He’s back! Everyone’s favourite delusional stalker, Joe Goldberg, returns for Season 2 of You. With its antagonist-focused perspective, You’s Season 1 proved to be binge-worthy Netflix viewing. After Guinevere Beck’s shocking death, there didn’t see to be any direction for another season. And then Joe’s supposedly dead ex-girlfriend, Candace Stone, turned up in a jaw-dropping cliffhangers. We’ve waited a year to see how Joe gets himself out of this predicament. Now the wait is over.
Joe Goldberg, Meet Will Bettelheim
As Season 2 opens, Joe Goldberg has retreated to Los Angeles – the last place anyone would think to look for him given his disdain for the city. Consistent with Season 1, You tells things out of order, particularly in its first few episodes, leaving some questions lingering. As things get rolling, Joe has sworn off love to stay underground, but he hasn’t really changed. Before the first episode ends, Joe has abducted and assumed the identity of an unscrupulous hacker named Will Bettelheim. And his promises to change seem a just a little insincere when you consider he had a plexi-glass prison already installed in a storage facility. Soon Will has settled into an apartment, a new job at health food/book cafe, Anavrin, and found a new object for his affections – Love Quinn.
And his promises to change seem a just a little insincere when you consider he had a plexi-glass prison already installed in a storage facility.
From that point onward, You settles into telling two converging stories. Most of Season 2 revolves around Joe’s pursuit of Love Quinn. Not surprisingly, Joe faces a lot of bumps in the road to find love. One of those bumps is Love’s co-dependent relationship with her recovering drug addict, Hollywood hanger-on twin brother, Forty. As a side note, Forty may have killed his au pair years ago. And Joe’s very-much alive ex-girlfriend, Candace, tracks him down to Los Angeles, determined to protect Love and make Joe’s life a living hell. There’s also a subplot involving Joe’s protective friendship with landlord/reporter Delilah, her precocious teen sister, Ellie, and a stand-up comedian with a predilection for young girls.
You Turns the Tables on Joe Goldberg
As expected, Joe Goldberg’s reform tour goes off the rails. Try as he might to be a better person, a body count follows Joe. While he releases the real Will Bettelheim to prove he’s good, his efforts to protect young neighbour, Ellie, ‘force’ him to kill the scummy Hollywood comedian, Henderson. Neighbour, friend, and occasional lover, Delilah, ends up in the plexi-glass prison when she figures out Joe’s identity. Then the shit hits the fan. Though he planned to let Delilah go and disappear to Mexico, Joe wakes from a bad drug trip to find Delilah dead. Next thing you know, Candace shows up, locks Will in his own prison with Delilah’s dead body, and calls Love to bare witness to Will’s true nature.
If a third season proves to be the last, Joe Goldberg has a lost skeletons in his closet – both dead and alive – waiting to tumble out.
[MAJOR SPOILERS]. Lucky for Will (or perhaps not), Love is just as crazy and desperate to make their relationship work. She killed Delilah to protect Joe. And then she unceremoniously kills poor Candace. Oh, Love also admits that she was the one who killed her brother’s au pair years ago. In what’s a hilarious turn of events, Joe finds himself in Beck’s shoes – mortified by the person he loves. But he’s not going anywhere. Love drops one more bombshell – she’s pregnant with Joe’s baby. Poor Forty shows up, armed with the knowledge that Will is a serial killer and a gun, intent to protect his sister. Too bad his timing is terrible. Just before he can execute Will, a police officer shoots him dead. And I was starting to like Forty.
You Looks Ahead to Potential Season 3
So, once again, Will escapes justice. Or has he? He’s stuck in what looks like suburban hell with an emotionally volatile, Love. While he sent Ellie away to protect her from Love and Child Protection Services, she’s neither really gone nor forgotten. As Season 2 closes, Will flips through a postcard from Ellie, demanding more money. She’s a smart character, and she has a purpose. Surely Ellie will turn up again. Don’t forget – Dr Nicky and the real Will Bettelheim know about Joe. As things close up for Season 2, You hints at where things are going in Season 3. Joe may be trapped with Love, but he’s found a new object for his affections – his unseen neighbour. If a third season proves to be the last, Joe Goldberg has a lost skeletons in his closet – both dead and alive – waiting to tumble out.
You Works Best as Guilty Pleasure, Not Serious Drama
Ultimately, You remained a watchable guilty pleasure in its second season. More preposterous things happened. How does Will set up a large plexi-glass prison in a public storage facility? Just how did he get the material from New York to Los Angeles? Cargo? These are the types of things You glosses over in its pursuit of soapy, psycho-drama. Nevertheless, You still puts Joe in enough ‘will he, or won’t he’ scenarios to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. New characters also shine in the second season. Victoria Pedretti’s (The Haunting of Hill House) ‘Love Quinn’ is much more interesting – and should prove a fun foil – than Season 1’s Beck. And former Disney Channel star Jenna Ortega may Season 2’s MVP.
Season 1 felt like an exhausting roller-coaster ride with one final shock. Comparatively, Season 2 felt like an appetizer.
Despite the timeliness of its #MeToo subplot, it comes across as more than a little disingenuous. After all, You is a series about a stalker who routinely gaslights his victims. Season 2’s handling of Candace’s trauma is also a little cringe-worthy. For better or worse, You is pulpy, psycho-melodrama; it’s less effective when it takes itself too seriously. If there’s another problem with Season 2 – which is still quite fun – it’s that it feels like table-setting for a third season. Season 1 felt like an exhausting roller-coaster ride with one final shock. Comparatively, Season 2 felt like an appetizer.
You Misses Some of Its Urgency in Season 2
Much of Season 2’s diminished returns can be chalked up to pacing. As mentioned above, Season 2 lacked that same urgency, meandering a little in the middle episodes. It’s a common problem for Netflix series – consider it mid-season bloating. Not even its #MeToo subplot adds enough tension to match Season 1’s suspense. After a strong opening episode, You takes a while to pick up steam. Once it hits those last three episodes, You re-captures that same ‘will he, or won’t he get away with it’ suspense from the first season. But for a soapy psychological thriller, You needed more crazy predicaments, not meditative melodrama.
Another Season 2 problem was the underwhelming use of returning ex-girlfriend, Candace. This isn’t a criticism of Ambyr Childers’, who is excellent with the expanded role. Instead it’s largely a problem with unmet expectations. Given Season 1’s conclusion and Season 2’s set-up in the first episode, Candace was poised to play a much bigger role. Yet for most of Season 2, Candace is a background player. It also doesn’t help that Candace proves to be a pretty ineffectual foil for Joe. She really doesn’t do anything to much up Joe’s new life.
Season 2 of You Slower, But Just As Much a Guilty Pleasure
Things move a little slower than its binge-worthy first season, but You still delivers the guilty pleasures. And yes, Joe Goldberg’s character arc in the second season treads into Dexter territory. But it’s also an arc that gives You a decent, if not timely, sub-plot. Victoria Pedretti’s ‘Love’ was a far more interesting love interest and foil. If Candace’s shocking return underwhelmed, Jenna Ortega’s ‘Ellie’ more than made up for it. Odds are pretty good Ellie’s story with Joe isn’t over. Most importantly, You has well positioned itself for a third season.