Sam Levinson on What Caused Rue to ‘Unravel’ in the Season 1 Finale

By Marissa Blanchard

The show’s executive producer/director/writer opened up about what inspired the connection Rue has her father and the finale’s big musical number.


Executive producer Sam Levinson has been candid about his deep, personal connection to Euphoria and his central character, Rue. Love and loss accumulate in the Season 1 finale where Rue’s past and present converge, causing her to relapse. Levinson, who wrote and directed Season 1 Episode 8, discussed the inspiration behind the emotionally-fueled finale.

HBO: What’s going through Rue’s mind when she’s deciding to go on the train with Jules?

Sam Levinson: “At the end of the day, Rue is impulsive. She recognizes a restlessness in Jules, and she wants to appeal to it. She says they should leave town because it felt right in the moment. When they are at the train station, Rue starts to get anxious about what the repercussions and the consequences of it are.

It felt right to have Rue inadvertently set into motion something that had the potential to really unravel her. There is an uneasiness we feel as an audience. Jules does love Rue and wants her to be a part of the new family she has found. It becomes this moment of tension because of Rue’s anxieties. Sobriety has a way of allowing a person to begin to realize that the things that you do have consequences for the people that love you. Rue’s fear of Gia waking up and not knowing where she is is just too much for her.”

“Sobriety has a way of allowing a person to begin to realize that the things that you do have consequences for the people that love you.”
— Sam Levinson

HBO: The memories that wash over Rue as she walks home are so powerful — especially when we learn that Rue’s red hoodie used to belong to her father. How did you direct and create these revealing, intimate moments?

Levinson: “All of those flashback scenes were written pretty loosely. I wanted for a certain amount of life to seep into all of those memories — it would make it feel more real, emotionally. Heidi [Bivens, who is the show’s costume designer] loves to come up with backstories for as much of the clothing as she can. Zendaya [ Rue] had this idea. What if the sweatshirt she always wears used to be her father’s?

That was a seed we planted early on. In the pilot, you see her father in the hospital wearing the sweatshirt. As time went on, it was always in the back of my head. When we got to the moment on set when Rue watches her father’s body being taken out on the stretcher, it just felt right. What if his sweatshirt is there on the bed? That’s the emotional ending to her journey throughout the first season.”

HBO: You heard Labrinth’s song, “All for Us,” and were inspired to have Zendaya sing it in the finale. What went into creating that powerful musical number?

Levinson: “It’s one of those songs that spoke to me in a very real way. The idea behind this was that Rue would relapse, and we’d watch the breath escape her. The song itself became her expression, as well as a visual expression of the tumultuousness and violence of addiction. She is carried through the streets — like a funeral procession of sorts. Tons of credit goes to our choreographer Ryan Heffington. He just did a remarkable job with it; it took my breath away. Seeing Rue being lifted up by these bodies felt like an apt metaphor for where she is at in her life and to the people we’ve lost to addiction.”