Why I Can't Stop Thinking About Netflix's "You"

    In September 2018, You, a romantic thriller, premiered on Lifetime to a measly audience, at least when compared to the record breaking numbers the show received after it was added to Netflix’s queue in January of this year. The at times melodramatic, but equally addicting, series reportedly streamed in over 40 million households this month alone. Starring Gossip Girl’s heartthrob Penn Badgley as a deranged and charming Joe Goldberg, as well as relative newcomer Elizabeth Lail as beautiful mess Guinevere Beck, You is based on Caroline Kepnes’ novel of the same name. Deemed “hypnotic and scary,” by horror maven Stephen King, Kepnes’ story received high acclaim when it was published in 2014.

    So many young people have cut cable out of their lives, going for the more inexpensive and highly accessible streaming route instead. Indeed, one in five households in America have done away with traditional television-watching since 2015, turning to Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Go. It’s no wonder, then, why Lifetime’s You only averaged about 600,000 viewers per episode during its airing of the first season. Luckily for the showrunners, and for us streamers, that Netflix had enough faith in the show to pick it up in 2019. The show, which seeks to answer the question, “How far would you go for love?”, follows Joe, a “brilliant bookstore manager who crosses paths with an aspiring female writer” only to become grotesquely obsessed with her. Yes, You subverts our expectations for a young adult show about relationships, as its protagonist is an anti-hero creep who murders all in the name of love. Oh, by the way, spoilers ahead!

    The show, which has one ten-episode season out now, has a well-deserved 91% Rotten Tomatoes rating, a 94% Google users rating, as well as an 8/10 rating from IMDb. If the disturbing plot isn’t enough to seal the deal for you, maybe you’ll be reeled in by the appearance of fan-favorites like Pretty Little Liars actress Shay Mitchell, who takes an annoying yet delightful turn as socialite and hyper-controlling best friend of Beck, Peach Salinger. Rounding out the cast is Paco, a young neighbor of Joe’s who deals with abuse at the hands of his mother’s violent boyfriend. Paco, about twelve years old, is a character who did not exist in Kepnes’ novel, but who delivers some much needed emotional support to the show. Joe’s relationship with Paco anchors the first season and forces the audience to sympathize with a character who might otherwise be unredeemable. Paco and Joe share a love for books, a theme which plays heavily throughout the show, and aid each other in surprising and terrifying ways. Paco’s addition most definitely complicates Joe’s character, which is why he is so crucial.

    It’s true, sometimes I had trouble buying into the idea that no one noticed Joe in his many stalking escapades. He was literally everywhere Beck was, but always seemed to escape by the skin of his teeth. His antics are often silly, extreme, and totally unnecessary, but they are why the show is so enjoyable to watch. Coupled with his charming persona, put on for Beck’s benefit, and the fast pace of the show, it’s a recipe for a hit. Lail’s Beck offers many insights into the life of a writer, something I appreciated as the season progressed. She isn’t portrayed as a perfect girl who oozes with poise and genius. Instead, she struggles to get her work done, she cheats on men, attracts weirdos, and even allows her friends to walk all over her: she is by no means perfect, but Joe believes she is all the same. Over the course of the season, we see Beck blossom into a spectacularly strong woman, and it’s indeed a pleasure to see.

    Finally, after ten heart-pounding episodes, the first season ends on a cliffhanger. Surprise surprise, someone is alive who shouldn’t be. Lucky for us, Caroline Kepnes was wonderful enough to provide us with a sequel to You, a novel called Hidden Bodies, which will provide a solid pilot line for the upcoming second season. While the details for part two are sparse, we do know that Joe feels guilty about the events that transpired in the first season, and that extenuating circumstances have forced him to move from a bustling New York City to Los Angeles. The good news? At the end of season one, Paco and his newly sober mother were moving to L.A.--hopefully, then, we won’t have seen the last of Joe’s loveable sidekick. In the second season, my hope is that we will get some answers to questions the first season left us with: what happened with Candace? Does Karen suspect something sinister is up with Joe and will she look further into things? Will Dr. Nicky figure out that he was framed? What’s the past with Mr. Mooney? All of this and more awaits loyal fans in season two, which is rumored to begin shooting next month! Until then, I’ll be looking over my shoulder for my stalker.