Remember when Daenerys Targaryen was supposed to gloriously die in a blue blaze of Ice Dragon fire at the Battle of Winterfell and become the Night Queen? While, yes, that would’ve made for a much more interesting final season storyline than the one we actually got–along with Bran intentionally and deviously winning the Game of Thrones instead of by passive happenstance–it still turned out to be nothing more than a wild fan theory.
And so it goes for the latest conspiracy theory about another HBO show: that Zendaya’s teen character Rue on Euphoria is actually dead, having succumbed to her teenage drug addiction and is now telling everyone’s story from the afterlife, like Mary Alice on Desperate Housewives.
And honestly, everybody calm down.
No, Rue (probably) isn’t dead. For one, only three episodes of the series have aired so far, and of those three episodes, there is zero evidence that we have a Sixth Sense situation on our hands.
And what’s the rush to “figure it all out” in three episodes anyway? Euphoria is beautiful, it’s magical, it inspires deep thought and encourages self-awareness. It’s also so deeply invested in and driven by its characters that the plot is hardly the point. Zendaya is acting her face off and creator/writer Sam Levinson is giving us an incredibly human story. Why try to skip to the end of it? Sit in the exquisite agony, the delicious misery, the addictive imagery, the fourth wall-breaking lesson in dick pic etiquette, people!
But fine. Let’s break down the most popular reason for the theory:
Rue is dead because she’s the all-knowing narrator.
Watching Euphoria and I’m starting to wonder if Rue is actually dead and that’s why she’s the all knowing narrator.
— Singularity (@taetaestress) June 30, 2019
Yes, Rue narrates the story from different characters’ perspectives throughout each episode. Besides voiceover being a common narrative cheat in both film and TV, Rue also very clearly establishes in the pilot that she is not in fact the “all-knowing narrator.” She readily admits that she’s “not always the most reliable narrator,” due to her drug addiction. While we’re all just speculating here, one would imagine that, if anything, death should provide clarity, not the erratic memories of a person still in recovery from addiction. Her tripped-out memories are probably the clearest indication that she is not dead.
In fact, Rue makes note in the first episode that someone had to tell her the information she’s sharing that she isn’t there to witness herself. “Jules told me later what had happened,” Rue says in the pilot about Jules’s illegal meet-up with old-man McSteamy from Grey’s Anatomy who statutory rapes Jules after inviting her to a seedy motel. And later in the same episode, when McKay gets too rough with Cassie during sex at a party, Rue says, “It’s obvious that Nate got into McKay’s head because Cassie told Lexi and Lexi told me that the night of the party,” McKay tried to choke Cassie during sex.
While she’s not telling us every single time how she knows the information she’s not there to see or hear, she’s already established in the pilot that she grew up with most of these people and she’s also piecing together info via hearsay.
It’s all a big game of telephone, with high school students gossiping, exaggerating and creating “slut pages” about each other. Rue’s just doing her best to tell the story she believes is true for us. This could just as easily be a part of her 12-step recovery: acknowledging her wrongs and how they’ve impacted the people around her so that she can make amends. She could be writing her memoir for as much as we know, and here y’all go trying to kill her off. Shame.
Another explanation for the theory comes from Shadow And Act contributor and all-around dope person in these internet streets Clarkisha Kent, who wrote for Entertainment Weekly that when three characters suggest her addiction would cause her to die by suicide, they were foreshadowing Rue’s fate:
“Euphoria’s third episode manages to combine multiple aspects of the rule of three by getting three characters to be transparent about Rue’s self-destruction and how they will or won’t be a part of it — with the specific mention of “killing herself.”
Yes, Rue’s friends and family give her ultimatums about her drug use and express their fear of not wanting her to die from a drug overdose. There’s also the scene in the pilot where Rue looks down at a mirror in a casket at a church and sees her own reflection as a part of her treatment in rehab. But rather than assuming these are foreshadowing, it sounds like it’s just par for the course with addiction.
And yes, Rue’s classmates, Kat, Maddy and BB wonder aloud whether Rue died over the summer during her overdose, and Kat even calls Rue “Casper,” as in, the Friendly Ghost. It’s an insensitive name, sure, but not a definitive indication of foreshadowing beyond the reality that death is a real possibility for a person with drug addiction.
The repeated mentions of Rue dying by suicide via overdose are also a great way for Levinson and crew to drive home that they are not trying to glamorize drug addiction on the show and are instead highlighting its very real dangers.
So, until we get some real foreshadowing–like a slip in Rue’s narration–let’s just hope Rue is tweeting this story from her latest rehab stint or book tour, rather than from the Great Beyond.
Because, as BB says in the pilot: “Oh my god, I hate ghosts.”
Brooke Obie is the managing editor of Shadow And Act