rue is “constantly trying to find things outside of herself to ground her, to make her feel okay and that she’s connected to people, and I think she uses Jules for that, but therein lies the trap. It’ll always go south because you can’t place that burden on another individual.”

But as Jules herself puts it in the episode, “Rue was the first girl that didn’t just look at me. Like, she actually saw me… the me that’s underneath a million layers of not me.” And, she reveals, “How could it be possible that Rue would love me as much as I loved her?”

The new instalment makes it clear just how much Jules really does love Rue, and how much pain her decision to run away has caused her. But it also starts getting to the heart of the problem, that for Jules, who’s found safety in fantasy and virtual romance, the one person who really loves her may be just… too real, too messy and, in very real terms, too easy to lose…

Decider called Part 2 “a truly gutting character study and a breath-taking performance from Hunter Schafer… This standalone episode should only be the beginning of content headlined by Schafer; she’s a star.”

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Squid Game Ending Explained; We’ve Been Scammed

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We’ve been had, and Squid Game is here to prove it.

When the end of the South Korean horror drama arrives on the ninth episode, the winner finds himself harrowed by what the coveted prize has cost his soul. In the rat race for survival, along with a better life that hinges on the never ending hustle, there’s no time to stop and see the horror our lives become. By the end, we see how the winner has sold his soul for a crappy deal that came with a few toys, and a happy meal.

A group of 456 players are mysteriously invited to take part in a set of children’s games for a grand prize of $38 million, which will be enough to give the winner the financial freedom they desperately need. The players are selected from different walks of life, with the burden of excessive debt being their biggest motivation to give the Game a go.

The first of deepening terrors comes during the first game, when the players discover that penalties for losing in the challenges will be death. DEATH. Horrified, the players initially vote to leave and return to their lives.

This noble departure doesn’t last long; their material realities as fugitives on the run from debt collectors only highlights the glow of the precious promise they’ve now left behind. When they return for the second time, they now consent to their highly probable deaths.

Led by Lee Jung-jae, who plays Seong Gi-hun, a taxi driver with a gambling addiction, the South Korean series has become somewhat of a global phenomenon. Now the most streamed Korean series of all time, Squid Game is also said to be on pace to dethrone Bridgerton as the most streamed series in the history of Netflix. And it’s with good reason. Squid Game is a trip.

Survival is the drive. The blues of a broke life pile up for Seong Gi-hun, who’s daughter is being taken away to the US by her mother and step father. His mother is battling deteriorating diabetes and even in her frail condition, is still working hard to make ends meet. It’s during the peak of his frustrations that Gi-hun is randomly invited to take part in the Game.

After accepting the offer, he finds himself in a discreet location along with 455 players, who are also drowning in debt. The players are kept under an authoritarian system of surveillance. Masked guards in pink suits keep the scene under control under the supervision of the Front Man. Gi-hun allies with other players, including his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo, as a the most strategic way to survive the bloody challenges.

Amongst those that end up in this team is player 001, a frail old man who who became his “gganbu”. Sae-byeok, who was also in the team, was killed by Sang-woo, Gi-hun’s childhood friend, team member and flip-flopping ally. Several other team members had to be killed by their team mates, which revealed the wickedness of the games.

In the end, Gi-hun’s victory came without an apology. He had to defeat a close ally in the games, the old and frail player 001. They’d bonded throughout their time, but in the end he had to advance himself against those he’d built alliances. As the games progressed, the players found themselves having to face tough calls. Someone else has to die for you to make it another day.

After a series of brutal games, it comes down to childhood friends Gi-hun and Cho Sang-woo. They’d played different games, with Sang-woo having played hard and stopping at nothing to win. Gi-hun is mad at Sang-woo for a series of betrayals, including him stabbing Sae-byeok to her death. In the end, Gi-hun wins when Sang-woo apologised and kills himself.

Yet despite emerging a winner, Gi-hun finds that the cost of becoming an overnight billionaire has bankrupted his soul. For a year following the day his bank account was loaded with a nine zero figure, he didn’t touch the money. After all, he returned to find his mother dead on the floor. One of his motivations was getting the money to get her medical help over her advancing diabetes.

THE ENDING

Gi-hun is clearly troubled by the bodies upon which his new wealth rests. A year passes and he hasn’t touched the money – even oddly reverting to old patterns of asking for loans to get by. It might be late to be so concerned about the moral questions surrounding the games now – the long and short of it is he won and his life has changed.

Later, he is shocked to find out that the “gganbu” who had to be killed after losing to him in a game of marbles, was never really killed.

In a shocking plot twist that changes everything – he also finds out that the old man is in fact the creator of the games! Finding him in a medical bed after receiving a mysterious invite to the location, Gi-hun discovers that the man’s real name is Oh Il-nam, an obscenely rich fella who created the games in 1988 (the same year Korea hosted the Olympics for the first time) purely for their entertainment. We already know by now that ‘the VIPs’ are a bunch of morally bankrupt elites who find pleasure in watching the poor masses slaughtering each other for money in a broken system. Where have we heard that before?

Although his participation in the games as player 001 was a farce, what he told Gi-hun back then, that he had a brain tumour, had been true. And of course, he challenged him to another sick game. A man had been freezing to death on a street pavement, and Oh Il-nam challenged Gi-hun to guess to bet on the odds that someone who help him when the clock strikes 00:00 at midnight. As Gi-hun wins, Oh Il-nam dies.

We assume this marks the end of the games. However later in the episode, Gi-hun sees the man who recruited him doing it to someone else. He runs to stop what is happening, but arrives at the exact scene late, the train has already taken off. Later on the way to boarding a flight, he turns and calls a number. “I can’t forgive you for everything you’re doing,” he tells ta man we assume to be In-ho. He turns back, clearly about to begin his new mission.

What we know now, is that Oh Il-nam created the games to tickle the sick tastes of his sick rich network. But he is now dead. Who is now behind the games? This, and Gi-hun’s passionate manifesto, are strong indications that next season of the series is already shaping up to a different arc. It’s his final transformation, and he is ready to take down the operation and those behind it. He won’t allow people to be “horses” for the entertainment of wealthy elites.

We know that In-ho shot Jun-ho in a bid to stop him from alerting the police about the games. The signal was bad, delaying the delivering of the evidence Jun-ho had been trying to send in several texts, right up to the moment the moment he plunged from a cliff and hit the water. What we don’t know is whether the messages were really not delivered. There’s also no conclusive evidence that Jun-ho is dead.

Potentially, the biggest lesson from season one is that our relentless pursuit for material success in a punishing money system kills us.

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First Look at HBO’s Game of Thrones Spin-Off ‘House of The Dragon’

DRACARYS!

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Things look promising for HBO’s upcoming drama series, The House of Dragon. The highly buzzed Games of Thrones prequel’s first visual teaser has been met with much fanfare, raking in more than 8,6 million views on Youtube within two days of its arrival.

The House of Dragon

Photo Credit: HBO via Twitter

First reactions and buzz around the epic teaser have been strong indications that the series, slated to premiere in 2022, is off to a good start despite the infamous final season slump suffered by G.O.T. And it could mean that maybe, just maybe,  the world ready to let old baggage go.

The House of Dragon, created by an entire different team, will arrive about three years since the cold winter. The cast includes Matt Smith, Paddy Considine and Sonoya Mizuno who will be bringing to life a different era of Westeros.

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Midnight Mass is Creepy With A Dark Subtext and You Need To See it

‘God’s angel’ had sinister plans for the town.

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The reign of terror plunges a small and quiet town to ashes when the arrival of a charismatic yet mysterious priest coincides with the return of a disgraced young man who has just been released from prison.

While Riley (Zach Gilford) initially finds that Crockett Island and its 127 residents – along with his childhood sweetheart Erin (Kate Siegel) – still conduct a mundane existence, Pastor Paul (Hamish Linklater) soon changes that.

Midnight Mass

“The LORD’s angel”‘s life giving blood comes scams locals into horrible mistakes on Midnight Mass.

When the island’s much loved Roman Catholic senior priest takes a trip to the pilgrimage and never comes back, an energetic new priest takes his place at the Holy Land church. And while his arrival brings with it a new wave of spiritual revival amongst the island community, something sinister begins to haunt the town.

With each episode, the esoteric occult that powers Paul’s ability to perform astounding miracles and mesmerise the islanders, slowly gains dominion over the unsuspecting community. Instead, they begin taking up a renewed interest in the church as word of mouth spreads about the signs and wonders. Much like Jesus Christ was able to draw crowds wherever he went, the appearance of Paul’s supernatural power is able to attract even those who’d remained sceptics their lives.

It’s the blending of the sacred and the sinister. The taking of communion that has been contaminated with demonic blood, which functions as the miracle drug promising eternal life.

We soon find out the miracles come at an unthinkable cost.

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