Every generation gets its own Hollywood stalking story. The 70’s had Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty For Me. Over a decade later, Fatal Attraction scared cheating men back into their wives’ arms. In the ’90’s we had The Crush and Fear, while the 2000’s gave us Swimfan. Earlier in 2018, Netflix dumped the dreadful Bad Match on unsuspecting audiences. Now thanks to author Caroline Kepnes and producers Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble, Millennials have the stalking drama they deserve. Based on the novel of the same name, You was released back in September Lifetime. Now Netflix is streaming the highly addictive psychological thriller.
You is a 10-episode ‘boy-meets-girl’ tale with a disturbing twist. New York City bookstore manager Joe Goldberg falls in love with aspiring writer, Guinevere Beck, the moment he sets eyes on her. Unfortunately, ‘Beck’ doesn’t take much notice of Joe. Yet Joe is convinced that the two were meant to be together. Using his Internet expertise, Joe secretly manipulates Beck’s life and the people around her to push the two together. But as Joe insinuates himself into every aspect of Beck’s life, his dark past and emotional instability begin to surface, jeopardizing his relationship. Now how far will Joe go to keep Beck?
You Puts Unique Spin on the Stalking Formula
Though You shares a lot of DNA with its cinematic stalking predecessors, the Lifetime series uses its 10-episode arc to put some unique spins on the familiar narrative. Arguably the most unique approach You adopts is centring its story almost entirely from Joe’s perspective. Much of dialogue comes from Joe’s own internal monologue, particularly in the first few episodes. No, You isn’t the first film or television show to use an unreliable narrator. But it’s a fairly unique approach for this type of story. It also lends itself to several uncomfortable laugh-out-loud moments as Joe’s twisted perceptive clashes with reality. Joe drawing comparisons between romantic comedy predicaments and finding himself hiding in Beck’s shower is equal parts creepy and darkly funny. Later Joe’s inability to see how closely his observations of another obsessive character describe himself is almost satirical.
You is as Entertaining as it is Implausible
Producer Greg Berlanti is the creative force behind Riverdale and the Arrowverse television shows. Berlanti’s partner, Sera Gamble, has served as a writer and producer on Supernatural. This should give you some idea of the direction You takes with its material. Not surprisingly, Berlanti and Gamble approach Kepnes’ novel at 90-mph, rarely allowing the action and twists to stop. It’s probably the smartest approach to take with the series. Though You initially positions itself as a serious psychological thriller, by the end of its first episode, it abruptly casts side most plausibility. With each subsequent episode, as more complications are introduced, You almost functions in its own separate reality.
…Berlanti and Gamble never allow the series to spin too far out of control.
Fortunately, Berlanti and Gamble never allow the series to spin too far out of control. In contrast, Riverdale’s third season has descended into an almost incomprehensible level of over-the-top stupidity. You remains highly addictive over the course of its 10 episodes. Even as the series piles on increasingly implausible developments the result is to just hook you in a little more with the characters’ plights. For younger viewers, the role of social media will likely strike a nerve.
Penn Badgley Shines in Creepy Role
Penn Badgley deserves a lot of credit for making You so watchable. Gossip Girl wasn’t part of my must-watch-TV viewing, and The Stepfather was an insipid remake. But in You, Badgley is truly given a chance to shine. He effortlessly combines creepiness with an almost innocent earnestness making Joe Goldberg a fascinating villain. It’s also the earnestness aspect to his character that makes him so frightening. Badgley convinces us that Joe Goldberg believes that what he is doing is justified. Like Walter White in Breaking Bad, you can’t help but wonder if and how Goldberg is going to get out of each jam in which he finds himself.
He effortlessly combines creepiness with an almost innocent earnestness…
Elizabeth Lail’s ‘Guinevere Beck’ proves to be an interesting foil. In a 90-minute movie format, Beck likely would have made for a dull protagonist. Across the first two to three episodes, Beck doesn’t register as much more than a ‘damsel-in-distress.’ But over 10 episodes, You gives Lail more with which to work and, to her credit, she infuses Beck with enough grit and personality to earn the audience’s sympathy. For Season 2, I’m personally looking forward to seeing more of Ambyr Childers’ ‘Candace.’ Even with limited screen time in Season 1, Candace looked like she could give Joe a run for his money.
You is Binge-Worthy Television
No, You isn’t pedigree television like Orange is the New Black or Ozark. Yet it’s undeniably binge-worthy stuff that recalls how fun Riverdale was in its first season. If you’re not sure where things can go in Season 2, just wait for that closing scene. And yes, we are getting more of Joe Goldberg. Apparently, You will jump ship from Lifetime to Netflix for its next season. Consider me hooked because Season 2 can’t come soon enough.