New season. New city. New attractive female target. Same disturbingly murderous show. The highly anticipated second season of Netflix’s You opens with our notorious narrator, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), declaring that love is not for him. This is of course a bold claim which we know, much like the New Year’s Resolutions ‘go to the gym more’ and ‘learn the guitar’ is unlikely to last long.
Shaken by the return of his ex-girlfriend Candace and disguised only by his trusty baseball cap, Joe runs from New York and heads for the starry, sunlit lifestyle of L.A., where greens get juiced and dreams get swallowed.
With this move comes an array of colourful new characters who are swept up in Hurricane Joe, their contented lives left damaged as a result of his obsessive stalking, killing, dicing (still recovering from that scene) and meddling. As expected, Penn Badgley’s spine-chilling, yet alarmingly likeable, portrayal of Joe remains exquisite. But his new friends (or victims?) are just as intriguing.
Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) quickly becomes a dazzling romantic interest. Compared to Beck’s dithering, lazy personality which showed little development during the first season, Love is spontaneous, bold and full of passion. She keeps Joe and the viewer guessing, making the first move and continuing to surprise us throughout.
Love’s co-dependent relationship with her unstable twin brother, Forty (James Scully), is turbulent, his drug abuse and desperate hunger for success fuelled by rich parents and a cold-hearted upbringing.
Delilah (Carmela Zumbado), Joe’s strong-willed building manager, and her confident 15-year-old sister, Ellie (Jenna Ortega), are a refreshing addition, though their stories eventually demonstrate the tragic side effects of Joe’s instinctive desire to protect those he deems vulnerable at all costs.
The flashbacks to Joe’s broken childhood are a predictable way of explaining his twisted moral code, but allow us to draw parallels between Joe and innocent children like Paco and Ellie. They lack parental guidance much like Joe did so he feels responsible for their safety, but ultimately leaves them more troubled than when he found them.
The celebrity setting of L.A., though fitting for Joe’s desire to disappear into a crowd, is slightly cringeworthy at times, most notably the overuse of slang like ‘totes’, Instagram feeds which are ‘fake’ and ‘lame’, and Joe’s celery-drinking, health kick cleanse.
Some fans also felt that season two is not as tense as the first. It’s true that this series is a slow burner, but the unexpected reveals and one particular highlight, the surreal LSD trip episode, make it worth the wait. Complaints about the lack of justice for this season’s characters, especially the female ones, fail to recognise one key fact. This isn’t a show about justice. If it were, Joe would have been locked up a long time ago.
The real triumph of You is its backwards portrayal of justice, its ability to make us root for such a flawed protagonist. A true anti-hero, Joe commits crime after crime creating a criminal record which should be unforgivable. But while we are disgusted by him, we also cannot help but be seduced by his twisted justification of his actions.
As we watch him scrape his way out of every sticky situation possible, we become invested in his escape from the law. We are made to dislike characters like Candace (Ambyr Childers), who in reality are trying to expose a murderer but, in this warped narrative from inside Joe’s mind, seek to threaten his perfect façade of goodness.
Joe may have finally met his match in Love. You could even say they deserve each other, as they start their budding family glowing, contented and enclosed in a white picket fence. But as we know by now, his next target is never far away.
Image Credit: Mark Kari via Wikipedia Commons