This contains spoilers for YOU
Season 3 of YOU came out on Netflix, and it is just as wild as you would expect. What does an astonishingly cute baby, annoying suburban neighbors being locked in a cage, a hunting trip gone wrong, swingers and arson have in common? Joe Goldberg.
Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley (the other Tucker, the cute guy from Easy A and Dan from Gossip Girl, who gets way too much hate I’m so serious right now), is a quirky little bookstore worker who hates the suburbs and the rich. Also he murders people on the side. He’s married to equally crazy Love Quinn, played by Victoria Pedretti, and in Season 3, we get to see them explore the wonders of parenting. Of course, the Goldberg-Quinn household has a different idea of how to be a good parent. For example, Love and her mother call baby Henry by the name of his dead uncle that is only dead because he suspected that Henry’s dad was a serial killer (he was right. RIP Forty). Or the time Joe couldn’t bond with his baby because the baby wasn’t a girl (very weird). Or the time Joe and Quinn brought Henry to the scene where they BURY A WOMAN that Love killed because Joe cheated. In addition to their excellent parenting skills, we get a glimpse of what marriage REALLY looks like: couples therapy, stalking, infidelity, murder, kidnapping, framing the other for murder, etc. None of this is surprising to the audience, however, as we’ve been watching Joe Goldberg do his thing for the past few years. It’s almost surprising when he doesn’t kill someone at this point. I don’t know what this says about me as a person, but I can’t help but hope Joe gets away with it.
Obviously murder is bad. When Joe murders someone it’s not like I’m thrilled or anything BUT when he’s on the verge of getting caught, I always catch myself on the edge of my seat. I WANT him to get away with it, even if I liked the character he killed (you deserved better Delilah). When I see him around someone, I get anxious and hope he won’t kill them, but if he does end up killing them, I just move on. I know I am not alone, considering Penn Badgley still has a job and we’re definitely getting another season of YOU, so obviously some of us do like watching Joe Goldberg be the absolute worst person ever. We all know that he is not a good person (at least I hope we all know that), but why do we find ourselves rooting for him?
The main reason why we root for him is because if Joe Goldberg gets caught, there is no Joe Goldberg (face it: he would not last a day in prison), and thus, there is no YOU. We all know that he’s not going to get caught until a) the finale, or b) Penn Badgley leaves the show. Maybe this is what I tell myself to feel better about rooting for a serial killer, but I truly believe I am an advocate for Penn’s employment before I am an advocate for murder.
In his messed up interpretation of justice, Joe genuinely thinks the people he murdered deserved it. This is awful and incorrect for most of the people he murdered, but since the entire show is in his perspective, we know that he views the people he murders as either evil, or necessary to murder. Whether or not you agree with his reasoning, it still probably makes sense to you, even if it’s horrific. We know Joe kills women because he is an abusive man who can’t handle not being in control at all times. We also know Joe kills women because he thinks he is doing the right thing.
Joe Goldberg is also really funny. If he wasn’t busy with books and crime, I really think he could make it as a comedian. Not only is he funny, his commentary is relatable. I too think anyone who is slightly nice to me is in love with me. I also think influencers who surround their content around their families and their suburban lifestyles are insufferable. I also plan everything in advance, and overthink, and complain in my head 24/7. I even like reading!
Some of the motives behind the murders are everyday occurrences. For example, classism, infidelity, abuse, breakups, etc. affect so many people. Before Joe murders someone, we see him being a victim in one of these emotional situations, which already causes us to be sympathetic towards him. He’ll commit a crime in response to him being wronged, but since we were already somewhat on his side, it’s hard to go back on that support in a matter of seconds.
Joe Goldberg is a fictional character, and there are no real repercussions for essentially wanting him to “win.” Joe Goldberg is also played by a conventionally attractive white man, one who is extremely likable and critical of the character. The face associated with the character is a face associated with someone that people like, and it’s hard to let go of that image and apply it to a character. Plus, the show literally is about privilege, and how far someone can take their privilege in society if unchecked. According to Penn Badgley, the way people treat Joe Goldberg in the show and how people discuss the character in real life is a reflection of how white men can get away with heinous crimes.
I think we all want Joe Goldberg to face some sort of consequence at the end of the show, because most of us would want justice for the people he killed or is responsible for the death of, especially considering a good amount of those characters were characters that the audience liked. It wouldn’t be very satisfying for Joe to get away with everything he had done to women. Penn Badgley has expressed his desire for Joe Goldberg to suffer the same fate as his victims at the hands of a woman, and to be honest, there probably isn’t a whole lot of other possible endings to the show. But as long as people like the show, we have to keep rooting for Joe Goldberg, and just hope there’s poetic justice at the very end.