[Major spoiler warnings from the get-go.]
In 2018, Netflix’s You was a phenomenon. The evening it came out on Netflix, I thought I’d binge it because I didn’t have anything better to do… and also because I thought it was a romantic series. Boy did it surprise me. You became one of my most favorite series on Netflix. A beautiful, taut script with twists and turns now and then. Penn Badgley and Elizabeth Lail’s superb acting making this one a must-watch. So I wasn’t surprised when people around the world became obsessed with the show- it deserved the attention.
However, the most interesting thing about this series was that no one could make up their minds about whom to side with. Sure, Joe Goldberg seemed like a sociopath, but his internal monologues seemed so convincing that his reasonings manipulated us. There were moments when Joe’s audacity surprised us – stalking and manipulating Beck into thinking that he is all she needs (also that one scene where he masturbates in the middle of the bloody road!). But hey, he’s doing it for her, right? He has her best interests in mind. And, when he says that she has no security in place – she changes her clothes (and has sex) in front of the open windows, has no password on her phone or laptop – we are convinced that she had it coming. Joe was just a better option – she needs someone to take care of her because honestly, she was a mess.
But that is where the creators caught us red-handed. Developers Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble based the two parts of You on Caroline Kepnes’s novels. I think the creators knew that people fundamentally want someone to love them and they will go to any length to get that love.
“I’m sorry, Beck”
However, what we all forgot in the first season was that Beck was flawed, yes. But the thing is, that was her choice. She chose to be messy and unafraid. She didn’t need someone to save her from the big bad world. Joe forcefully thought he could save her, without taking her consent (consent being the keyword here), and changed her world from where she couldn’t come back. Beck deserved better because she thought she had it all under control, that her relationship with Joe was organic and that fate had given her an amazing man. What she didn’t know that Joe had it all planned from the start – that nothing was organic. She had no chance.
A Changed Man?
Season 2, however, moves on with the ex-girlfriend narrative and introduces a new love interest for Joe. He has since moved from New York to Los Angeles and is starting his life fresh. He thinks he’ll lay off love, but that all changes when he sets his eyes on Love (yeah, it’s about to get confusing. Try to keep up) and he instantly realizes that she’s the One. The girl for whom his world will change, because she is her world. And it’s all a repeat from thereon.
Love Quinn belongs to a rich family. Her twin brother Forty (why anyone would name their son that is lost to me), however, is damaged and is a junkie. Her family is dysfunctional. Regardless, she’s magnetic, fun and spirited. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it. She seems to understand Joe (or Will. More of that in a bit). She’s all that he’s been waiting for. He, later on, says to himself that he had never loved anyone before – that Love’s the only person who has ever held his heart.
However, all is not well. Because his ex, Candace, is back with a vengeance. She gets into Joe’s life and becomes Forty’s love interest, to do whatever it takes to bring him down. Initially, he had to flee New York and assume a new identity, Will Bettleheim, to stay as far away from her as possible. Also, new characters in this season are Joe’s neighbors, sisters Delilah and Ellie – who quickly become close to Joe.
As the season moves forward, and as Joe’s web of lies becomes more and more intricate and increasingly difficult to manage, we see that his mask is sometimes slipping. He tries to change himself, to be worthy of Love, but even his internal monologues cannot save him when he commits one murder after another – all in the name of love (or, Love?). We are forced to come face-to-face with the violent, unhinged man underneath all the romantic and self-righteous internal monologue. That he will go to any length to get what he wants, the rest of the world be damned.
An Arc We Want
You season 2 has, however, delivered some character arc behind Joe. He’s not one-dimensional and, as we near the end of the season, we see that he has, to some capacity, changed as a person. We also get some interesting insight into his life as a youngster – a dysfunctional family of his own, complete with an abusive father and a mother who just cannot seem to let her husband go.
At the end of the season, we see Joe has become close to the people around him. It’s a sweet character arc and for once we feel like he will change – he’ll be the person that we all want – the person Love deserves. From letting the actual Will go to telling Delilah that he won’t kill her because she has to look after Ellie – things look positive. Even with his dealings with Forty. I’m sure that if this situation arose in season 1, Forty would be the first to go. However, season 2 Joe seems like a changed man. Forty pisses him off, understandably, but he’s more understanding and seems to love the guy. The growing attachment between the two during the season is heart-warming to watch.
Despite all of this, he soon realizes that Love is not the person he fell for. She isn’t an idealistic and sweet, kind-hearted person. He was wrong – she wasn’t going to save him from his past and himself. And I feel the moment he realizes that he loses his affection for her. He realizes that Love is an image of him. What made him want to change – to stop running and atone for his sins – was all a lie. For the first time, he is at the receiving end of the stick. And he probably finally realizes what he had made Beck and Candace feel.
All’s Well That Ends Well… Or Is It?
The ending of You is twisted, well, like the entire series. We see a heavily pregnant Love moving somewhere else with Joe. He talks about being a good father to his unborn child – but something seems off. He doesn’t seem to be quite as invested in the relationship anymore. So the woman talking on the other side of the fence, sunbathing in her yard, fascinates him – he has found a new You. This, for me, shows that Joe has completely given up on his love for Love. He probably realizes that she is not what he wants.
Throughout the season I have thought about whether love is all it takes to change a person damaged due to a troubled past. I was convinced – but Joe proved me wrong. He hasn’t changed a bit. The moment he lost interest in Love, he was back to square one – stalking out his next victim. Someone who will save him from himself. But there is no such thing. What Joe wants cannot be found in others. He has to come to terms with this past on his own, instead of on depending on people who cannot help him (much like his relationship with his mother).
You is a beautiful series that won’t bore you for a minute. With Badgley’s amazing acting and beautiful voiceovers that put us right into Joe’s mind, seductive thrills and wry dark humor – the second season is a treat to watch – especially for fans of the thriller genre. The way it terrifyingly merges the apparent nice-guy with the toxic pull towards the bad-boy – You, as a series, is a must-watch.
Things to Take Home
- Do not murder people. Murder is bad. Joe might get away with it, but we won’t. There are ways to solve your problems – murder isn’t one of them. Go see a therapist.
- Why does Victoria Pedretti (who plays Love) always end up with a dysfunctional family and a junkie twin? It makes me feel bad for her.
- Please don’t name your child Forty. It’s weird.
- Would You be different if it was made in India? But who are we kidding? That’s just everyday life here.
You can check out season 2 of You here.