The first season of ‘You‘ became a sleeper hit for Netflix. Based on Caroline Kepnes‘ 2014 thriller novel of the same name, ‘You‘ follows the life of a dangerously charming, intensely obsessive young man who will go to extreme measures to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by. Season 2 has just been released in its entirety and is loosely based on the follow up to Kepnes’ novel ‘Hidden Bodies‘.
After the horrific events at the end of the last season, Joe (Penn Badgley) has switched coasts and has been spotted in Los Angeles. Trying to fit in with society and not attracting any attention to himself, “lonely boy” has taken a new identity, rents a place with a nice view and finds work at an eco-friendly bookstore. Manager of that bookstore is Love (The Haunting of Hill House‘s Victoria Pedretti), a friendly young woman who quickly catches Joe’s eye and as you can probably guess – everything starts all over again. While Joe tries not to obsess too much, he now also has to deal with former lover Candace (Ambyr Childers) trying to destroy his life and exposing him as the true monster he really is. And if that wasn’t enough, former – now dead – girlfriend, Beck, still haunts his every day life.
The second season of You is more of the same, yet feels different and at times a lot lighter. There’s more puns, jokes about living in the “City of Angels” – it’s basically a satire on psychological thrillers, without ever losing focus on what’s really going on. Joe is basically a modern day Ted Bundy, with his charismatic smile and good looks he attracts plenty women and uses all his guile to get out of tricky situations. Badgley (famously known for portraying Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl) is perfectly cast and gets to show more of a dramatic side of his talent this time. In flashbacks to the relationship with his mother, we discover where his obsession with women really came from. As it was already the case in the first season, the show wants us to feel for him, to believe he’s a good guy, but in a with wellness-obsessed L.A., it becomes even more clear how crazy this guy really is. Joe doesn’t fit in, and he never will. Clear signs of someone who’s a psychopath, but are we really surprised by that conclusion after witnessing everything he did in the first season?
The writers definitely didn’t hold back on the gore or campiness this season. With lines such as “What would Mama Ru say?“, clearly pointing at the iconic tagline of Drag Queen Royalty RuPaul, and the constant use of pop culture references, the show feels mighty real as if this all takes place in our own world and even real life celebrities make a cameo at a certain someone’s funeral.
But what really distinguishes this second season is how much stronger and smarter the women are this time – not saying that these characters don’t make any classically dumb mistakes anymore. Joe’s neighbour and building manager/journalist Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) and her little troublemaker sister Ellie (Jenna Ortega) are a nice side story that keeps interweaving with Joe’s. Their story is the warm heart of this season as it deals with sisterhood and growing up, getting over horrific events without letting them define you. Zumbado (Need for Speed) and Ortega (Jane the Virgin) are both a welcome addition to the show.
Love has her own secrets, and her group of LGBTQ+ friends are all multidimensional characters, although a bit underused to be frank. Love’s clearly troubled brother and co-manager of their bookstore/cafe, Forty (James Scully), brings some extra spice to the story and has a real arc that shifts throughout the entire season, making him one of the most versatile characters on the show. Scully (Heathers) does a perfectly fine job at establishing himself in the show as a typical wannabe-famous-LA-douchebag-rich-kid, but tends to become a bit one note when his scenes stretch out for too long. Luckily his stronger counterpart this season is Pedretti, who already has proven herself to be one hell of a talent as The Haunting of Hill House‘s Nell Crain, in which she hauntingly got under every viewer’s skin. Pedretti, soon also to be seen in the second season of Hill House – ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor‘ – gives a sad and tormented feel to Love’s character. If you thought Badgley was great, wait until Love walks into your life.
With a third season definitely already in the pipeline, what can we expect? And is Joe ever really going to change? As long as the writers can keep this from becoming a ‘Dexter‘ copy, this series has a long life to live. ‘You‘ is really that show, pushing our viewing habit in how much we believe what we see on the surface and not delving deeper into what could possible be a psychopath, ready to lock you up in his plexiglass cage. You’s follow up season is a bewilderingly glum continuation that is most of all absorbingly compelling and oh so perfect for your next 10 hour binge marathon. Bring on season three!
Netflix Review – ‘You’ Season 2
Reviewed on Netflix, Sydney, Dec. 26, 2020. Australian Classification: MA15+. Running time: 10 x 49 min.
PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an A+E Studios, Alloy Entertainment, Berlanti Productions, Warner Horizon Television production. Producers: Adria Lang, Jennifer Lence. Executive producers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Foley, Sera Gamble, Gina Girolamo, Lee Toland Krieger, Leslie Morgenstein, Sarah Schechter, Silver Tree.
CREW: Directors: Silver Tree, DeMane Davis, Harry Jierjian, Shannon Kohli, Meera Menon, Cherie Nowlan, John Scott, Kevin Rodney Sullivan. Developed by: Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble. Screenplay: Caroline Kepnes, Kelli Breslin, Amanda Johnson-Zetterström, Kara Corthron. Camera (color, widescreen): Cort Fey, Seamus Tierney. Editors: Felicia Mignon Livingston, Erin Wolf. Music: Blake Neely.
WITH: Penn Badgley, Ambyr Childers, Victoria Pedretti, Jenna Ortega, James Scully, Carmela Zumbado, Charlie Barnett, Marielle Scott, Adwin Brown, Elizabeth Lail.