Spoilers ahead for Season 1, Episode 5 of Euphoria.
In Euphoria's July 14 episode, Nate and Maddy's relationship becomes increasingly volatile and toxic. We've seen Nate get violent before, but Maddy's commitment to him in spite of that deepens the issue, establishing a clear cycle of abuse. What's less obvious but equally concerning, though, is Jules and Rue's relationship — one presented as loving and delicate, yet quietly damaging. Contrasted together, they show how two vastly different relationships can be just as unhealthy, even if one is more immediately dangerous.
In the cold opening of the episode, we learn more about Maddy, her complicated upbringing, and how that's shaped who she is now. She comes from a lower income background, and her family is supported by her mom's work as an esthetician; her dad rarely works and hasn't shared a bed with her mom in years. Growing up in a loveless household, Maddy decided early on that she wants to live a life of passion and glamour. Earlier episodes led us to believe that Maddy was ditzy, but we see here that she's actually quite clever, crafting the perfect persona to attract the handsome and well-to-do Nate.
In him, Maddy sees the opportunity to live a life like Sharon Stone's Ginger in the 1995 film Casino — one full of fur coats, money, status, and endless devotion. There's just one big problem: Nate's passion easily turns to violence, and Maddy often bears the brunt of his anger.
Deep down, it appears Maddy knows this is not normal, but she's unable to separate her fear of Nate from her love for him. We see this in the way she sides with Nate over everyone else, despite the fact that she's in a clearly unsafe situation: she lashes out at her mother and principal, and threatens her friends when she discovers the rumors about Nate's closeted sexuality have been circulating around the school. She also wakes up three hours early to apply heavy concealer to the bruise left from him strangling her, resists police when they try to remove her turtleneck so they can document the bruising, and vehemently denies it was Nate who even hurt her. In the episode's final scene, she downloads a new messaging app and meets up with him at a motel.
It's heartbreaking to see Maddy defend and return to Nate, but per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Maddy's behavior is in line with victims of domestic abuse. It's common for victims to make excuses for their abuser, distance themselves from family, and ultimately still love the person who hurts them. The Hotline reports receiving calls from victims who miss their abuser because they recall all the "good times," something we see clearly with Maddy, who visibly struggles when she's not able to talk to Nate. As NCADV says, victims often "want the abuse to end, but not the relationship."
In contrast, while Maddy and Nate's relationship is like a volatile storm, Jules and Rue's relationship is like the Titanic headed for a deeply submerged iceberg. It's much quieter and less obviously worrisome, but that doesn't mean their relationship is entirely healthy, and it's slowly but surely heading for a breaking point. Past episodes portrayed Rue as being in awe of Jules and wanting nothing in return, but "03 Bonnie and Clyde" shows us the flip side of the coin: Jules feels an incredible amount of pressure to be exactly who Rue needs her to be, lest she backslide into drug use again.
Rue and Jules' relationship doesn't get a classroom PSA like Nate and Maddy's does, but that doesn't mean Rue's dependence on Jules is healthy. In the timeline of the show it appears it's only been a few weeks since the two girls met, and yet they're already getting matching tattoos of their relationship name — Rules — on the inside of their lips. There's so much Rue still doesn't know about Jules (including Nate threatening her), and yet Jules is now burdened with the immense task of being her sole motivation for staying sober — whether she feels the same way Rue does or not. Jules is essentially trapped in a codependent relationship, in which one of the partners values the relationship much more than they value their own well-being. In this case, Jules is the caretaker and Rue is the dependent. Rue tells her support group that she's sober because "she met someone," and Lexi tells Jules that Rue's only happy "because of her."
Rue may think this is OK, and certainly, being with Jules has been positive for her. But it's a relationship that's patently unfair to Jules. According to Mental Health America, codependent relationships are also known as "relationship addiction," and they inhibit a couple's "ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship" because the caretaker feels they always need to put aside their own feelings and needs. Jules has had to bottle up her stress about the Nate situation and take on the role of Rue's keeper, which she's completely unequipped to do at her age.
In the episode's last scene, we see how this is manifesting for Jules: as stress and resentment. Rue clings to Jules in bed while Jules stares wide-eyed at the ceiling, uncomfortable and anxious but unable to voice it. Ali did try to warn Rue, but it seems like Rue is going to have to experience the fallout firsthand when Jules inevitably snaps under the weight. And while that may unfold differently than it has with Nate and Maddy, if Rue ends up going back to drugs, the result could be even worse.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).