While the show, Euphoria, is only in its sophomore season, the HBOMax series has captured critical acclaim and nation-wide attention. Usually regarded for its progressive portrayal of high school teens, Season 2 has fans divided; and rightfully so. Before we get into this, here’s a very obvious *Season 2 Episode 5* spoiler warning! Now buckle up, sister, because I’m about to go all ‘Human Torch’ on Maddy.
So, to properly analyze how Maddy is the true villain of Season 2, we have to backpedal and look at Season 1. Right from the first episode, we can see that Maddy is on her worst toxic behavior. Her and Nate, in the pilot, have broken up again in an effort to make each other jealous. Already, I’m not a fan. That same night, Maddy hooks up with Tyler Clarkson, and Nate finds out. Again, from the beginning this relationship is not a healthy one. And don’t mistake that for me taking Nate’s side; what he did to Jules that night at the party was completely out of pocket (and every time we see him verbally assault Maddy, that was out of pocket too). But the point being, we have an understanding from the very beginning of the show that Nate and Maddy are toxic for each other, and have a on-again-off-again dynamic. Finally, we’re shown that Maddy has sent an innocent man to jail for sexual crimes, just so she can get back together with Nate. That’s strike one, girl.
As Season 1 progresses, we see the darker parts of Nate; how he is physically and verbally abusive towards Maddy. But in turn, we see Maddy (who’s never one to take anything lying down) throwing verbal abuse right back at him. Again, this is just not a healthy relationship; they feed off hurting each other, and they both seem to enjoy that. Nate is dealing with a lot of trauma and a severe chemical imbalance; which doesn’t excuse his behaviors, it doesn’t. Nate has no excuses for his actions and should be held responsible for every time he assaulted someone on this show; but, it gives us insight into why he is the way he is. For Maddy’s character, it’s hard for us to trace why she’s so toxic towards Nate, even before the majority of the physical and verbal abuse takes place. She’s portrayed as in love with the drama, not really in love with Nate. How could she love him after all he’s done to her and all that she knows about him? It just seems like a big stretch for her character, who is shown to have very little empathy to begin with.
Things really start to go sideways when Maddy finds pictures of *ahem* vulnerable men *cough cough* on Nate’s phone. When Cassie later confronts her about it, even though Cassie is supposed to be the one person she can trust, Maddy decides to lie and gaslight Cassie; saying none of that ever happened and Cassie is imagining a fake moment from when they did MDMA. I can understand that Maddy was probably doing this out of fear, fear of what Nate might do to her if anyone found out, but the decision to gaslight Cassie and play mind games is a step too far for me. That’s supposed to be her best friend? Ok, girl, whatever you say.
As Season 1 begins to wrap up, she continues to pine after Nate and hook up with him. After various fights, assaults, and reveals, Maddy finally suggests they break up at the winter formal. It’s honestly the warmest moment that we get from the two of them in the entire show. It’s the first time they aren’t at each other’s throats–quite literally. Let’s also not forget when Kat called Maddy out for being self-centered and shallow (which she obviously is). Maddy is given (what we can assume to be) Cal’s homemade video of him and Jules. This is when things start to get unforgivable. Maddy decides to keep the tape, not tell anyone about it, and is now poised to use that as leverage against Nate. That’s strike two for me. It couldn’t matter any less if Jules and Maddy are friends or if they even speak. Maddy knows that Jules is a minor, who’s seen on this tape with Cal (a whole adult), and then proceeds to say nothing and do nothing. To me, the responsible thing to do, would be to give Jules the tape and let her decide what to do with it. Instead, Maddy decides to keep it just in case she needs it for something? No, ma’am.
At the beginning of Season 2, we see Nate in a tailspin without Maddy. In some sort of gross power play, he decides to go after her best friend, Cassie. In the first episode of Season 2, Nate and Cassie hook up, with Maddy literally right outside the door and Cassie hiding in the bathtub. Nate comes out of the bathroom, completely unbothered and acting like nothing happened. He then gets beat up by Fez, which is iconic, but we see at the beginning of Ep. 2 that he’s genuinely falling for Cassie (or at least he thinks so). His voiceover talks about how she’s the only person who allows him free agency of vulnerability, something he never felt safe to do with Maddy. It’s this moment that starts to seal Maddy’s fate for me. Nate was too afraid of her reaction to be vulnerable, too afraid that she might ridicule him like she has 100 times before; that’s where the anger and aggression comes from. And again, NOT defending Nate at all here, I’m just proposing that he has unresolved trauma that he’s dealing with and Maddy seems to just be petty.
Listen, I’m not going to sit here and act like Nate is about to have a redemption arc, I really don’t see that happening, especially after all the crazy things he did in Season 1 (and his unchanged behavior in Season 2). I’m also not going to sit here and act like this was Cassie’s fault. She thought Maddy and Nate were done for good, and Nate leads her on to believe this. As things progress in Season 2, it’s very obvious to the audience that Cassie is not doing well. She’s still trying to deal with her decision from the Season 1 finale; any good friend would have been able to see her spiraling behavior. But because Maddy is so caught up in her own world, drama, and thoughts, Cassie’s well-being doesn’t cross Maddy’s mind even once. Cassie even shows up to school dressed exactly like Maddy, and Maddy is none the wiser. It seems like she just doesn’t care that her (apparent) best friend is in a tailspin (even when it’s clocked by other characters like Lexi, Nate, and Rue).
All of this comes to a head at Maddy’s birthday party (which Cassie put together for her, by the way). Cassie has a whole moment crying with balloons and wrapping them around her throat. She changes into her best bathing suit in order to catch Nate’s attention (another red flag that Maddy seemed to gloss over); Cassie becoming vehemently drunk, until she vomits in the hot tub. It’s revealed by Maddy that Nate is still trying to work things out with Maddy, which is directly contradicting to the story Cassie was being told. Instead of checking on her friend, Maddy is so concerned that her bathing suit might get dirty that she doesn’t blink twice at Cassie. Kat and Nate, I get it, they aren’t really close with Cassie, so it makes sense they would be grossed out and jump out from the hot tub. But Maddy? Cassie is supposed to be your girl, and that’s not how a best friend acts when a situation like this happens. Maddy ends up accepting Cassie’s drunk apology for puking in the hot tub, but says and does absolutely nothing when Cassie is seen scream-sobbing up the stairs in the arms of her mother. That’s not just a red flag, that’s a red neon sign. If anyone had doubts that Cassie is suffering right now, that moment shut them up. But, Maddy is still so involved in her and Nate’s drama, and her own life, she completely ignores Cassie having a full blown meltdown that’s totally out of character for Cassie. There’s strike three, folks.
In Ep. 5, we get very little with Maddy or Cassie, but Rue reveals that Cassie and Nate have been hooking up for a while now, and Maddy is not having any of that. Rue sneaks out the front door in the commotion, Maddy running up the stairs to absolutely body Cassie. Kat tries to restrain Maddy, but we never really get a resolve for that situation, as cameras follow Rue’s escape outside. In the promo leading up to Ep.6, we see Maddy with the tape, saying she’s got “a few ideas” to punish Nate for hooking up with Cassie. I absolutely hate the idea of her releasing the tape and ruining Jules’ life, all because she’s mad at Nate and living for their drama. Throughout Season 2, we see Maddy being completely ignorant to the Cassie-Nate situation, because she’s still thinking Nate and her can work it out (even when she’s the one who broke them up–don’t get me started there). It completely tracks with her arc this season, that Maddy release the tape before thinking about how it might effect Jules. She’s ignored how Nate effects everyone around her, including her best friend (because she’s so caught up in her own self), so we are led to believe that Maddy is going to release the tape to ruin the Jacobs family.
Let’s make one thing clear; if Maddy releases this tape, knowing that Jules is not only a minor but a transgender minor (who didn’t know she was being recorded), she should be held criminally responsible. It wasn’t enough that she kept this tape to herself and waited until an opportune moment to release it (knowing Nate would play games with her because that’s just what he does). She might go a step further by publicly releasing the tape, which would ruin Jules’ life and reputation. Jules is just now getting settled into the school and its social biome, so it feels especially predatory that Maddy is acting like this.
Here’s the bottom line, because this article is already an essay; Maddy is a bad person who seemingly has no motivations to be evil, besides what Nate did to her. Which again, was completely wrong and not forgivable. We also see her being abusive towards Nate, which levels the playing field in some ways (doesn’t mean we should forgive him). They’re both terrible people, but Maddy is a bad person for pleasure and for revenge, while Nate is a bad person due to trauma and abuse at the hands of Cal. We have to hold Maddy responsible for the damage around her that she causes, not only causes but knowingly causes. It’s a lot easier to say, “Cassie and Nate are the villains”, because we naturally want to love Maddy. She’s iconic, unabashedly herself, and never afraid to stand up as a dissenter of the crowd. She’s a baddie through and through, which makes it tough to despise her. But, these characteristics don’t absolve her abusive and toxic behavior and self-centered nature; just like Nate isn’t absolved from what he did to Maddy because of his mental state.
In Ep. 6, Maddy could very well give the tape to Jules and do the responsible thing, but her track record of drama and pettiness seems to lead us the other way. There’s no evidence whatsoever that Maddy will be the bigger person here, and do the right thing, but I guess we will have to wait and see. Until then, I’m still going to be a Maddy HaterTM because she’s a bad person. I believe that we’re being set up this season for her to have the main antagonist arc, just like I don’t think Cassie and Nate are really done; but that’s a whole other essay…