The first real sign that Lexi Howard (Maude Apatow) would become a favorite among Euphoria fans was the show’s fourth ever episode, “Shook Ones Pt. II,” where she and Rue (Zendaya) hang out at a carnival. This was the first time in the HBO series where we really get to see the two acting like friends. Although Lexi had helped Rue out a few times already, Rue had never given off the impression that she cared much for her in return. When she wasn’t using Lexi to cheat on drug tests, Rue appeared to treat her as an afterthought.
And sure enough, that’s what happened here. They run into Jules (Hunter Schafer), and immediately it’s like Lexi doesn’t exist. As Rue and Jules make up over an argument they’d had, and as Gia (Storm Reid) leaves to catch up with friends her own age, Lexi is left standing alone with no one to talk to. She’s never seen or mentioned again for the rest of the episode.
In a show where most of the characters are constantly going through traumatic, high-stakes situations, Lexi ended up being the first season’s most relatable character. Most of us aren’t struggling with severe addiction or dealing with an abuser on the scale of Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi), but a lot of us can relate to what Lexi goes through. She’s everybody’s back-up friend. She’s the friend who walks alone behind the rest of the group when the sidewalk isn’t wide enough. Nobody explicitly treats her terribly, but nobody appreciates her either. This is why Euphoria’s Season 2 premiere was so cathartic for the fans who latched onto her: finally, for once, somebody paid this poor girl some goddamn attention.
That person was Fez (Angus Cloud), the slow-talking drug dealer who brutally beat and robbed a guy in the Season 1 finale. Much like Lexi, Fez rose to fan-favorite status despite his lack of overall screen time. The reason is simple: he’s somebody who should, based on what we’re trained to expect from drug dealers, be a sketchy dude. Instead, he’s one of the kindest, most trustworthy guys on the whole show. He cries watching Stand By Me, and has nothing but support for Lexi’s writing.
Lexi doesn’t know any of this about him at first, though, which is part of what makes their initial interaction so satisfying. The first time they talk, she’s sitting all the way on the other side of the couch, almost like she’s afraid of getting too close to him. She responds shyly, only opening up as he keeps asking questions and compliments her name. We get to watch in real time as Lexi’s prior impression of Fez is challenged, as she gets to see the side of him we’ve known about the whole time.
The episode cuts back to these two multiple times between the bigger storylines around them, and each time they’ve inched a little closer to each other on the couch. By their third scene, they’re an arm’s length away, and Fez is asking her if she believes in God. When she says no, he replies, “Damn, Lexi, you fucking fearless.” When he tells her he does believe in God, she asks him about a subject she’s probably been dying to ask him about the whole night: if he believes in God, how does he justify selling drugs?
Fez repeats the same explanation his grandmother gave to him as a kid. “My uncle Carl got diabetes from eating too much McDonald’s. You don’t see nobody going after their ass.” Without any judgment or venom in her voice, Lexi challenges this idea for seemingly the first time in Fez’s life: “Yeah, but if I were God, I don’t know if I’d let the McDonald’s CEO into heaven.” Fez doesn’t have an answer for this, but he’s not defensive about it either. “I’ll have to get back to you on that,” he says.
The look on Lexi’s face as he says this is amused, excited, still a little shy. It’s here the show gives us the first reason for fans to ship these two: Lexi can help Fez become a better person. With so many of Fez’s interactions being with drug dealers or drug addicts, this is one of the only times we see him talk to someone who doesn’t want or need anything from him. When calling him out for selling drugs to high schoolers, Lexi has a moral authority that someone like Rue doesn’t have, heightened by the fact that Lexi’s seen (with her dad, then Rue) just how much damage the drugs Fez sells can do to a person.
Fez tells Lexi that talking to her was the best part of his whole year, and Lexi’s first instinct is to blush and say, “yeah, right.” Fez gets serious for a moment and asks her why she always doubts herself, and it’s here we get the second reason to ship these characters: Fez can help her come out of her shell. He helps her realize that maybe the reason she’s so often ignored is because she’s so passive, so unwilling to see herself as someone worthy of being given any attention in the first place.
It’s not a coincidence that the amount of focus given to Lexi on the show goes up a ton after she and Fez meet. The moment she realizes she doesn’t want to be ignored anymore, the show stops ignoring her. In the second episode of Season 2, she gets her first montage shown through Rue’s narration, and in Episode 3 we get a whole extended fantasy sequence from her perspective, showing how she sees the world through the lens of directing a TV show. The upcoming penultimate episode, (“The Theater and its Double”) seems set to be Lexi-centric, devoted to the play she’s been working on and the social fallout that comes from it.
Amidst all the Fexi shipping in the fandom, there’s been some growing concern over Lexi’s play. Is it morally defensible for her to write a play that seems to clearly be based on the people in her life? Is it okay to then have it performed for the whole school to see? The promo features a shot of Maddy (Alexa Demie) reacting angrily, asking, “Wait, is this fucking play about us?” and on some level, it’s easy to empathize with her anger. It can’t feel good to have your friend write a play about you without your knowledge or permission.
And yet, there’s something cathartic about the idea of Lexi writing and directing a play that, on some level, calls out everyone in her life (except Fez) for the way they’ve treated her. For someone who’s been ignored by these so-called friends for nearly two seasons straight, is there a better way to get back at them for taking her for granted? As Fez himself says to her in this week’s episode, some people need to have their feelings hurt every now and again. The characters on Euphoria are about to get a nice, well-deserved reminder that the girl they’ve been treating like an afterthought for years has been paying attention to them this whole time.
Even with Lexi finding her confidence, however, Lexi and Fez are likely doomed to fail as a couple. There’s a reason why the end of the Season 2 premiere not only showed Fez beating Nate to a pulp, but it also made sure to include multiple shots beforehand where Lexi sees Fez staring Nate down and piecing together exactly what’s about to happen. As easy as it can be to forget sometimes, Fez is a violent drug dealer with a violent lifestyle, and Lexi knows it’s not smart to keep seeing him.
In a show that’s otherwise so open and honest about how much damage drugs can wreak, it wouldn’t be right to gloss over Fez’s profession when it comes to him and Lexi. The promos for the next episode hint at this, where Fez’s troubles with the law make him miss Lexi’s play, or worse. As genuine and beautiful as their connection is, the fact that they’re from completely different worlds is going to be a major problem going forward. And yet, if the sheer amount of excitement over #Fexi in the fandom is any indication, this will only make us root for them even harder.
Michael Boyle is a TV and film writer with words in Paste, Slate, Mic, Digital Spy, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @98MikeB
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