I have always been told that boring characters make for boring stories. I have been urged by social media to find my main character moment. I shouldn’t want to be the supporting cast – I should want to be intriguing enough to be the star. Yet, I often see more of myself in the side characters who do not hold as much of the story’s weight in their hands.
As someone who hasn’t experienced the intense struggles of the main cast, I don’t relate heavily to, say, main character Rue’s (Zendaya) battle with addiction. That’s not to say that I can’t connect with the emotions and insecurities of the characters, but the actual events of the story are so out of the realm of my own life that I had trouble finding someone I could truly identify with.
I do, however, relate to the experience of Lexi Howard, the younger sister of Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), childhood friend of Rue and arguably the most typical or “normal” character in the show. In the first season, her tendency to observe from the sidelines resonated deeply with me. Without many scenes, let alone an entire episode to herself, loving her character meant appreciating the very little content the show provided of her.
In Euphoria’s first season, Lexi’s presence felt unrealized; she was given only a few scenes that gave her some action outside of her otherwise static story arc. The most you could really say about her character is that she was there. She was at the Halloween party and at the Winter Formal, but she didn’t really contribute much more than a funny Bob Ross costume (all the more cute now that we know the inspiration). Even when we got glimpses into the Howard sisters’ past with their absent dad, it was through the lens of Cassie’s episode (1x07) and her perspective.
The second season acknowledges this aspect of her character – that she is merely a mechanism to progress the other characters’ stories – and puts a spotlight on it.
She becomes an active member of the second season’s plot through her budding romance with Fez (Angus Cloud) and by participating in important moments like Rue’s withdrawal-fueled reveal of Cassie’s relationship with her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi).
Lexi spends the second season working on a play about her life, including the drama of her sister and friends. She shares her perspective on Rue’s addiction and Cassie’s insecurities, as well as their impact on her self-esteem. It is with the play, which spans the final two episodes, that the season is brought to a close.
The play is a destructive, hysterical spectacle; it showcases pivotal Euphoria moments from Lexi’s perspective as doppelgangers of her friends act out important interactions on stage, accompanied by Lexi’s raw and honest commentary.
Through these reenactments, Lexi’s friends finally see how their actions have impacted her. A now sober Rue sees the effects of drug use on her friendship with Lexi more clearly, and Cassie sees how Lexi has constantly lived in her shadow.
Lexi uses the play to call out the characters, most notably Nate. In the locker room scene, a character clearly inspired by him sings “Holding Out for a Hero” as other guys dance erotically around him, exposing Nate and the toxic masculinity of locker room culture in a hilariously effective way.
While Lexi may not have previously been the center of the action, her play broadcasts her emotions as a way to make her perspective and its value known. In important moments when her friends would normally occupy the screen, we instead see how Lexi has interpreted her role as younger sister and friend. The roles of writer, director and actress put her in charge of her story.
Lexi’s role this season helped me realize a notion I previously thought to be unrealistic: side characters can be equally as important to the plot and its progression on their own. Her scenes, while small victories, are assertions that my life, too, has value. I relate to Lexi’s role of passive observer and was excited to see her take control of the narrative.
I am not alone in feeling represented by her new role; people do find her interesting and compelling. Angus Cloud loves her, which he has made very clear through his live tweets of the show. Her relationship with Fez has created an especially positive response to her story arc, garnering a lot of devotion as fans hope to see both beloved characters happy by the season’s close.
Euphoria’s treatment of Lexi proves that those who are typically behind the curtain can effectively and creatively take center stage. I hope that her success inspires other showrunners to reassess their treatment of sidelined characters, emphasizing them in a way that makes more viewers feel seen. We all have unique and interesting stories to tell, from the understudies to the ensemble to the main cast.
Thumbnail graphic by Bailey Richards.