*WARNING: Contains Spoilers*
Rating: 4 Stars
A Sequel with the Sexiest Sociopath? Yes Please.
Hello, you. If you are reading this you, like me, probably managed to binge through all of the addictive You season two in under 24 hours. If you haven’t watched it, I would suggest you stop reading now before I reveal the skeletons in its cupboard. Having only been released just over a month ago, this brand-new series has stalked its way into the hearts and unsettled the minds of its viewers.
Following its complete flop as a Lifetime series, this pulp-style thriller moved to Netflix, where it received far better reviews, and secured a fanbase who obsessed over it – much like Joe Goldberg obsesses over his victims. With its wickedly disturbing character arcs and exhilarating, action packed plotline, it’s no wonder this episodic show became a fan-favourite. What exceeded this though has to be the “Joe Goldberg hype”, with women far and wide falling for his sexy, boy-next-door looks, or alternatively, his sociopathic, homicidal character (whatever floats your boat). This definitely piled on the pressure for the show’s creators to amp up the satire, drama and mayhem in this long-awaited series.
The thrillingly creative first season, based off Caroline Kepnes’ novel of the same title, follows the sexy serial killer protagonist, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), as he uses technology to romanticise about, stalk, and form a relationship with aspiring writer Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail). He idealises this relationship, which ultimately turns cold, due to her constricting materialistic friends and adulteress nature. So, of course, he kills her, her best friend, her lover and blames the murders on her therapist.
Season one was pretty conclusive, so I was apprehensive as I thought the writing team wouldn’t have a lot to play with. However, in bringing Joe’s dead ex-girlfriend, Candice Stone (Amber Childers), back to life, Joe is forced to flee New York for a “fresh start” in sunny Los Angeles. Despite this, his “fresh start” turns out to be not so “fresh”, as in finding it he abducts innocent bystander Will Bettelheim and locks him in a cage in order to steal his identity. And, due to Joe’s charm and unsettling likeability, the real Will (Robin Lord Taylor) becomes irritating, annoying and needy, problematically leaving viewers wondering why Joe wouldn’t just kill him – he’s already done it multiple times, it wouldn’t be that difficult!
Anyway, with this new identity, Joe can find a new romantic obsession – the unfortunately named Love Quinn (Victoria Pendretti) – integrate into the obnoxious world of LA, and work for the equally annoyingly named “Anavrin” (Nirvana spelt backwards). Obviously, things unravel for Joe when Candace finds him in LA and plots her revenge, and the similar themes of season one take hold.
What this series relies on is the performance by the immensely talented Penn Badgley. His extraordinary reprise portrayal of Joe Goldberg partnered with flashbacks from his traumatic past almost validates his actions, and leaves audiences, once again, siding with and feeling sympathy for the sociopath. He portrays this psychotic character with toxic tendencies so convincingly (aided by the famous voiceover of interior monologues) and finds the perfect balance between desire and disgust. He is loving yet disturbing, sensitive yet brutal, and so, the audience becomes enthralled in his sociopathic ways.
Furthermore, I must commend Victoria Pendretti, who portrays Love as captivating and intoxicating. She chews up the insecure and annoying Beck of his past and introduces a charismatic, crafty woman, with her own dark secrets. Also, her over-protective addict brother Forty (James Scully), although unbearably annoying in his multiple breakdowns, provides the perfect conundrum that Joe cannot hack. Other standouts include Joe’s landlord Delilah (Carmelo Zumbado), a ruthless, dynamic journalist and her charismatic, genius little sister Ellie (Jenny Ortego), who Joe cannot help but play parent with, which dangerously writes them both into his drama.
My main criticism of this series has to be its repetitive nature. It ultimately does reuse its stock characters from the first season, with Love stepping in for Beck, Forty stepping in for Peach, and Ellie stepping in for Paco. The plot twist at the end, although creative, seemed somewhat forced and a bit too complete for my liking, and so, it was not as electric as season one.
Ultimately, You is trash, but trash is okay when it is wrapped in a mildly cohesive script, tied with an eerie plot line, and delivered by the sultry and seductive Penn Badgley.
– Miriam Higgs