Season 2 is as Shady, Murderous, and Unrealistic as the First…But In Los Angeles
Season 2 of You on Netflix manages to both surpass and horribly disappoint the expectations created by its first season. Instead of the dark, gritty, murderous West Village, now we’re tootling around Privileged Dingdong Los Angeles, where the cleanliness and “purity” of a rich person’s diet is directly proportionate to her racial and class anxieties. Don’t expect insights like that from the scripts, though–you’ll have to settle for gags about celery juice and “bisexual pescatarian authors.” (In the writers’ defense, though, of course bisexual authors eat fish.)
Anyway, this season finds everyone’s favorite heartsick stalker/serial killer, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) balls-deep in a new love, named…Love (Victoria Pedretti). I hope Joe’s S03 alias will be Murderer McGee, so no mouthbreathers will miss what’s going on. Love has an inane brother named Forty (?!). Love and Forty are codependent twins, yet puzzlingly for this trashy show, these health-food grocery-store scions (?!) have never had sex with each other.
There are other new characters this season, including a Krypto-Kardashian building manager, her precocious teen sister, a crypto-Louis CK/Bill Cosby-type comic (played by the cadaverous-looking standup Chris D’Elia). There are even a couple Russian thugs, who, since this is L.A., should have been Armenian.
In Victoria Pedretti, the terrific Penn Badgley finally gets an actor who’s his equal. Not only does she have the chops to play off his serpentine charisma, she adds her own shady, beguiling intensity. In Season 1, poor Elizabeth Lail, who played Guinevere Beck, faked her way through most of the show’s required emotions (fear, sorrow, desperation, anger) by catching her words in her throat– a lazy, cowardly tactic most people abandon after two months of acting school. Lail couldn’t act her way out of a shallow bowl, and by Episode 10 of Season 1, I was delighted that (spoiler alert) Joe murdered her. But in S02, Pedretti-as-Love anchors countless beyond-credulity-straining scenes with her attraction and devotion to Joe.
Season 2 has a real humdinger of a finale, with a revelation that I didn’t think the show was capable of executing. The deck is well-stacked for a fun S03. That said, You’s incessant narration–even more suffocating than that of the HBO-degenerate-dummies-drama Euphoria–is exhausting. And the screenwriters’ insistency on telling (and not, y’know, showing) and magical solutions which are far too soft on all the characters continues to be a huge problem in the storytelling. Have I ever been so strangely gripped by a show that treats its viewers as the world’s biggest idiots?
You doesn’t feel psychologically truthful, or genuinely scary, or remotely as funny as it thinks it is. What is its endgame? To convince us that the right girl could fix even the most depraved misogynist? To be a touching love story about forgiveness, vulnerability, and also be scary enough for goosebumps but not scary enough for nightmares? Do the showrunners mean to comfort sociopaths with the promise that there’s a lid for every pot? You seems terrified of the ideas it tiptoes around: that men’s senses of possession and ownership are inherently hateful and murderous, and how sexual excitation for women seems nearly impossible without at least a hint of genuine danger. Hopefully, S03 will finally have the courage to take off the condom and raw-dog us, then murder us in a glass cage. Awww! So sweet.