Since the release of “Euphoria” in HBO Max, the show has captivated audiences with its stunning cinematography and moving plotlines. Its story about addiction, mental health and life unfiltered in general has captured the attention of viewers and it continues to rack in more fans. Although the plot and the cinematography contribute to the show’s success, its characters are the heart of the story.
With two seasons in the bag, we’ve watched “Euphoria’s” characters establish themselves in each episode, interact with the other favorites and, basically, try to survive the episode without a breakdown. Character developments were aplenty this season, but if there’s one person who seemed to fall victim to a downward spiral, that’s Cassie Howard (played by Sydney Sweeney).
She started out as just Cassie from “Euphoria” — the blond sweetheart that doubles as a bombshell, the naïve and romantic one who just wants to be loved. We loved her for her sweetness and let’s face it, Cassie’s “Euphoria” outfits are the best.
In season two, however, Cassie Howard becomes impulsive and hysterical, hooking up with her boyfriend’s ex and going crazy as she defends her decision to do so.
She’s no longer sweet Cassie from “Euphoria.” She’s crazy, back-stabbing Cassie from “Euphoria.”
The second season of the show exaggerated her flaws to the point of melodrama, while the qualities that made people love her — like her nerve — were nowhere to be found. As a result, there were countless discussions on whether Cassie was a villain or a hurtful representation of which some of us are today.
So who is Cassie Howard? Is she evil, whiny or just misunderstood?
What Happens to Cassie in “Euphoria?”
In season one, viewers are introduced to sweet and popular Cassie Howard. Her father’s abandonment of their family caused her to enter relationships with multiple guys with each of the guys coercing her into filming sex tapes or taking nudes. Whenever she would breakup with them, they would hit her back by posting these videos or photos online. She had a panic attack the first time it happened. Afterward, she accepted this reality.
During the first season, Cassie is dating Chris McKay, a former football star at East Highland High School. Despite trying to make their relationship work, the couple experiences problems, especially with Cassie’s reputation as a “whore” bothering McKay. In episode 7, it is revealed that Cassie is pregnant with McKay’s child. Initially, Cassie was worried about her boyfriend’s reaction, but a part of her was happy about the idea of being a mom.
However, McKay was upset by the pregnancy. He told Cassie he couldn’t keep the baby since it would ruin him. The season ends with Cassie having an abortion and breaking up with McKay.
Season two follows Cassie as she struggles with her breakup and the loss of her child. She experiences a major breakdown due to her overwhelming fear of being alone. As a result, she finds herself hooking up with Nate Jacobs, her best friend Maddy Perez’s ex-boyfriend. Cassie and Nate become a thing in the second season, but in secret. The secrecy sends Cassie into a downward spiral as she tries to defend her decision of being with her best friend’s ex.
The second season ends with Cassie trying to ruin her sister Lexi’s play about them, only to have Maddy beat her up. Nate breaks up with her before this fight, which she tells Maddy after their altercation. Her ex-best friend looks her dead in the eye and says, “Don’t worry. This is just the beginning,” and walks off after.
Cassie from Euphoria: Is She the Newest Villain?
In season one, it was easy to take Cassie’s side. She might have made terrible life choices, considering her troubled childhood, but viewers often pitied her and tried to understand why she made those decisions. By the end of season two, however, it’s easier to dislike her and think she deserves all the bad things happening to her.
Consider the fallout of her friendship with Maddy. In the past episodes, Maddy was always having trouble with her parents or fighting with Nate (who was physically and emotionally abusing her). During these trying times, Cassie was her rock of support. Cassie offered relief in the form of friendship. She witnessed how Maddy’s family and Nate caused her best friend heartache and always offered her shoulder for Maddy to cry on.
For fans who witnessed these earlier episodes, watching Cassie throw Maddy away for Nate is a sucker punch to the gut. It begged the question: who in the right mind would ditch their best friend for said friend’s ex-boyfriend (despite knowing how abusive he was)?
It’s easy to tag Cassie as a villain from “Euphoria.” After all, she didn’t refuse his advances in the bathroom when she should have. She didn’t come out when Maddy kept banging at the bathroom door. She kept hooking up with him every Friday night. She insisted that she loved being his “little secret,” despite knowing that all of these would hurt Maddy.
The hard truth is simple: Cassie Howard is a backstabber. She’s not a good friend.
But does that make Cassie the worst character in “Euphoria”? Or is she actually (and unfortunately) relatable for most people?
Cassie Howard is Tragically Relatable
It’s not difficult to also sympathize with Cassie. Her relationships with men show that although she appears happy and confident, she suffers from deep-rooted abandonment issues, which resulted in her becoming a people pleaser. She refuses to be alone so she goes in harm’s way just to feel loved.
At times, she’s naïve and flawed, which makes her an easy target for people who want to manipulate her. The entire Cassie and Nate storyline shows the latter exploiting the former in the later episodes because of her naïve nature. While she isn’t 100 percent the victim in this scenario, it’s difficult not to empathize with her given her troubled past.
Her problems seem pale in comparison with the struggles of Rue or Jules, but she is still a victim of trauma. Cassie Howard is still a victim of sexual coercion and revenge porn. At the same time, she’s recovering from an abortion. You might not like her, but you can’t deny that Cassie is coping with deep wounds and masks her pain by becoming perfect.
She may look like the typical “sad white chick” often seen in media (who people often love to hate), but if you look at her closely, she’s like the rest of us. Cassie reflects the influence society has when it tells women that their worth is based on how they look or act.
Cassie’s best and worst trait is her love of love. She is addicted to being loved, similar to how Rue is addicted to drugs. Her past illustrates how she ended up this way. She grew up with an absentee father, an alcoholic father and a family that sexualized her at a young age. This shaped her want for validation, especially from men.
Her 4 AM routine is a reminder of this want for validation. She would wake up early to put herself through an aggressive routine to catch Nate’s attention, even for just a second. In the first season, McKay complains that she makes everything sexual, and it’s because other men have manipulated Cassie into thinking sex is the only way she can earn their love. Their validation is everything to her — which is a reality for many people.
Cassie Howard might have made plenty of wrong choices, and she isn’t the most likable character on the show right now. But you have to admit: she’s just as traumatized and in need of support as the other characters.
The Bottom Line with Cassie Howard
Cassie’s poor choices and toxic behavior make it difficult to like her, let alone root for her. By the end of season two, it seems as if the consequences of her actions finally caught up to her. She deserves it, but she also deserves a deeper understanding, especially with her complex character. She has done bad things, but she’s not a bad person.
We don’t like her now, but let’s hope things will be better for Cassie. Hopefully, she’ll choose herself instead of hurting herself to secure the love of others.