TV Review: “You” Season 2

A match made in hell, Joe Goldberg and Love Quinn take the spotlight in season 2 of “You.”

Penn Badgley returns as Joe Goldberg, a skilled stalker and serial killer, in the second season of “You” on Netflix, and for returning viewers of this psychological thriller, this is bad news for whoever decides to get involved with him. Set in Los Angeles, season two of “You” begins with Joe Goldberg stealing the identity of Will Bettelheim in an effort to reset his life after murdering his former girlfriend Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) in the previous season. Despite his efforts, Joe is unable to relax, as he is in hot pursuit by Candace (Ambyr Childers), another ex-girlfriend who narrowly escaped a similar fate to Beck. Settling for a job as a bookstand clerk in Anavrin, a hip grocery store, Joe eventually falls in love with Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), a seemingly well-meaning chef and produce manager of Anavrin. 

While fans of the show may be expecting the season to play through similarly to the last one — Joe stalks girl, girl hurts Joe, Joe kills girl and “logics” his way out of blame — season two is a rollercoaster of shocking moments and plot twists. From Joe losing a finger to a maniacal conspiracy theorist to the religious use of throat-slitting as a method of murder, this season is shows significantly more gore (maybe even a little too much), in line with many of Netflix’s other originals. Perhaps the biggest twist of all is that Joe’s love interest Love is an equally insane stalker who murders Delilah Alves (Carmela Zumbado) to be with Joe. 

Season two also takes time to paint a much more complex picture of Joe than season one. His illogical and frankly terrifying actions, like breaking into people’s houses or holding people captive in his soundproofed storage unit, are tempered by the numerous flashbacks to Joe’s troubled childhood, his humorous yet caring interactions with angsty teenager Ellie Alves (Jenna Ortega), Delilah’s younger sister, and his genuine attempts to change his predatory ways. To be clear, Joe is absolutely not someone to be admired or imitated, but the show nevertheless succeeds in packaging Joe as a sympathetic character and keeps the audience rooting for him — at least, until he comes up with his next psychotic idea.

The improvement in character complexity extends beyond Joe, as the show’s writers have done a much better job fleshing out every supporting character’s personality and flaws as well. One of the central messages of the show seems to be that it’s too simplistic to think of people as having a polished, public persona and a more intimate, personal persona for family and friends; everyone also has an even more raw, unfiltered, and — sometimes — darker persona they rarely reveal to anyone. It’s these brief, “third persona” moments each character has that makes it difficult to fully sympathize with anyone after finishing the season. 

If stalker thrillers aren’t your cup of tea, season two of “You” is also filled with social commentary about the darker side influencer culture and Hollywood fame. Whether it’s celebrities getting away with sexual assault, young aspiring actors crashing from unrealistic expectations, or the irony of the immense pressure to appear “authentic” on social media, you can bet “You” calls it out loud and proud. Fitting with its criticisms of glitz and glam, “You” also refrains from portraying LA as some sunny paradise, choosing instead to show LA as the hazy, stuffy city that most SoCal people know it for. 

Season two of “You” ends with Joe and Love moving into a cookie-cutter cul-de-sac, ready to start their perfectly imperfect family next to a neighbor that Joe appears prepared to confront. While the show isn’t going to win awards anytime soon, season two is a solid continuation from the previous season, and it’s clear that the show’s writers are going for a more nuanced psychological thriller instead of recycling the same storyline as they easily could have done. One can only guess what Joe is going to do in the next season, but until then, it might be best to take some tips from the show and private all your social media accounts.

Premiered: December 26th, 2019 on Netflix
Starring: Penn Badgley, Victoria Pedretti, Jenna Ortega, James Scully, Ambyr Childers, Carmela Zumbado
Grade: B-

Image courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar.