The Netflix original series You was adapted from part one of Caroline Kepnes’ best-selling novel of the same title. You is a story not like any other and it constantly challenges the readers perception of what is right and wrong. The story line challenges the concept of ‘what would you do for love’ and we quickly learn that the protagonist’s answer would simply be ‘anything’.
A charming first encounter quickly turns into something more perverse when bookstore manager Joe Goldberg takes an unusually strong liking to aspiring writer Guinevere Beck. Joe quickly falls for Beck and will stop at nothing to be a the centre of her world. Their relationship starts off as any modern-day tale does- a chance encounter followed by the odd bit of social media stalking. Even the start of their relationship feels familiar- getting takeaways, having lazy days, etc. However this clearly isn’t your average relationship.
The obsession Joe has for Beck soon turns unhealthy when he starts to feel like he knows what’s best for her and is willing to even get rid of people from her life if it meant she would be a better person for it. So on one hand we have this dark, toxic masculinity that clearly has the means for an abusive relationship but then the audience also experiences a different side to Joe. During the course of the show the creators try to harshly challenge our perception of what a murderous stalker would be like and attempt to make us invest in Joe’s character and therefore back any possible relationship with Beck. We can see a seemingly charming side which is apparent to Beck mainly by the innocent things that Joe does from her. Whether this be by saving her life on a train platform or making her pancakes in the morning just like her dad used to- Beck only sees Joe whilst he puts on this mask. For this reason, You can keep the audience on-edge as Joe completely flip-flops between his two personas.
You pushes this idea harder through the friendship explored between him and his young neighbour, Paco whom is caught up in the middle of an abusive relationship between his mother and step-father. The show pushes the idea that his step father is a negative presence within his life which, while being undeniably true, makes the audience despise the character and tricks them into having more of a connection to Joe when he stands up to him. However, this then can have the effect of us forgetting that Joe is much more abusive than Paco’s step-father- he is just more subtle about it. But, to me, this story feels too forced and more of an attempt to try and show two sides of Joe.
The main pitfall for You, however, is Joe’s constant narration. Throughout each episode Joe narrates everyone of his subconscious thoughts and deepest desires with no real break in between them. This was possibly added in as a feature of the show which, again, tries to make Joe seem logical and even justified in his actions so that we can back him more. However, to me, this just comes across as irritating as it has always been more effective to be shown instead of told. One superb example of this is Silence of the lambs, a fantastic film that uses camera angles and scenes to display emotion and power between characters. This leaves the audience with a highly intelligent and well thought out movie that feels more like a magnum opus rather than a rushed TV show.
To summarise, You is a series that seems to be made as a replacement for series such as Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. This is even more obvious when we notice that two of the main leads in the show- Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell and Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley as Peach Salinger and Joe Goldberg. Therefore, in order to get any enjoyment out of the show whatsoever, You should be taken at face value as an easy to watch series if nothing better is on your list.