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The ballsy realism of HBO’s Euphoria is worth the risk

Euphoria is a jarring exploration into the dark gamuts of growing up with addiction, depression, and immense peer pressure among other coming-of-age obstacles. HBO's gritty teen drama pushes boundaries in its attempts to realistically display the how and why of high schoolers indulge in drugs and sex.

The show found its way into the news before its June 16 premiere when it was revealed that one of the actors quit while filming the pilot after feeling uncomfortable with explicit scenes. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, show creator Sam Levinson said, "There are going to be parents who are going to be totally fucking freaked out." 

I can see why some parents (and their kids) might need a trigger warning.

The students at the center of this show, led by Spider-Man actress Zendaya, live in an ordinary American suburb where social media, dating apps, and texting dictate their lives. They are thrust into adulthood while still discovering their sexual identities, coping with loss, and shedding inner childhood demons.

And yes, a lot of this happens through an assortment of graphic sexual displays: shocking, sensual, revelatory, unnecessary, empowering. Most of the superfluous physicality is used to enhance characterization and not further the plot. It's to demonstrate why they engage with it, like when the new, trans girl in town Jules hooks up with older men in an attempt to find validation and love.

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As episodes progress, the hyper-luridness tones down ever so slightly to let the narrative actually develop. The pilot episode is structured well visually but doesn't do justice to the story you're about to watch unfold. Once you get beyond the unfamiliarity of seeing this much male genitalia on-screen (it's usually the other way around, so it's OK to question the fuss surrounding this), Euphoria's central protagonists find a way to reel you into their lives. The show's message, if it has one, isn't to find a solution for their problems. It's to exhibit — quite extensively — their day-to-day challenges as they evolve with their trauma.

Zendaya plays Rue Bennett, a 17-year-old addict fresh out of rehab when the show begins. Within the first two minutes of episode 1, we learn that Rue was diagnosed with OCD, ADHD, anxiety, possible BPD as a kid. This becomes a basis for her escape into Molly, pills, and other drugs as she grows older. Her idea of euphoria is letting her head swivel in colors, glitter, and intoxication because it quiets the outside world. If and when she's sober, she has to deal with the reminder that her younger sister found her OD'd on their bathroom floor during summer break. 

Her classmates are surprised to see Rue alive when school starts up but in fact, all of them are also chasing a distraction from their own dreariness. In the four episodes provided for review, we peel back the layers on Jules as well as the resident jock/bully Nate Jacobs. My favorite subplot is that of Katherine "Kat" Hernandez, a plus-sized girl who come to terms with her body in a sex-positive (again, more extensively than you would think) manner. 

Barbie Ferreira as Kat is a breakout performance

Barbie Ferreira as Kat is a breakout performance

Image: EDdy chen/hbo

It takes a couple of episodes but once Euphoria kicks into high gear, it's impossible not to feel invested in the heart of the show: Rue and Jules' kindred connection. 

We learn Jules' heartbreaking backstory in the opening montage of episode 4. It helps frame her journey so far and also why she bonded with Rue so fast; Rue is the first person to accept Jules without any questions. And for Rue herself, Jules represents a certain degree of liberation and light that doesn't involve getting high all the time. 

Rue is dressed in the same oversized hoodie and black shorts while Jules is a walking Manga girl, adorned with pink clothes and a tiny backpack to match it. They're different on the surface but internally, their damage is extreme and in each other, they find true friendship for the first time. That's why it's impactful when they fight or when Rue begs for them to remedy it or the well-developed twist ending of episode 4 that sets up the rest of the season.

Zendaya gives a career-defining performance, letting go of every ounce of the Disney girl within her. Her breakdown in the closing moments of the third episode is wrenching to watch. Hunter Schafer makes a worthwhile debut as Jules and together, the two crackle with chemistry on-screen.

Image: courtesy of hbo

Euphoria works because despite the grim subject matter, the relative newcomers of the cast really sell the material. Barbie Ferreira and Sydney Sweeney are specifically wonderful to watch. Eric Dane's turn as Cal Jacobs is unnerving, especially if you're a fan of Grey's Anatomy and McSteamy. Most of all, the direction and cinematography is as aesthetic as it is haunting. Shots that are slow-paced, zoomed in, run in parallels, and even animated help elevate what's playing out.

Recent YA shows like Sex Education and Riverdale also let its teens gratify themselves with sex and narcotics but they're lighter to take in. The CW's Archie comics adaptation is downright unbelievable even. But Euphoria is unlike them because it steeps itself with troubles that go beyond angst. 

It’s not flawless. Nate’s aggressive behavior is addressed but doesn’t add any weight to the show’s overall appeal. The episodes are an hour long, which definitely makes the more tedious scenes stand out. 

But it's novelty not just because it's an HBO original but because the diegesis of these young adults is meant to be devastating, hyper-sexed up, and rarely hopeful. It's not easy to digest but damn if it isn't sincere in its effort to tell it. It's a bold gamble to make but it pays off, turning it into an unexpected winner for the cable channel.

Euphoria airs Sundays on HBO at 10 p.m ET.

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MH370 heartbreak: Families in Beijing were told Malaysia Airlines plane was ‘delayed’

MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board – 227 passengers and 12 flight crew. It had lost contact with air traffic control many hours before, but the authorities did not know where the plane had gone. It got to 6:40am in Beijing and the plane should have landed.

Relatives and friends gathered to meet the arrivals, but the display board read that it had been delayed, according to Channel 5 documentary 'Flight MH370'.

Then, they got some very bad news: the plane had gone missing and no one knew where it was.

An hour after the plane was due to arrive, Malaysia Airlines issued a media statement that the communication with the flight had been lost by Malaysian air traffic control and that search-and-rescue operations were under way.

Back in Malaysia, loved ones of those on board began to hear about the missing plane.

READ MORE: MH370 shock: Key documents missing - cyberattack on plane possible

Friends and family began to gather in Kuala Lumpur airport to try and find out any information.

Former Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a press conference: “We would like to confirm that this flight MH370 lost contact with air traffic control.”

The next day, Malaysia Airlines spokesman Ignatius Ong Ming Choy said: “We do not have any findings at this point.

“The search and rescue team has been searching since this morning.

“Everyone has put in the effort and yet we have not found any wreckage. No wreckage whatsoever.”

All subsequent searches would also prove to be futile, as no floating debris was ever found.

However, three pieces of debris were found washed up on beaches to the west of the southern Indian Ocean – on Reunion Island, Mauritius and Tanzania.

Families of those on board MH370 have claimed they have been told very little about what was being discovered in the investigation and were treated poorly by the authorities.

One family member at the time tearfully told the press: “Nobody has told us anything. Nobody talks to us except volunteers and hotel staff.”

One woman, whose brother was on the flight, said her family found out that “everyone was dead” by text.

She added: “We have had a lot of stick from people saying we should be over it.

“But I’m not entirely convinced that if it was their loved one on the plane that they would be over it.”

A Biblical plague? Mysterious fly invasion stuns officials – forces village into lockdown

A shocking scenario unfolded in several remote Russian villages this week, prompting officials to launch an investigation into the mystery. Hundreds of thousands of flies descended onto villages across the Ural mountain region of Russia this week. The vast swarms have sparked panic among villages, amid fears that the flies could spread disease to the human inhabitants.

Bizarre images from the region showed thick clouds of flies crawling and buzzing through the village.

Residents described the local scene as “a horror film” and a “biblical plague”

To the frustration of locals, all efforts by officials to end the fly invasion have failed so far.

Resident Elena Karpova in Lazorevy told state television: “You can’t hang out your washing to dry or open your windows, let alone go outside.”

Another local, who was sweeping up dead flies from his floor, told reporters: “Every day or two there’s enough to fill a bucket, half a bucket.”

A woman with a child said: “It’s unbearable, the flies are everywhere.

“I’m afraid for my children. We need to poison the flies constantly with chemicals, but then we all have to breath that air. It’s frightening.”

Russian officials have launched an investigation into the influx of flies, as they try to solve and put an end to the horror.

Residents of the village have been trapped in their houses since the invasion began.

Several locals blamed farmers for the plague, claiming they had used tonnes of chicken droppings from a local poultry farm as fertiliser, in which flies laid millions of eggs.

Investigators confirmed they had opened a criminal investigation into the unsanctioned use of “environmentally hazardous waste”.

Is this the best Area 51 footage ever? Mysterious UFO filmed hovering above secret US base

A bizarre white flying saucer has been caught hovering above the secretive Area 51 military base in alarming new footage. In a video captured earlier this week, a white saucer-shaped object hovers in the sky above the base, where a new aircraft hangar has allegedly just been built. A YouTuber who runs the channel Adventures with Christan filmed the footage after hiking up the Tikaboo Peak, which overlooks the top-secret base.

In the clip, mysterious helicopters, trucks and planes can also be seen entering the busy site.

One Youtube viewer described the footage as the “best Area 51 video I have ever seen”.

In what is described as the biggest change to the base in almost ten years, a 210ft by 250ft hangar can be seen in the video.

Around eleven minutes into the twenty-two minute long footage, a white disc suddenly appears to hover above the space to the left of to the aircraft hangar. 

Christian notes: "That flipping thing is weird. Go back and check it out better." 

Moments after the white UFO appears, a jet plane can be seen arriving along the Area 51 runway.

The YouTuber claims the plane is part of the Janet Airlines - the unofficial name given to a highly classified fleet of passenger aircraft operated for the United States Department of the Air Force.

During the surprisingly busy footage, a helicopter is also visible – an HH-60 Pave Hawk chopper that provides security for Area 51 – suddenly emerges near the edge of another mountain between Tikaboo Peak and the base.

Located 100 miles north of Las Vegas in Nevada, Area 51 is officially classified as a US military installation.

In 2013 the CIA officially acknowledged its existence and its location was revealed.

The base was built in 1955 by the CIA  for the purpose of developing cutting-edge reconnaissance aircraft.

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UFO Google Maps sighting: Alien spacecraft crash site spotted on South Pole

Antarctica is the planet’s southernmost most continent, where the geographic South Pole is located. The desolate desert, where temperatures can plummet to -90C, is home to some 1,000 scientists and countless penguins. But UFO conspiracy theorist Scott Waring believes he has now stumbled across something else in the icy wilderness, using Google Maps – the crash site of an alien spacecraft.

Waring took to his etdatabas.com blog in an attempt to explain his bizarre Google Maps find.

He said: “I believe I have found a crashed UFO in the South Pole region.

“Part of the UFO’s wing is folded-up and its concave area is dented.

“The alien craft looks kind of old, but there are still some burn marks trailing all the way behind it.

“I was actually looking for Nazi or alien bases on the South Pole, but instead stumbled upon this.”

READ MORE: Mars CONSPIRACY? Blue sky found on Mars

The strange discovery was spotted off the coast on a little island to the mainland’s north.

If it was a crashed UFO, it must have been made from some rocky, metallic material like we see on Mars.

Waring added: “The purported alien spacecraft is 96m in length, while the trail is 448m, which is absolutely amazing.

“You see all these broken pieces and the craft slid to its side when it came to rest.

“This is a really strange ship which looks really ancient.

READ MORE: Pentagon FINALLY admits previous alien spacecraft investigations

“The scene does not look like it happened yesterday, it looks like it has been around for a very long time.

“It reminds me of the female air pilot Amelia Earhart, who some believe landed on an island.

If you are an alien and land on this tiny island you are kind of screwed – it looks pretty desolate.

“Hopefully any survivors contacted someone and were rescued, although I couldn’t find any alien structures.”

The outlandish UFO claim soon attracted scores of comments on YouTube.

READ MORE: Does Google Mars photo show crashed alien UFO on the Red Planet?

YouTube user Leatherneck Joe wrote: “It looks like it hit the ground slid and maybe it broke off the front edge landed were it is now and the other half to the back and down.

“I surely see something there, very very interesting hmm …”

However, Juanita Beazley is less convinced by Google Maps image, commenting: “I don’t know Scott, this analogy is a stretch!

“I see the skid but I am having trouble getting a ship out of that.”