On the surface, You is mistaken as any other mindless soap on television. Based on the 2014 novel Hidden Bodies, creators Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s Creel) and Sera Gamble (Supernatural) brought Caroline Kepnes’s romance thriller to Lifetime and have become a sensation on Netflix. The show combines the sensibilities of the showrunners- young, soapy storytelling and Dexter-like horror. The difference is it mixes some of the most entertaining, sardonic humor attributed to Penn Badgley’s near-perfect cynical narration. You have turned into an appointment-level television.
When we left Joe (Badgley), instead of, uh, breaking up with his girlfriend, Love (Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’s Victoria Pedretti), he decided to commit to her because she is pregnant with his child. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t set his sights on someone new. Men need their hobbies, after all. As they move into the Instagram world of Madre Linda, California, he becomes infatuated with the statuesque Natalie (Michaela McManus). She is married to an IT security mogul Matthew (Scott Speedman). Even with a child at home (he was gifted a son, not a daughter, more on that later), he stalks Natalie to the grocery store where he can’t be the, uh, master of his domain.
Is that all? No, Joe has gotten so good at this, he has started to multitask. He starts to fall for someone he has more in common with, Marianne (The Owl House’s TatiGabrielle). She is a straight-shooting librarian with a dark past with Ryan’s ex-husband (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Scott Michael Foster). Meanwhile, Love draws attention from the neighbor boy, Theo (Dylan Angler), and doesn’t exactly hate his flirtations. This catches her mother, Dottie’s (Saffron Burrows) eye and warns her this could endanger her happy family.
This is a spoiler-free review, so that I won’t get into much detail here. I will say that this season’s first episode starts with a jaw-dropper that is usually reserved for later in the season. The choice raises the stakes, racking up the tension and enriching the dynamic of Joe and Love’s young, albeit psychotic love. They are perfect for each other. Not that they know it. Each judges the other for their sins. They both think they have less murderous rage inside them.
The difference between them is Joe has harnessed his rage. Even though his pet peeve of protecting and being rejected by women gets the best of him. Love has revealed an unraveling that has made her impetuous when protecting the ones, she cares so deeply about. We get some insight into Love’s issues, but this season is dedicated to Joe. Several flashbacks hint at his abandonment issues and how they have developed in foster care.
The subject of the child’s gender is also interesting. Why is Joe upset? Is it because he could see himself inside a male child? Or the fact that he is so protective of the women he adores does he feel he was cheated out of the only possible true love that will never reject or leave him? The kind of adoration between a father and a daughter that will never fade.
What separate’s You from other similar shows is the sense of humor. The writers have a sharp eye for bullshit. Madre Linda is full of IG wannabees who spew out advice without anyone asking or refuse common-sense medical vaccinations because they read a blog about a wealthy white lady who most likely has a doctorate in physical education. It’s cold and unempathetic comic relief is the perfect tension breaker. This also fits the main character’s personality.
You is perfect escapism. A soapy psychological thriller series that satisfies anyone’s craving. Think of it as your just desert. An indulgence that has been perfected and happens to be better than the book.