“You” is back on Netflix and manages to be better, creepier, and even more addictive in season two.
In the first season, we met Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) and the doomed object of his obsession, Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Based on the novel by Caroline Kepnes, “You” is a story of stalking, abuse, violence and murder, but painting the bad guy as the protagonist. Season one didn’t work out well for Beck, and left us wondering about Joe’s fate as his missing — and presumed dead — girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers) returned from wherever she had been hiding.
In season two, Joe is the one who runs away and hides, taking on a new name, Will, and settling into a quiet neighborhood in Los Angeles. He finds himself a job in the book and cafe section of a local organic market, and almost immediately meets Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti). Candace is forgotten. Beck is forgotten. And Joe — er, Will — is ready to build a new life in the City of Angels.
After years of minor roles in film and TV, Penn Badgley had a major breakthrough last year with Joe, whose attractiveness was immensely disturbing. A common refrain among “You” viewers was “I know Joe is a bad guy, but he’s so hot!” It was, frankly, concerning.
But now that Joe is in hiding, creators Sara Gamble and Greg Berlanti manage to double down on both the creepiness and the unsettling degree of sympathy we feel for him. Season two is a little more soapy, a little more mysterious, and a lot more fun. This time around, the stakes are different and the change is necessary to keep “You” from feeling like more of the same.
The decision to relocate to Los Angeles was wise. New York native Joe is a fish out of water on the west coast, where the weather and the traffic and the ubiquity of aspiring actors and screenwriters are all foreign and weird. There are new and interesting personalities, and the biggest LA paradox of all: everyone overshares, but no one ever tells the realest, deepest truth about themselves. It is the perfect setting for the second season and gives the series room to grow.
There are plenty of new personalities and characters to love and loathe, and some characters elicit both in the same episode. Love’s brother Forty (James Scully) has big ideas and the ADHD to keep him from following through on anything. Joe/Will’s apartment manager Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) is also a journalist on the verge of breaking a Me Too story. And Delilah’s precocious teen sister Ellie (Jenna Ortega) is an aspiring screenwriter whose big, bold personality makes her a target of the Hollywood types that would exploit her.
Too many shows fall victim to a sophomore slump. Especially when the first season starts out so strong, it’s hard to keep up the momentum and give the audiences more of what they want without rehashing the things that made it successful in the first place. “You” manages to bring together the things that made season one work, and then make it even better and more addictive. This is a series that was made to be binged. And, best of all, just when we think we know where it’s going, there is a new twist or a turn that makes it impossible to stop watching. This is entertainment in its purest form, and we already can’t wait for more.