The series adaptation of Caroline Kepnes‘ bestselling thriller YOU has finally landed on Netflix and I tell you what people – it’s kind of fantastic. But in a fucked up way. Like, it’s somewhere in between Dan Humphrey controlling and manipulating the entire Upper East Side in Gossip Girl to get on a girl’s radar and Cora Tanetti fingering her younger sister in The Sinner. (Still recovering.)
The 10-episode show follows Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), a bookstore manager who quickly becomes infatuated with a customer who visits the store. Her name is Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) – known fondly to her vapid friends and fuckboys as “Beck“. She’s an aspiring writer because of course.
Narrated from Joe’s perspective for the most part, it’s obvious from the outset that he’s different, and not in the good way. He immediately objectifies Beck and suggests that the way in which she dresses and behaves is her “asking for it”, an ugly mentality that women, and society as a whole, have spent years shutting down. But it’s this victim blaming that paints the whole premise for the show.
While we’re not immediately let into the inner workings of Joe’s clearly unwell mind, it doesn’t take very long for him to make start going down a slippery slope. He thinks that because Beck paid for her book with her card, rather than cash, that she wanted him to know her name (I have literally never whipped out my card as a tuning tactic) and thinks that because all of her social media accounts are on public that she wants to be found, be seen. Righto.
No actually, not righto. Wrongo. I’m sorry – just because someone leaves their blinds open, it does not give you the right to watch them and have a wank on the street while doing so. That’s not an exaggerated metaphor of what we see in the show. It actually happens. Pilot episode. Spoiler, I guess?
Spotted, lonely boy jerking off outside apartments and keeping men locked in basements. Will Serena finally see him for the stalker he is? Only time will tell. You know you love me, Xoxo Gossip Girl. #YouOnNetflix
— Chantelle Pearn (@Channy_Lou89) December 27, 2018
Joe continues to stalk Beck, all while pursuing an actual relationship with her. It’s supremely cooked. Through flogging her phone and breaking into her apartment he finds ways to magically bump into her, learn more about her that he can use to his advantage and plays his version of “the game” too damn well – so well, in fact, that Beck starts falling for him too and yep, can’t stop now, we’re in bat(shit) country.
Once he’s clawed his way into her life, his attention focuses on removing any obstacles that stand in their way. Whether it’s a no-good trust fund fuckboy or friends who have doubts about her newest squeeze (side note: it’s nice to see Pretty Little Liars‘ Shay Mitchell gifted some semblance of a personality in her role as Beck’s superficial BFF Peach Salinger) he finds a way to get rid of them (make of that what you will). But he masks it all as a favour to make her life better, because he loves her, and fuck, for a split second there I think I may have believed him. Commit me.
Ah, the oldest trick in the psychological thriller book being whipped out to try and humanise the villain – the writers definitely give Joe’s character an equal opportunity to help us understand him as they do make us scared of him.
The constant confliction is strong throughout, including but not limited to Joe’s charming abilities (and Badgley’s overall hot factor, it’s a fact) married with psychopathic behaviours he believes to be justified. Combine that with the fact Beck’s painted as a misunderstood mess with daddy issues from the outset and we’ve got ourselves a problematic mindfuck.
Look, I won’t go on. I want you to watch it. For the plotline metaphor that is excruciatingly relatable in a lot of ways, for the scene where he tries to go down on her in a department store, and for the fine line between love and obsession.
You can stream the entire first season on Netflix now, which you’ll wanna do given Season 2 has already been greenlit.Image: Lifetime / Netflix