You has returned for a third season and this time it’s in the “white picket purgatory” of the California Suburbs. After meeting his murderous match, Love Quinn, at the end of season 2, Joe Goldberg is settling into his new life as a married man and new father to baby Henry Forty Quinn-Goldberg. However, far from domestic bliss, the Quinn-Goldbergs are wracked with the everyday teething problems of first time parenthood. A situation further complicated by the fact that they are both deluded serial killers. The season opens with Joe struggling to connect with his child, feeling trapped in his marriage and the only thing getting him through is his mysteriously beautiful next door neighbour. Has Joe stumbled upon a new target for his deranged affections?
Written by Tresca Mallon
The American suburbs have long been paired on paper and screen with sinister and deadly plots - think Desperate Housewives, Stepford Wives and Blue Velvet. The peaceful, seemingly civilised and santitised environment offers a perfect clash with violent intrigue and messy murder. It’s also a sharp contrast from the previous urban setting and sets the cosmopolitan couple as fish-out-of-water amongst their insufferable, nouveau riche and nosy neighbours.
Setting off in episode one all indications suggest that we are in for more of the same as Joe becomes obsessed with neighbour Natalie (Michaela McManus), but an intervention from Love early on sets the season on a completely different path. Starting off in a refreshing new direction, the first half is typically enthralling, but resolution also brings a lull mid-season as Joe’s new obsession emerges and just like Joe the writers start to slip back into old habits. Netflix only provided seven episodes to preview and, had I written this piece then, my verdict would be very different. But episode 8 grabs the audience by the neck, ramps up the action and comedy and keeps us guessing until the last second.
Joe is the ultimate Nice Guy™, He’s terrifyingly charming and a stark reminder that dangerous men come in all kinds of packaging. He is meant to be a believable romantic lead and rom-com motifs are regularly employed to ensure that the crash back to earth brought by his despicable actions are even more shocking. What differentiates You from a lot of serial killer dramas is that it’s creative team is dominated by women, so the show is starkly self-aware, never glorifies Joe’s actions and at no point should we actually believe that Joe is a good guy. Penn Badgely has expressed his discomfort with playing Joe and his horror that people could be attracted to his deranged character, describing Joe as ‘irredeemable’, yet this season, the line begins to blur with the development of equally evil Love. When we witness the two of them in a vacuum Joe seems sane in comparison. It is only when confronted with the real world that it’s obvious how unhinged they both are.
Joe and Love have very different serial killer styles. While Joe is calculated and meticulous, Love acts on impulse. She is driven by passion and the way she kills is therefore completely erratic. She becomes Joe’s biggest liability - I mean whacking a man with a rolling pin in broad daylight is pretty chaotic! The characters’ hypocritical horror at the other’s actions is both hilarious and chilling and they each have a perception of themselves completely at odds with reality. Yet we see their world through their eyes, so we in part can’t help but root for them. Their marriage is completely dysfunctional and when confronted with domesticity both characters feel immediately stifled, only briefly repaired by their shared penchant for murder. This season gives some insight into both characters' past trauma, although Joe’s flashbacks are relatively irrelevant, gives little further insight and at times disrupt the show’s pacing.
We get much more insight into Love’s perspective this season which allows Victoria Pedretti to shine both dramatically and comedically. We are given access to her inner monologue in episode 6, just like Beck in Season 1, when she shares her thoughts by text with her dead brother. While this is undoubtedly one of the season’s weaker episodes, it gives us insight into Love’s motivations. One of Love’s major conflicts is her attraction to the neighbour’s 19-year-old son Theo (Dylan Arnold). This is supposed to have troubling undertones due to the age-gap and create an unbalanced power dynamic. However, the effect is dulled by Arnold not being an overly convincing teenager. This may be due to the fact that he is, in reality, almost a year older than Pedretti. But, the characters have an electric chemistry and Theo is one of the season’s most likeable and dynamic characters.
Penn Badgely’s comedic timing is impeccable. His acerbic tone and lines like “The problem with marriage is my fucking wife” and “Oh shit Love is going to kill you” in his inner monologue are sharply written, undercutting scenes to bring the audience back to fucked-up reality. This season in general is just a lot more fun! Badgely and Pedretti bounce off each other and the dark humour and at times farcical cover-up scenes are a perverse joy to watch. This is aided by side characters such as Sherry (Shalita Grant) who is the just the worst, yet ultimately the best new character. She is grating, gossipy and totally unbearable as the local influencer/mommy blogger and her relationship with her himbo husband Cary (Travis Van Winkle) is one of the highlights of the season.
Ultimately, the value of You lies in it’s shock factor and originality. While I was adamant after Season 1 that this was a limited series concept, I am now resigned to the fact we are in this for the long haul. I might even admit that I enjoyed Season 3 more than Season 1. With a fourth season announced for 2022, I hope that You can continue to deliver and with the crack creative team and steadfastly interesting lead actor still attached, I have high hopes.