By Leah Martindale, Film & TV Editor
Netflix’s You (2018-) returned to streaming devices globally on Christmas Eve 2019. The second series follows the improbably charming serial killer Joe Goldberg to Los Angeles, where he finds himself, once again, in Love.
Series 1 saw our anti-hero protagonist Joe (Penn Badgley) fall in ‘love’ with creative writing student Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail); a love that was both sociopathic and dangerous, and led to the death of not only Beck herself, but friends, and the false imprisonment of her therapist-come-lover. The real joy of the second series comes from the explosive twists and turns that I could never have anticipated, and so I will attempt to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.
Joe has run to L.A., after the resurfacing of his thought-to-be-dead ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers) at the end of the first season. In L.A., while intending apparently to keep his head down, Joe - now ‘Will’ - falls for his manager’s twin sister, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti). Love, and her twin brother Forty (James Scully) - eyerolls ensue once you realise they are tennis related names - are the managers at their parents business: a hippy-dippy wholefood grocery store slash bookstore slash restaurant called Anavrin, Nirvana in reverse.
Love is a young widow, broken-hearted and cynical, beautiful and complex - everything Joe looks for in a woman. His justifiably misandrist building manager Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) even comes with a new child to project his disturbed paternality onto: her little sister Ellie (Jenna Ortega) succeeds in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-19) star Luca Padovan’s absence as Paco.
The change of setting from New York to L.A. brings with it a necessary change in Joe, and the juxtaposition of his mardy New York persona to the vibrancy of L.A. highlights how chameleon-like he becomes, as he shape-shifts to become everything he thinks his partner wants. While he had to leave Mooney’s behind, he builds a replica glass box, and it gets a fair amount of use despite his new Will Bettelheim identity.
Penn Badgley himself has chided fans in romanticising Joe’s character. Last year Stranger Things (2016-) star Millie Bobby Brown received backlash for expressing her support of Joe in an Instagram story, and while I also agreed that a child should not look up to a grown adult sociopath, I can’t help but do the same… especially with our new insight into his tragic backstory.
Badgley has said that ‘You is about how far we are willing to go to forgive an evil white man’, and he’s not wrong. The memes and commentary that emerge about the show range from hilarity about his glass box to a genuine assessment that were Joe a man of colour he would never have even be able to lurk outside Beck’s window with NYPD’s racial biases severely targeting black and brown men.
The show’s writing balances spectacularly the psychological thriller genre with genuine comedy. Joe’s relatable wry distaste for the L.A. fake-woke ‘Eat Pray Love’ locals, with names like Sunrise, harkens back to his understandable dislike of Beck’s friend Peach. The true genius of the show’s writing is that it manages to convince us to root for Joe, to dislike Candace as she fights for his well-deserved downfall, and to cheer on his successes - despite logically understanding he deserves to fail.
We have all had a favourite show which did not know when to stop
Unfortunately, while the show excels in its clever, nuanced writing, its downfall lies in succinctity. Episode 10 provided so many moments for a perfect close on the book of Joe, with wonderful lines and introspection from Joe, as he finally realises the importance of being careful what you wish for. However, the show has left itself open to - in fact, leading into - yet another series.
With spoiler-packed conspiracy theories abounding, there are potential ways in which the series could continue without disappointing. However, there are so many examples of shows that ran themselves into the ground, milking themselves for all their worth, and in doing so committing ratings suicide.
From Supernatural (2005-) - which has descended into an expensive glorified fanfiction - to Scrubs (2001-10) - the last series of which I’d rather forget - we have all had a favourite show which did not know when to stop. I can only hope that You Season 3, which is now pretty much a surety, will bring with it a change from the formula before it becomes tired. Season 2 is by far its best, and I can only assume it will stay that way.
Featured: IMDb / A+E Studios
Do you agree that You Season 2 is its best so far, and best to come?