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‘You’ Season 2 returns with new characters while still embracing its signature twisted narrative

Image from IMDb
Image from IMDb

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for Season 1 of You.

Loosely based on Caroline Kepnes’ novel Hidden Bodies, the sequel to her sleeper hit You, Season 2 of You ventures deeper into the psyche of its serial killer protagonist Joe as he trades the wholesome literary scene of New York City for the fame-hungry background of Los Angeles. The people are prettier, the fashion is more sophisticated, the hunger for stardom is ever more present, and social media encompasses the identity of the people surrounding him.  Unfortunately for Joe, his fresh start quickly transforms into murderous mayhem as his lust for a new girl takes him down a dark, chaotic rabbit hole. In the fashion of a typical psychological thriller, You Season 2 contains numerous twists and turns that will leave audiences with their eyes wide and jaws dropped. Although these plot twists serve for an enticing viewing, the overabundance of them risks taking the show into absurd and redundant terrain. Nevertheless, the show retains its millennial charm and endearing cast of characters that makes it stand out from other shows about romance and murder.  

Joe’s new lease on life brings both new and familiar faces 

Penn Badgley stars in the second season of the hit Netflix series You as the ever-charming sociopath Joe Goldberg. His sarcastic narration from the first season is still present and his obsessive tendencies continue to pull him into less-than-comfortable situations. However, Joe’s disdain for the LA lifestyle causes him much concern for himself as his attempts to become a better person are put into peril. As in last season, Badgley does an exceptional job portraying Joe. His ability to justify Joe’s self-serving and cunning ways furthers the show’s nail-biting nature. Badgley also brings out Joe’s nurturing personality when he makes various attempts to protect his new neighbor, even if his other deeds are less well-intentioned. In fact, his arrival to Los Angeles exemplifies his bad deeds when he assumes the identity of another person he is holding hostage and introduces himself to others as Will. Furthermore, Joe is also seen running from his past misdeeds as his ex-girlfriend Candace, who he thought was dead, comes back to seek vengeance against him. This does not help his dating life whatsoever as he pursues a young aspiring chef named Love Quinn. 

Image from IMDb

Played by the star of Netflix’s hit series The Haunting of Hill House, Victoria Pedretti, Love is presented as a complex yet sometimes mysterious woman who captivates Joe’s idealistic view of romance and companionship. In contrast to Beck, Joe’s deceased ex-girlfriend whom he killed at the end of last season, Love is confident and secure about her ambitions in life. She is surrounded by a supportive group of friends and protected by her wealthy family who owns the bookstore cafe Joe works at. While she serves as the main focal point of Joe’s affection, her relationship with him is not as central to the story as Beck’s was in the first season, as Joe has much more on his plate this time around. Some notable new characters who create complications for Joe are his landlord Delilah and her younger sister Ellie. Delilah, played by Carmela Zumbado, is a snarky and interesting character who at times questions Joe’s motivations. This creates a tense viewing experience as Joe is at risk of getting caught for his devious actions. Delilah’s sister Ellie, played by Jenna Ortega, is an aspiring film director who Joe becomes protective over because of his innate inclination to nurture. Unfortunately, Ellie was one of the more annoying characters this season, as her “snappy comebacks” came off as cheesy and dull. It’s disappointing because I liked Joe’s neighbor Paco from last season and hoped to see a similar character relationship this season; however, while Paco’s relationship with Joe served as a vehicle to showcase Joe’s more likeable and paternal side, Ellie’s brought nothing new to the season, making her storyline feel a bit contrived. 

Of the more convincing characters, Love’s twin brother Forty was the breakout character of the season. A former addict with rich parents and a knack for trouble, Forty serves to foil to a lot of Joe’s plans. James Scully excellently portrays Forty as he showcases his narcissistic and charismatic traits (he is essentially the Peach Salinger of this season). Additionally, Joe’s ex-girlfriend Candace, who returned from Season 1, was another character who I adored this season. Played by Ambyr Childers, Candace was vengeful, condescending, and manipulative in her own ways for all the right reasons. After all, Joe did try to kill her, so it only made sense that she would torment Joe for revenge. Still, the writers were a bit sloppy with her storyline. She came to LA looking for Joe but did not even have a plan on what she was going to do with him. If my ex-boyfriend tried to murder me, I would certainly come up with a plan on how I would enact my revenge. 

A more complex storyline ventures into ridiculousness

Image from IMDb

While Season 2 of You was thrilling and as twisted as ever, it risks delving too much in soap opera territory. Contrary to Season 1, Season 2 felt a tad unfocused at times because it lacked a centralized story, which is what made the first season so compelling. Joe’s relentless pursuit of Beck heightened the emotional stakes and connected subplots together seamlessly. The novelty of Joe’s use of social media to prey on Beck was refreshing because no television show like this had really explored the millennial world of online dating before. As for this season, the story was a bit slower and it took a couple episodes for me to really become invested. Instead of there being one main storyline driving the show, this season had multiple different storylines that were all competing for the show’s focus. To be frank, some of them were quite ridiculous and absurd. In one scene, Joe talks about how he rebuilt his glass box while having a guy tied up watching him in a storage unit. Another scene shows Joe gruesomely disposing of a body at his work in the middle of the evening without ever getting caught. While You has always been a bit unrealistic in its execution, I just hope next season doesn’t stray too far into improbability to where it hinders the viewing experience.

Understandably, the writers did not want this season to become an exact replica of Season 1. The LA setting is vastly different from the cutthroat world of NYC, and the cast of characters surrounding Joe are completely new. To bring a sense of familiarity, Season 2 replicates some of the tropes that worked so well in Season 1. Joe’s fascination with Love is a major storyline, just like his obsession over Beck; his protection of Ellie resembles his care for Paco, and Forty’s problematic nature mirrors the vindictive actions of Peach Salinger. While this form of repetition was needed because of all the deviations the show made from its first season, it risks becoming too formulaic if future seasons keep repeating these devices. Luckily, the finale indicated that the next season will be taken in a different direction plot-wise compared to the past two seasons. But what exactly will You Season 3 entail? Guess we’ll have to find out next year.

Images: IMDb

Featured Image: IMDb

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