Warning: This review contains spoilers for You Season 3
Guinevere Beck, Candace Stone, Love Quinn, and now, Natalie Engler and Marienne Bellamy. The popular murderous show You, based on Caroline Kepnes’ book of the same title and its sequel Hidden Bodies, follows sociopathic Joe Goldberg as he searches for his true love through infatuation, passion, and murder. Originally premiering on Lifetime in 2018, the show transitioned to Netflix later that year.
Season three begins with Joe’s third on-screen attraction to his neighbor, Natalie, who he fights for, all while he must co-parent his new son, Henry; and finally discover what happens after his infatuation blossoms to real romance with his wife, Love, who was introduced in season two.
With the undeniably charismatic sociopathic serial killer Joe, and his equally unhinged wife, season three offers a ridiculous plot that is at times exhaustingly idiotic, yet captivates viewers with its strange bingeability. It’s safe to say that Netflix’s choice to publicly confirm season four days before season three had even aired will most likely work out in the streaming service’s favor.
Predictability in the Time of Murder
Since season one, main character Joe, played by Gossip Girl actor Penn Badgley, has been praised by viewers for his charm despite his violent actions. One of his key character traits is his continual pattern of obsession over finding true love, as he follows this need to drastic measures in all three seasons, with a trail of bodies left behind each time. While this obsession, eventually leading to murder, was exciting for the first and even the second season of You, his predictable infatuation of yet another girl in season three is uninspired and expected. Yes, Joe's motivation is that his cycle of obsess, kill, obsess, kill, with a hint of regret every so often is what, in part, made the first two seasons of the show so enjoyable, but at this point, the same story being displayed yet again is just plain boring. It would have been a million times more interesting if, instead of Joe following his same pattern once again, he devolved into an even more terrifying caricature of his serial killer self.
While his character development mostly remained stagnant, it should be noted that the show attempted to redeem him this season. While he still continued his murderous fixation of finding happily ever after, he also regretted most of the kills, whether done by him or his wife, and was persistent in his desire to crush his violent tendencies. It felt like the writers of the show were worried that fans would eventually tire of the lovable villain and crave a lovable hero. Despite his huge realization that his need to “save” the woman of his desire from whatever problem plagues her directly stems from his rather obvious mother issues, Joe barely evolves, or devolves, this season; and the audience is left with a stagnant character who, although still his normal charming self, is boring.
Joe’s wife and his former obsession, Love Quinn, portrayed by The Haunting of Hill House’s Victoria Pedretti, has a much more interesting character development this season. Love embraces her violent nature, enticing the audience greatly with her psychotic devolvement as she kills and attacks person after person this season. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed when she was killed off at the end of episode 10. Obviously, it would be pretty difficult for the show to maintain its audience with a dead main character and it would be impossible to keep both Joe and Love alive, based on his history of killing off his previous girlfriends and the escalation of their hatred for each other throughout season three, but Love was just so interesting. During the final battle between the couple in episode 10, I found myself rooting for her, as she’d truly developed into a much more unpredictable and exciting character than Joe had ever been.
A Plot Rich with the Unnecessary
While You season three offers familiar, sociopathic characters trapped in the suffocation of the ordinary suburbs of California, the plot was filled with needless repetition and social commentary. Somehow, the show managed to not only exhaust viewers with its obvious commentary on vaccination statuses, but it also managed to create plot “twists” that were just as predictable as its main character.
First of all, You season three is brimming with social commentary. Notably, episode three involves Love and Joe’s son, Henry, sick in the hospital with the measles after an unvaccinated child gives him the disease. Eventually, after she discovers that the child's father, Gil, who allowed his children to run unvaccinated around her son, is deeply anti-vax; Love knocks him out and traps him in the show’s staple glass box. Despite showrunner Sera Gamble confessing that the episode was written pre-pandemic in this Elle interview, it still feels like an unnecessary commentary on anti-vaxxers in the time of the pandemic. While I’m all for promoting the vaccine, this episode just came across as unneeded and weirdly placed.
This season also features multiple fake deaths in just the 10 episodes that make up the season. Multiple times the viewer is convinced that a character has been killed, only for them to wake up moments later or to be revealed alive at the beginning of the next episode. It got to the point where, unless the character was stabbed in the chest, I was constantly wondering if they were actually alive or not. It would have been fine if the show had done this once, maybe twice, but instead this was done FIVE TIMES. Five times a character was hit over the head or pushed off a building or otherwise perceived dead only for them to wake up almost instantly in the span of the season. It can be argued that for two of these instances the characters were supposed to be perceived as only having been knocked-out, not killed, but since these both happened at the end of their respective episodes, I immediately discerned these as murders until the next episode began. Even if you decide to discount those two instances, it doesn’t change the fact that You employs the fake-out death trope three more times. The "twist" of a seemingly killed character waking up again just became repetitive, boring, and predictable.
Bingeable Despite the Mess
You season three clearly has its issues, mainly in its repetitive main character and plot, but for some reason, I still found myself reaching for the “Next Episode” button over and over again. Perhaps it's the familiarity of Love and Joe, two characters whose story enticed audiences at the end of the second season. Maybe it's the messy plot that in one way or another persuaded me to overlook its glaringly obvious flaws, and instead focus on the terrifying cliffhangers at the end of each episode. Whatever the reason, season three, despite its repetition, stagnant main character, and various unnecessary plot devices, demanded my attention with every episode. Specifically in the 10th and final episode of the season, I suddenly realized that I was staring at the screen, mouth hanging open in anticipation as I wondered if Joe would be able to escape yet another impossible situation.
While the show repeated its twists with the fake-out deaths multiple times, I found myself entranced with the lead couple, Love and Joe, and their story panning out. I couldn't care less about Sherry and Cary trapped in a cage or Matthew’s determination to find his wife’s killer; Love just paralyzed Joe and was now hiding a meat fork behind her back while talking to Joe’s latest addiction! I needed to know what happens next! So yes, You season three is idiotic and predictable at times, but it's just interesting enough to keep me and audiences alike reaching for the popcorn and ready to watch the next episode.
Featured Image: IMDB