Euphoria, HBO's foray into teen drama, hasn't shied away from surrealistic elements in what has turned out to be a heavily stylized opening season. But there is a fan theory floating around that actually, Rue is dead on Euphoria and it's pretty next level. Rue, played by Zendaya, who's also an executive producer on the series, serves as the show's admittedly unreliable narrator. The first episode gives viewers a little insight into her teen drug spiral, which ultimately bottoms out when her younger sister Gia (played by Storm Reid) discovers Rue mid-overdose. She spends the summer in rehab, and, when the series opens, it's a brand new school year for the not-so-rehabilitated Rue.
But in addition to giving us a glimpse into her own life, Rue also narrates the lives of the people around her, be they fellow students, friends, or parents. The vast scope of her narration — combined with the fact that she seems to be telling the story in the past tense and not always with the clearest timeline — has some fans speculating that Rue is actually dead and telling viewers her story from beyond the grave.
Entertainment Weekly picked up on a couple of additional clues that could be nothing, but also might be very sly hints that Euphoria is going to pull a Westworld on its viewership.
For starters, there's a line in the pilot which could be interpreted as a hint from Rue that she already lost her battle with addiction. While narrating the story of her birth, Rue says, "I put up a good fight, but I lost — for the first time, but not the last." EW points out that, read in a certain way, the "last" fight she refers to might be one for her life. Later, in the third episode, three separate characters make a reference to Rue killing herself by relapsing. EW speculates this could be a subtle "rule of three" writing moment wherein writers try to foreshadow Rue's death by driving their point home with repetition.
But there's an equally strong faction of fans who think the "Rue is dead" theory doesn't make sense. As PopSugar notes, plenty of shows have seemingly omniscient narrators who are very much alive. (They point to Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy as a prime example, although I wouldn't put it past Shonda Rhimes to reveal after 32 seasons that — surprise! — Meredith was actually dead this whole time!)
Then there's the fact that Euphoria is based on the true story of someone who overcame his teen substance abuse issues. Creator Sam Levinson has been open about modeling the character of Rue after his own experiences (though Zendaya countered in a post-show featurette that he was actually more of an amalgamation of all the characters). Levinson is obviously very much alive and part of his emotional connection to the series, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is telling the story of how he'd resigned himself to succumb to drug addiction, but then discovered a will to live again.
Although it's possible that the character of Rue is a creative exercise in fashioning an alternate-universe Levinson, it seems more likely that he's trying to depict his experience more or less as it really happened. Regardless of how closely he chooses to align the series with his own life, Euphoria is definitely engrossing in its own right — and I don't see the series killing off its star and executive producer anytime soon.