Shows about serial killers are a familiar sight. And yet, Netflix’s ‘You’ creates a new world with its serial killer. It has been done cleverly by establishing love as the reason for our protagonist’s stalking and murdering efforts. He does not do it to be creepy or to be a slinking menace, but for his one true love.
‘You’ Season 1 Recap – Meeting Joe Goldberg
It is in the streets of New York that we must first meet Joe. Or, to be more precise, a quaint and musty bookstore where he works. And we watch him meet and instantly fall for Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail. Guinevere Beck, the literature hopeful, in whom Joe immediately recognizes a list of desirable characteristics. She is ‘the one.’
It might start as a meet-cute, lulling us into the false sense that this is a cute romantic comedy. A moment, perhaps, where we can believe in the good-natured good looks of Penn Badgeley, whose voiceovers have us chuckling even when we’re being creeped out.
It is only after she leaves that we are treated to our first taste of the ‘real’ Joe Goldberg. We see his internet stalking prowess and meet the dark cap Joe, who hides himself from the person he stalks. As the season progresses, we see the serial-killer tendencies intensify, with breaking and entering, kidnapping, and eventually murders in the glass cage he keeps his victims in.
We are also treated to the other side of Joe Goldberg. The man he really thinks he is. This is the man who is always willing to listen to Beck and be there for her. The man is willing to hang out with her friends and always knows the right thing to say.
We also see the protective side of Joe. It comes out in full force with his next-door neighbor, a little boy named Paco. Paco is forced to live with his abusive step-father and a mother who won’t help. And Joe is the nice next-door neighbor who gives him books and tries to help. In Paco’s eyes, Joe is who he truly believes he is. A guardian angel.
It is in these sides of Joe that the show allows us to root for him, to care about this character who has done too many unforgivable things. The show tricks us into forgiving him, even without hiding Joe’s true crimes.
‘You’ Season 1: Ending
At the end of ‘You’ Season 1, Joe is no longer blameless. Not even in his own eyes can he absolve himself. He defends every choice, even the choice to kill the woman he called ‘The One.’ And as Beck discovers too late, Prince Charming was never just that. And as she and Joe realize that she cannot keep loving him, her fate is sealed.
It is fitting then, that the reason Beck dies and the reason Joe escapes is Paco. Because while Paco may not understand all of who Joe is, as far as he is concerned, Joe is a hero. Joe Goldberg is the man who rescued him, who showed him what else life has in store, and was always kind to him.
And riding on the coattails of his redeeming qualities, Joe sails into freedom and onto screens through Season 2.
‘You’ Season 2 Recap – Will Bettelheim
It is a marvelous shift in setting that we see in ‘You’ Season 2. Joe Goldberg is now Will Bettelheim, a man in LA. His scathing disapproval of the city and its occupants makes for hilarious commentary. He finds his spot in Anavrin, a grocery store that also houses a book section.
The attraction to the new woman is just as instant as the previous, and we have our new woman in Love Quinn. She is funny and cheerful. Her wit matches Will’s pace, and it is clear that the attraction is mutual. And just as we begin to root for a new life for Joe, it is revealed that every move that we have witnessed has been a ploy to get to Love. From his new apartment balcony, where the telescope looks right at Love’s house, to the grocery store he now works at, which her family owns. Every move has been calculated, and it is clear that a new city does not guarantee a new Joe.
The glass cage has followed him too, to the storage facility where the real Will Bettelheim now sits captured. And we watch Joe form an unlikely friendship with the man whose identity he has stolen.
It is possible to believe that Love Quinn really is the one. As their attraction goes through ups and downs, we find a relationship we can root for. Love has her own demons, and she is not delicate. She stands up for herself and her twin brother, Forty, never allowing Will to be complacent.
Even when Candace, the woman from Joe’s past who can ruin his life, comes back, Love does not back down. She is fierce, determined to protect the man she loves. It is clear that this is not a woman to be crossed or to take lightly. It builds our curiosity, will Love die or not at the end of the season? Will Love be the woman Joe changes for?
In the midst of it all, Will finds his next child to protect. Ellie, the sister of Delilah, Joe’s landlord, and much more, is a precocious teenager. And Joe finds enough reason to protect her, stalking her whichever way he can. This is not for creepy tendencies, he says. This is for a child who doesn’t know how to take care of herself. And it is Joe’s responsibility to take care of this girl.
In flashbacks, we understand where this guardian instinct has come from. Joe’s mother never cared for him enough, leaving him in danger with the abusive men she was in relationships with. Joe’s first murder was only to protect his mother. At least, that’s what she tells him.
‘You’ Season 2: Ending – A True Match
In ‘You’ Season 2, Joe holds on to his determination to be a better man, yet the episodes take a darker turn. While Joe’s victims form a shorter list than Season 1, they are still significant. And for the first time, as Joe finds Delilah’s dead body, Joe must question himself. Delilah is dead in his cage, but he was tripping on drugs Forty dosed him with. Did he really kill her?
The answer is a shocking one, even to Joe. Because how could it be that Love Quinn, the woman he loves, is the one who slashed Delilah’s throat? How could she be the one who left Ellie alone in the world? And yet, as she kills Candace to hide their secret and admits to her crimes, Joe is left with the wind knocked out of him.
He has found his one true match. He has seen himself in another. And before he can destroy this living, breathing mirror of himself, she reveals another bombshell. She is pregnant with Joe’s baby. And just like that, Joe has what he always wished for. The woman he loves, and a family.
But now that he has what he wants, he is trapped. Joe is stuck in a way he never expected to be. And as ‘You’ Season 3 approaches, we wonder, can he hang his cap up for good?
You is a 2018 Romantic Thriller series created by Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti. Season 1 & 2 are streaming on Netflix.