SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers from the second episode of HBO’s “The Idol,” titled “Double Fantasy,” now streaming on Max.
The sophomore episode of “The Idol” has arrived, and following last week’s controversial and divisive series premiere, the stakes within the show have been raised. Troubled pop phenom Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp) has a tortured video shoot, and then later invites her love interest, cult leader Tedros (Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye) and some of his followers to her house for a night of debauchery. The sex, drugs and industry drama is amped up compared to the first episode in an hour of television sure to start online discourse.
This episode is difficult to watch without considering reports of behind-the-scenes drama that nearly derailed the show. Notably, director Amy Seimetz left the series in April 2022 amid reshoots and shifts in creative direction, including a report that Tesfaye believed that the series was focusing too much on a “female perspective.”
“Double Fantasy” begins with Jocelyn summoning her business entourage to her house to hear the very sexual and breathy remix of “World Class Sinner / I’m a Freak” that she’d recorded new vocals for with Tedros. Unfortunately the team does not share her vision, and she is overruled by fiery record exec Nikki Katz (Jane Adams), who reminds Jocelyn of her canceled tour, mental health struggles and the money the team has invested into a radio-friendly comeback. Jocelyn then works on her remix more alone, masturbating with a glass of ice while remembering her night with Tedros.
After that, the episode documents the music video shoot for “Freak,” with Jocelyn sporting a look that recalls Britney Spears at her creative peak. The shoot is brutal, and shows a nervous Jocelyn working hard but breaking down with every run-through her team demands, as well as her own dissatisfaction with the creative vision and disagreements with the video’s director (Kimberly Hunt). Her mental state decays every time she’s yelled at, and her energy is further dampened by the memory of her late mother, who was at her previous work engagements.
Jocelyn begs to delay the shoot to revise the concept, saying that she’ll pay for it out of her own pocket, but Jocelyn’s co-manager Chaim (Hank Azaria) convinces her to stay, otherwise the team might consider her too erratic to tour.
She winds up crying and in pain, despite other manager Destiny (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) trying to amp her up and keep her going. Meanwhile, Nikki approaches standout backup dancer Dyanne (Blackpink star Jennie Ruby Jane) during one of Jocelyn’s breakdowns and asks her whether she can sing, trying to foster Dyanne’s talent on the side in case Jocelyn flames out.
Jocelyn eventually nails the routine — only to learn that the camera was out of focus and the take was unusable. After a squirmy scene in which she inspects her bleeding and blistered feet and thighs, Jocelyn is sent home by Nikki, in good-cop mode, urging her to take a break as she’s disintegrating. Unfortunately, Nikki also scraps the music video and appears to be filming it instead with Dyanne, who she also hopes to sign.
Elsewhere, Tedros is in the club, and it becomes increasingly clear that not only is he a business owner, but he’s also the leader of a pain-forward, orgy-focused cult. Jocelyn calls Tedros post-video shoot and invites him over to her house. He asks if he can bring a few friends, and soon a sex and drugs-fueled party is taking place at her mansion.
This is where the show takes a turn that will likely inspire plenty of discussion. Jocelyn’s personal assistant/BFF Leia (Rachel Sennott) cuts loose, doing coke for the first time and having rough sex with Izaak (musician Moses Sumney), her face a mix of regret, joy and fear. Meanwhile, Jocelyn and Tedros are in the bedroom, where he is directing her to perform sexual acts on herself while he’s sitting in a chair, narrating his fantasy experience (“I want to grab you by the ass while I suffocate you with my cock. I want you to choke on it.”).
The scene is filled with explicit nudity, sexual dialogue and some X-rated foley work when Jocelyn audibly gags while performing oral sex on Tedros. Meanwhile, there’s also an element of voyeurism when one of the cult followers, the mostly-nude pianist Chloe (Suzanna Son), gets stuck in the closet and watches Jocelyn and Tedros’ activities.
Beyond being graphic, the sexual activity in the latter half of the episode revolves around Jocelyn performing for Tesfaye’s Tedros, focusing on his pleasure. It’s entirely believable that the real-life singing superstar got his way on set, even if it was a choice that cost the show critical acclaim.
When they wake up the next morning, Tedros tells Jocelyn it would be better if he moves in, and she readily agrees. As Chloe plays piano downstairs, she sings a song in which the refrain is “That’s my family/We don’t like each other much,” as they all gather around her, and join in. Only Leia looks worried about what’s to come.