Penn Badgley Joe Goldberg
Ambry Childers Candace Stone
Victoria Pedretti Love Quin
Elizabeth Lail Guinevere Beck
Luca Padovan Paco
Jenna Ortega Ellie
James Scully Forty Quin
Carmela Zumbado Delilah Alves
Shay Mitchell Peach Salinger
John Stamos Dr. Nicky
Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have been watching “You” on NETFLIX. This series was recommended to us by a very good friend who knew our taste in television and movies. As always, they were bang on with their recommendations. “You” is an intriguing and refreshing show that has a cast of actors/actresses that are for the most part relatively new to us. To date there are two seasons that we have watched and NETFLIX has stated that season 3 should be arriving sometime in 2021, of course this is dependant on COVID and its further implications/hindrances to the film and television industry.
What is “You” about you ask? Well it is the tale of an insanely obsessive young man, who will fall in love at the drop of a hat. Once in love, he obsesses, fantasizes, and completely envelopes her with his devotion. Once captured if you will, he will do anything, and I mean anything to protect this lady and demonstrate his love and support for her. The flaw in his plans is that often, his actions will have disastrous results for others, and even at times himself. An important part of these story arc is that his obsessions run so deep, that his love sometimes ends in death...hmmm…do not marriage vows state, “till death do you part”? Anyways, in short, almost like the tag line for the series: Boy finds girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy obsesses over kill, boy protects girl, boy destroys girl.
The two seasons while separate, have enough tendrils between the two to link them. In season 1, we find Joe Goldberg (Badgley) a lonely and almost pathetic book store manager. Joe spots a girl from across the store, Guinevere Beck (Lail) and immediately falls in love with her. Using open source and social media investigation skills that would make an NSA or CIA analyst envy, Joe (Badgley) finds out everything about Beck (Lail) that is out there. This show clearly demonstrates the younger generations penchant for social media, i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc, and how much of people lives are out there for all to see. He commences to stalk Beck, and puts himself in a situation that he becomes the knight in shining armour and everything that she is looking for in a man. To achieve this, he must remove or outwit various obstacles, i.e. a useless boyfriend, a girlfriend who is just as obsessive about Beck as Joe is to name but a few. In each instance, he does it with flair and innovation, and with enough dark humour to make you laugh out loud. We also find out that there is a warmer side to Joe (Badgley) as he tries to help other strays and protect them from the evil that is out in the big city (NYC).
I am trying not to give out too many story points here, but needless to say, the series is intriguing and somewhat reminiscent of Dexter (Another personal favourite of mine, especially the first few seasons). The cinematography in NYC brought back many memories for my wife and I as we visited NYC last year, so it was great to see so many landmarks that we visited in the show. The character development is fantastic and you get inside the various characters and see what makes them tick, especially Joe. Additionally, we found the chemistry between all the main characters in Season 1 to be great. Joe’s (Badgley) interaction with Beck (Lail) was convincing and extremely interesting. They played off of each other well and set the tone for the rest of the characters to follow. Joe’s (Badgley) scenes with Becks friends Peach, Benji, Nicole and Kathryn were also very believable. You know that Joe did not really care for them, nor them for him, but it was the sort of forced friendships that can happen when a person is in a relationship.
The whole first season was well played with enough twists and turns to make it interesting and keep you on your toes. Even the sub plots (i.e. Paco, his mother and the abusive boyfriend) provided valuable information about the main character, Joe, and what he was made of, what made him tick and also what drove him to do the things that he did. Again, I do not want to ruin the show for you, so I purposely did not give out several integral plot points so that it will be a surprise for you if you choose to watch it.
For us, the first season set the hook in, but it was the 2ndseason that really reeled us in. Joe (Badgley) has now moved to LA to start life anew. Promising himself that he will change and that he will not be as obsessed as he was before, he searches for a new life, new name, new job and a new purpose in life. Finding a unique way to re-invent himself (watch the episode), Joe (Badgley) moves into a new apartment, meets his building manager Delilah (Zumbado) and her precocious little sister Ellie (Ortega), who end up playing a similar function as Paco and his family did in NYC. After the new apartment was secured, he searches for a new job, and lo and behold, he is again in the book department of a new wave, alternative store, which just happens to have the same name as his previous store (just spelled backwards). This little twist actually provides some very dramatic foreshadowing of the season if you can catch the reference and how it plays out. The owner’s children run the store/cafeteria/whatever this place tries to be. These young twins Forty (Scully) and Love (Pedretti), are actually polar opposites of each other and prove to be a very entertaining duo on the small screen. I still do not get the tennis score reference to the names of the two supporting characters, as it was really never explained.
As in season 1, Joe (Badgley) falls obsessively in love with “Love”, and the whole scenario repeats itself all over again. He uses his analytical skills to find out all about his new paramour, her likes, dislikes and what he needs to do to get her to fall in love with him. As with the first season, he meets her friends, and in this case her family and really has a completely different experience with them compared to his romance with Beck. We feel that Joe (Badgley) is learning, growing, well ok maybe in a little twisted fashion, but it is growth nonetheless. What also ties the two seasons together is that we see some re-occurring characters in either real life, or in his memories. These characters’ flesh out Joe’s past and we actually get to really learn why he does what he does. These memories/actions actually get us to really root for this dark hero, just like we did when we watched Dexter. (On a side note re Dexter, Badgley really looks like Dexter’s brother (The Ice cream truck murderer)).
The chemistry between all the characters in the 2ndseason surpass that of the first. The romance between Joe (Badgley) and Love (Pedretti) is believable as is the intensity. The friendships that are constructed throughout the season feel real, and all the actors/actresses play off of each other admirably. The audience still roots for the dark hero, but also feels involved in the supporting cast. Forty (Scully), Ellie (Ortega) and Delilah (Zumbado) really made you feel for them, and you admire Joe (Badgley) for wanting to help them, even if it was not always the solution that either they or Joe wanted. These characters also brought out further emotions and memories for our dark hero as he tried to find his new life in LA and reeled you in so that you will end up binge watching the 2ndseason. The final episodes reveal some very interesting twists and turns that I did not expect to happen, and at least one that I did. Additionally, I found the storyline more intriguing, especially with the return (imaginary/real) of other supporting characters from his past, and the dialogue and direction was also superior to that of the first season.
Now that I have given a very brief synopsis of the two season, lets look at the characters themselves:
Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg: Badgley does a fantastic job as the main character Joe Goldberg. His acting is incredible and he really sinks his teeth into the role. One of the aspects that we really liked about his character was his voice over narration, again very reminiscent of Dexter, these “thoughts” filled the gaps in a dark and humorous fashion, that often made us laugh out loud. His obsessions are clearly laid out and visible when he interacts with the other leading ladies. His chemistry with all three ladies is admirable, but the interaction with Love (Pedretti) is by far the best. Not having seen him in very much before, only Easy A and Margin Call, where his performance did not stand out, after watching him in “You”, I must say that I look forward to seeing him in future roles.
Ambry Childers as Candace Stone: We are introduced to Candace Stone (Childers) originally as a memory of a long lost love. As the seasons progress, her importance to the story line increases exponentially. While my wife and I felt that she was the lesser of the three leading ladies, her participation/role is actually the most pivotal and integral to the story writ large. It will be interesting to see if the character returns in the upcoming series as either a memory or in life.
Elizabeth Lail as Guinevere Beck: Beck (Lail) is the main love interest in season 1. She does a notable job playing the insecure young lady, infatuated with successful people and social media. She will do anything to further her status in her social circle, even to the point of bankrupting herself to make sure her friends get a stellar gift. An aspiring writer in the season, Joe tries to bring out the best in her while supporting her dreams. However, to bring out the best in her, Joe sometimes has to do some pretty unorthodox things. Her insecurity and love comes out well, but you feel that she is holding back throughout the season and her best scenes are when she is in a scene with Joe (Badgley). She has not been around long, and I have not seen her in any other roles so I can’t comment on how she differed in this one.
Victoria Pedretti as Love Quin: Pedretti is the 2ndseason love interest, and has far more chemistry with Joe and intensity then Lail did in season 1. She really reminds me of a young Jennifer Garner and portrays almost the same type of acting style. Her character is deep, wounded and also very Machiavellian at times. I am really looking forward to see how her character further develops in season 3.
Luca Padovan as Paco: Luca did an admirable job as Paco the next door neighbour’s kid. His portrayal of a troubled kid was pretty solid and the interactions that he had with Joe worked in the context of the show. His character is integral to the show as it demonstrates the human and caring side of Joe in the first season, and without it, the dark hero would not have worked as well. For such a young kid, he has been in quite a bit over the last 6 years and I have not doubt that his career will progress as he gets older.
Jenna Ortega as Ellie: In season 2, Ellie is one of my favourite supporting characters. She is a street smart kid with loads of ambition and sarcasm. Her character, much like Paco in season 1 does a great job in showing the more human side of Joe and is important to the main character’s reveal if you will. She played extremely well with all the other main characters in the show, especially Joe. The only thing I did not like about the concept is that they almost regurgitated the “damaged kid next door” from season 1. Will this be a trend in Season 3? I hope not, as the program will then lose some of the freshness in it that we were looking for. Another aspiring young actor, she has been in numerous roles in a short time, and we had actually seen her in one of my wife’s favourite shows “Jane the Virgin” before. I am sure that we will see a great deal of her in the future as she has a lot of talent.
James Scully as Forty Quin: Every show needs a village idiot and Forty Quinn is the idiot in “You” season 2. He does a great job playing the rich spoiled kid, who does not have enough brains to form coherent sentences or thoughts. As the very damaged twin brother to Love, he is also an integral part of the show, as he manages helps bridge the seasons together, as well as connecting some of the disparate characters of the show.
Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger: In season 1, Peach was Beck’s friend that everyone loves to hate. While coming across as all friendly and supportive to Beck, she is actually just as twisted as Joe was in his obsession over Beck. Mitchell does a bang up job playing the pretty, spoiled, narcissistic socialite in such a believable fashion that you just want to hate her! While she has been around for awhile, this is the first time I had seen her on a program. Though, I am sure that we will see more of her in future programming.
John Stamos as Dr. Nicky: Stamos inclusion in this show was a bit of a surprise to us. I only think of him as Uncle Jesse on Full House (a show that I could not stand, but my wife loved years ago). He enters the show late in season 1, and still has some appearances in the following season. As the token shrink on the show, he still came off as a smarmy, untrustworthy p.o.s, but I am sure that is the way the part was written. Overall, his inclusion and part was important to the storyline and he filled the bill admirably. Who knows, if he takes some more parts like this, I wont automatically hear the Full House theme song when I see him in future programming.
Overall we really enjoyed this show, as I mentioned previously, it is very reminiscent of Dexter, (a family favourite) and it is filled with the dark humour and dry wit. We were extremely entertained and we cannot wait for the next season, though, I must say that I hope they take it in a slightly new direction and not replay the same type of characters as the first two, i.e. troubled kid from broken home etc. Additionally, I think that only one more season would be enough, this type of story can only be done so many times before it jumps the shark and is ruined. I highly recommend this show if you were a fan of Dexter and like the dark, anti-hero theme. It is well written, acted and directed and will keep you entertained throughout
Till next time!