Cal Jacobs will get his 'redemption arc' in Euphoria next season

After a divisive finale, the actor who plays the show's villain reveals he'll make a comeback for season three.

by Douglas Greenwood
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28 February 2022, 12:58pm

Eric Chen/HBO

It’s customary for a TV show’s season finale to tie up loose ends; to address the plotlines that have plagued us for the past however-many-weeks, and satiate us, the viewer. It is, in essence, the exact moment we spend the entire season waiting for: anticipating the fates of characters whose lives we’ve, oftentimes, invested so much of our own following. Such is true of Euphoria, whose season two finale aired last night. And although we got glimmers of resolution for some of these characters, they were just that: glimmers. Those expecting the full-blown main character kill-offs, hysteric spirallings and more were left a little disappointed.

The closest a returning character got to a solid conclusion seemed to be Cal Jacobs, who after his wild journey in the Euphoria universe — from secretly recording his sexual encounter with Jules, to coming out as a queer man to his family, drunk and with his dick hanging out — was lead away in cuffs by the police. But that doesn’t mean his journey is done: in an interview with Variety, Eric Dane, the actor who plays him, revealed he may be poised for a season three return. When quizzed about whether the character’s comeback would happen, Eric said: “Oh, of course.”

But it seems a few elements still have to come together before this happens: namely, the writing of those scripts, and the scheduling of filming. Eric gave tentative dates for the latter (“I mean, we’ll go back and shoot maybe in November. I don’t know. I haven’t heard. It’s always going to be changing.”), and hypothesised about where the show might go with Cal as a part of it. “There’s gonna be redemption,” he said. “I mean, that’s the trajectory he’s on. I can’t imagine Cal’s life from solitary confinement. It’s tough to work Cal into the storyline when he’s behind bars.”

It all remains somewhat vague, but of course that’s been the MO of Euphoria for the entirety of S2. You’ll remember the show’s co-producer and consultant Jeremy O. Harris asking the viewing public to be patient with the season. The show, which replicated the dopamine rush of some ungodly substance with each episode in season one, had started to develop into a longer moodpiece, split into episodes for a matter of convenience rather than necessary plot structure. We were expected to have felt differently about it now it was all over, but the general online consensus (which includes a tirade against the show’s creator Sam Levinson) is that many of its plot points have been sidelined, as if the show has lost its way. 

There are moments we would have liked to reach a more formal conclusion — like, doesn’t Rue owe a drug dealer $10k, one who’s threatened to sell her into sex slavery if she can’t repay the debt? -- but for the most part, the show ended with the kind of low-stakes, open-ended conclusion we’ve come to expect from Sam Levinson this season. Rue is sober, and is on amicable terms with Jules again. Cal Jacobs has been arrested, in a sort-of sting set up by Nate, who’s now left Cassie, leading to her alliance with Maddy once again. Lexi’s successfully thrown a spanner in the works of her family with her jaw-dropping meta play. The only measurable casualty is young Ashtray, who sacrificed himself during a police raid that Fez bore witness to. Elliot sang a song(?). Then there’s Kat, who continues to be paid dust.

Is this long-stretching method of making television that promises satisfaction in retrospect a good thing? Perhaps. It certainly strays away from the kind of head rush we’re used to with shows like Euphoria and its teen TV counterparts, the Riverdales and Pretty Little Liars, that rest on giving us that feeling of harbouring juicy gossip. Instead, it’s asking us for, well, more patience. It’s like its shoelaces have been crossed but the knots are yet to be tied.

The show’s first season ended in an epic crescendo, a metaphorical representation of Rue’s relapse, watching her best friend leave her behind. We had a reason to return: to see if she could come back from the brink and save herself. Consider the next season though, and where are all the questions begging to be answered? Literally anything could happen by the time we meet these teenagers again.

It is a mix of feeling seen and schadenfreude that keeps us coming back regardless. It remains, most of all, a show about trauma, grief and neglect. Where would Rue be if her dad hadn’t died? If Cal Jacobs hadn’t lived a dark second life, would Nate Jacobs have become such a messed up kid? If Cassie’s dad hadn’t left her family, would she have embraced toxic relationships with all the wrong men? These stories are simple and often-told, but Euphoria transformed an American high school into a psychological petri dish. The commentary surrounding the show, often framed as ridiculous and farfetched, is precisely what makes it so compelling: these stories are fractals of things we all experienced in high school, maybe fed through a friend of a friend, or a rumour from a school one town over. Here, they’re thrown together in one setting: opioid-addicted teenagers, sex scandals, gaslighting men, fucked up friendship dynamics.

Due to air in 2024, we are staring out at a fictional landscape with Euphoria season three, the future of which we cannot predict. Feel lost? Turn your attention to Maddy’s final words in season two. “Don’t worry,” she says. “This is just the beginning.” 

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Euphoria