Spoiler Alert! If you are reading reviews, you’re gonna get spoiled.
YOU is a killer hit Netflix bought from Lifetime starring Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager, and Elizabeth Lail as Guinevere Beck, the girl of Joe’s dreams. It’s not a typical love story, but it is one for the ages, more specifically, it’s one for this age.
By now you would have heard your friends wailed about how romantic or how creepy Joe is, and that’s why they kept watching, to see if he would prevail, or if he would get caught.
See, Joe believes in love at first sight, and he strives to be that perfect boyfriend. You know, the one who knows your favourite food, your favourite cafe, how you take your coffee, what song you like, what your insecurities and deepest, darkest secrets are. And how does he know all that?
He stalks you on social media, duh. Oh, and your friends too. For a guy who doesn’t have any social media presence, Joe is ridiculously adept at online-stalking. Then again, it doesn’t really take a genius to figure these things out, and Joe is one very, very clever guy.
If that wasn’t enough, he also breaks into people’s houses. He’ll break into your house, your friend’s house, your therapist’s office, anywhere just to get the information that he needs and will use for nefarious purposes.
Joe believes love conquers all, even breaking and entering, sabotage, kidnapping, assault, even a murder or two, or three (I don’t really know the final count), and he believes that what he is doing is protecting, helping and motivating Beck to excel in her otherwise meaningless life.
Oh, wait. We need to talk about Beck. This is Beck as viewed by Joe on the street, through her house window. Notice anything missing?
Beck has issues.
She also has a pretty face, dresses well, is a shameless flirt who refuses to acknowledge this (girl, control yourself), doesn’t believe in blinds or curtains, is a pushover, is self-absorbed, has no self control when it comes to healthy relationships, social media, friends, men, sex, money, or her craft (writing), but the worst of it all is that she sighs a lot.
Like a lot, lot. Like everything in the world is too much work for her lot. She sighs when she said or did something wrong, she sighs when she knows she has to fix something, she sighs when someone is upset with her through no fault of her own. She lives for sighs. Sigh, Sigh, Sigh. But I digress. #Becksighstoomuch
She is today’s equivalent of the damsel in distress, depicted as a girl who is is hopeless without Joe. This, to me, is why YOU works – because when the antagonist is charming but clearly demented and evil, and the protagonist is a loser yet innocent, naive, and in general can do no wrong to others: who do you root for?
To help drive this concept home, from the get go, we entered the story from Joe’s perspective. We hear his inner thoughts, his inner panic, his inner frustrations but he never tells you his plans. Those, you get to see unfold as it happens. It helps that he has a narrative voice that will lure you into a false sense of security. Cause that’s so Joe.
Another thing that helps make you root for not-Beck is the toxic environment Beck almost always finds herself in. There’s her diva friends, Peach, Lynn and Annika. I enjoy them whenever they are on screen because of how ridiculous their characters are depicted to be. It’s hilarious.
Then there’s Beck’s boyfriend, Benji, a douchebag and totally someone you can see Beck falling for because she is terrible with men. Speaking of men, Beck has daddy issues as well. I don’t really see the point in the father as a character. But you gotta fill those hours, right?
Outside of how Joe treats Beck, he is a saint compared to Ron, the guy who is beating his next door neighbour and single parent, Claudia. Her son, Paco, spends more time reading in the hallway outside the door than inside the house, which is why Joe and Paco share a special relationship held together by their love of books and staying out of Claudia and Ron’s relationship.
A delight to see in the later episodes of the series is John Stamos who plays the scruffy and rugged-looking therapist who Beck, then Joe goes to to get help. He has way more significance than Beck’s dad. He deserves more screentime. Yup.
Therapist Dr Nicky tells Joe that there are two parts to him. One who believes true love exists, and the other who is so fearful to have it only to lose it later. I believe this is true for most of us as well. We want to love and be loved, but we are so afraid to find it because then there is the possibility of us losing it.
Not with Joe. Joe doesn’t lose things. Joe will put you in a cage and break your legs if you try to run. Then he will spew misguided nonsense about what love is and the sacrifices one has to make for love. True love. Joe has a glass cage for his books, but he isn’t above using it for keeping people in. Which he does.
YOU is an absolutely terrifying story about what one man would do for love and whether the woman he is obsessed with can love him back. So far a second season has been confirmed.
Personal thoughts: I should get the books.