“You” is Netflix’s Best New Thriller

Dan Humphrey, what happened to you…

For those of you don’t already know, Penn Badgley, most notable for his iconic role as “Lonely Boy” on CW’s hit series, “Gossip Girl,” is back in a big way in TV drama world as stalker Joe Goldberg on the Lifetime-turned-Netflix series, “You.” It’s interesting to think about how the original network was Lifetime, because I believe I speak for a lot of people when I say I never would have even thought about watching it. I guess it shows how much Netflix has changed the way we viewers consume television today, and with the advent of binge-watching, we’re allowed to become completely invested in the narrative arcs and the characters themselves without having to anxiously wait for the many cliffhangers to be resolved.

My friends and I binged the show in a matter of days, and all we could fixate on was how Badgley is the perfect actor to take on this type of role. He portrays the main character, Joe, the owner of a local bookstore, who becomes deeply enthralled by a customer named Beck (played by Elizabeth Lail), and soon begins to obsessively stalk her through her social media accounts and later in real life. Badgley definitely gave off the stalker vibe in “Gossip Girl” as an outsider hanging out with a group of wealthy teenagers living on the Upper East Side and assumed the persona of Gossip Girl as a way to gain the affection of his one true love, Serena Van der Woodsen. Yet Joe’s actions reach an extremely creepy and disturbing new level in “You” -- although at the onset he seems like a decent, ordinary guy who’s merely attracted to an interesting woman he happened to meet and connect with, the viewer quickly realizes he will do absolutely whatever it takes and even murder whoever it takes until he can have Beck all to himself.

His constant internal monologue and narration throughout the series is pretty chilling and at times, hilarious, but it more importantly invites the viewer into his overly active thought process and how he justifies sneaking around and stalking Beck -- he is undoubtedly in love with her and desperately wants to take care of her and recognizes that the people she surrounds herself with on a daily basis are toxic for her well-being and career path as an aspiring writer. The show further humanizes Joe by establishing his close friendship with one of his neighbors, Paco, a younger boy who is subject to the verbal and physical altercations between his mother and abusive step-father. Joe introduces Paco to his entire collection of books and frequently offers him food and a shoulder to lean on due to his rough home environment, spurring confusion and making us wonder whether the show writers are trying to convince us to root for and empathize with a deranged psychopath. Even more so, because Beck’s life is laid out in the open on her Instagram and Facebook for the entire world to observe, maybe it’s not Joe’s fault that he was able to learn everything about her. It’s not as though he’s particularly skilled or experienced in the art of stalking. One of the main reasons he can spy on her so easily is because her house lies in the middle of the city, covered with windows and no curtains or blinds whatsoever (honestly that’s a little weird).

Nevertheless, it’s important not to glorify this kind of obsessive and unhealthy behavior that Joe exhibits towards an innocent young woman. Just because he’s charming and often seems preferable to Beck’s horrible circle of friends and colleagues, that doesn’t mean he is entirely in the right. At the same time, he doesn’t exactly represent the definition of pure evil, either. It’s kind of the central hook of the show -- you never know who to root for or how to categorize who the good and bad people are. Instead, you’re simply along for the ride filled with 10 episodes concentrating on the progression of a deranged stalker, wrought with incredible twists and cringeworthy, horrifying moments. What scares me the most is how Joe always seems to be around, meticulously tracking Beck’s every single move. I found myself covering my eyes during many of the scenes and screaming at my computer screen often, and I usually don’t talk much while watching TV. Yes, it’s a bit trashy, but that only adds to how addictive it is. If you haven’t started watching it, I strongly encourage you to begin now. Prepare to be spooked!


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