You, the little thriller show that went unnoticed on Lifetime, resurfaced on Netflix, and became a huge hit, is back. And I gotta admit to feeling skeptical about whether a third season could roll as well as the first two. After all, Penn Badgley’s Stalker Joe is the result of a bold gimmick, which feels hard as hell to sustain (while also balancing the message, including from Badgley himself, that Joe’s a reprehensible guy). His very existence is a performance, and he thinks nothing of swapping out identities, but realistically speaking, how long can this continue before someone (with standing) turns his butt in to the authorities or at least puts him in check? Exactly. The second season barely contained its own crazy (while careening off a cliff). Near the end of that sophomore round, Joe found himself keeping his existing name (he’s “Will” in California), but he does take on another identity: that of husband and soon-to-be father.
Yep, Joe is put in check, so what’s the next challenge? Maintaining momentum.
This is where I’m about to draw an extremely out-of-context analogy. Back in 2007, the great (and golf-obsessed) Bill Murray sat down with Esquire for a wide-ranging interview. Amid observations about the tastiness of Cinnabon and the stages of his own career, he remarked upon how it was so much easier to pound out back-to-back movies before becoming a husband and dad, and he observed the same in Tiger Woods. “As long as he didn’t have a girlfriend,” the undeniable legend declared. “[H]e was unquestionably the greatest golfer in the world. And people, myself included, said, ‘Well, wait’ll he finds a girl. He’ll find that his time’s gonna be different. His life is gonna get more complicated.’ And it did for him, and it does for everyone.”
Now, I am not at all saying that golfing or acting is like stalking/serial killing. However, all of these things can be obsessions, so the same principle can arguably apply. Obviously, we’re talking about a hefty obsession in this show, and I was quite worried that the show couldn’t convincingly allow Joe to devote the same, how do you say, energy to his deviance. However, You has pulled it off, and not only is Joe still doing his thing (and still losing his sh*t in the process), he’s also got all the added problems of a married person. If executed properly, the show would put him in tight spots that make Season 1 look lightweight in comparison, so yeah, this can be comparable to young Tiger gliding around as the toast of the PGA world like it ain’t no thing, followed by well-known troubles and a comeback phase. Like Murray and Woods, Joe is much more distracted with added responsibility, but that actually makes this show even more entertaining than it already was. The stakes are higher for Joe, and somehow, being married with a child does not put a cramp in his serial-killing style.
However, this also does not put a cramp in his wife’s murder-style, either. This isn’t a spoiler, because we saw how nutso Love Quinn turned out to be in Season 2. I am also tossing in a Mr. & Mrs. Smith reference here, and I mean it. Joe/Will and Love aren’t paid assassins, but killing is (ultimately) their way of life, and they’ve got their own moral codes to justify their bad deeds. Even when they don’t want to kill, it ends up happening. Their homicides are, at times, crimes of passion, and in other instances, meticulously plotted out scenarios (which mean to conceal their other killings) that go completely haywire and turn into murder. It is, darkly enough, entertaining to watch them work to cover up their body count. There’s also the guarantee that their tracks cannot be completely erased, and that they’ll never stop resorting to violence. I mean, c’mon. Joe’s “book preservation” safe room where he kept victims exists in this season, too, only that it’s kept in Love’s bakery, and there’s simply no “one last job” for these two, ever.
Everything, as well, is kept endlessly interesting by the fact that Love is much more unhinged than Joe is. If you’ll also recall, Joe wasn’t exactly pumped about settling down “for life.” Love was a real piece of work, after all, and his mirror image in some ways, which also happened to be the ways that he loathed about himself. So, he’s miserable, for the most part, but he damn well knows that he’s there for damage control purposes. For every carefully measured scheme that he executes, she’s flying off the handle like a slasher-movie baddie. And honestly, yeah, he will always have to sleep with one eye open, so to speak, for good reason.
There’s the whole couples’ therapy angle, which is where the show really dives into the Mr. & Mrs. Smith vibes. You dissects the American marriage and happy-family BS that many people project while feeling utterly unfulfilled inside. The subject of parenting, too, goes off the rails here because getting one’s kid into the perfect nursery school is a concern for Love; yet two parents must also go dig a grave while their infant sits in his car seat and does his best to amuse himself. To add to the mess: Joe and Love have moved to Instagram-worshipping suburbia, which is loaded with overly nosy neighbors and self-obsessed types who aren’t quite as loathsome as Chris D’Elia’s late perv, but close. So, it’s a careful needle to thread here with You. The viewers want and expect more as the show continues, but everything still must be emotionally believable enough that we’re rooting for someone during each increasingly batsh*t development.
The season, ultimately, is a raging success, yet my goodness, there’s a lot here. Netflix sent out a fairly lengthy list of what cannot be revealed before Season 3 surfaces. I can say, however, that the sh*t hits the fan in the first episode and never lets up. Joe can’t give up his ways (including his roaming eyes), Love refuses to give up hers, and their sleepy little suburb is about to get rocked into oblivion. The powers that be come up with no shortage of scenarios to accelerate until the final moments (my jaw did hang open many times during episodes 8-10), and it’s a bloody good time for all, or at least, those of us in the audience. As for Joe? He’s f*cked, but he deserves it.
Netflix’s ‘You’ returns on October 15.