It is precisely Joe Goldberg’s sadistic, yet humorous narration, narcissistic tendencies and dark impulses which draws the viewer in and compel them to watch the American television series “You”. Living from the outset in New York City, the protagonist, Joe, appears to encompass the image of a striking, literature-loving, charming young gentleman – yet this very façade could not be further from the truth…
Season one brought to the screen themes of conceit, heartbreak and murder. A charming first encounter with the young grad-student, Guinevere Beck, leads Joe to become immediately infatuated. Alas, simmering tensions between friendship and jealousy spell trouble for their relationship and it seems to be headed for impending doom.
In an effort to convince Beck of his undying love, Joe goes to drastic lengths to feed his compelling addiction, turning to social media and technology in order to track Beck’s presence and eliminate (by whatever means necessary) any obstacles which may appear along the way.
In season two, we move with Joe to the West Coast of America. In a desire to develop a new identity and escape his past transgressions, Joe hides out in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, and in a foreshadowing, opening line, he asserts that “Love has [and will continue to] drive him to dark places…” little does he know what awaits just around the shady street corner.
After a trip to the local store, Joe lays his eyes upon another young woman, who not so ironically, goes by the name of ‘Love’. Alas, not is all as it appears, and the authenticity of her own sweet and innocent disposition is brought into question as the series continues, culminating in a bitter-sweet demonstration of the same murderous desires as Joe in the last episode. They are made for each other, right?
Alas, not even ‘Love’, could win the entirety of Joe’s affections, and in a turn of events, he attempts to murder her with a pair of broken cuffs. Nonetheless, Love’s abrupt news that she is expecting his unborn child, forces Joe to drop the weapon. In a dramatic closing monologue, Joe states that he is resigned to living in a cage that he has built for himself. A damned existence and a life of eternal hell, but one which he is prepared to live for his unborn daughter.
Accordingly, in desire for another fresh start, the sweet and innocent couple move from the hippy, spiritual world of Los Angeles, to the familial neighbourhood of Madre Linda – revealed swiftly to be a suburban hellscape, as the couple is thrust into the modern world of ‘mumfluencers’, tech billionaires and primadonnas. The show brings to the forefront prevalent ideas surrounding a modern surveillance culture, anti-vaxxers, a world of wellness, and the foundations of masculinity.
In a turn of circumstances, one nearly feels sympathetic for the brooding lead character. Parenting is a challenge for any and the arrival of a son leaves Joe fearful that his own violent tendencies will be inherited by his offspring.
However, it is not long before Joe fosters a new infatuation, this time with his lonesome neighbour, Natalie Engler. Alas, reiterating the words of English Poet William Congreve, hell hath no fury like Love scorned, and a morbidly impulsive retaliation from Love puts a firm end to their brewing affair. The ensuing sickness which the couple experience, unrelenting media attention and Love’s controlling mother cause the couple to drift further apart, each beginning to despise the other and the very world in which they inhabit.
Alas, the dilemma of the missing lady in Madre Linda is resolved by a neighbour’s suicide – a story of supposed trickery and anguish, one which Matthew Engler certainly does not fall for, whilst a romantic subplot between an older woman and a younger college boy further emphasises the vulnerability of Joe and Love’s relationship.
Consequently, the two ‘lovebirds’ find themselves at couples counselling, where Joe and Love are never quite able to admit their true desires and tendencies. One almost holds out hope for Joe and the redemption which he speaks of, yet Love’s very purpose seems to be to deter him from doing so, influencing him with her own, unrestrained, jealous transgressions and violence. Alas, perhaps he would have veered off course anyway?
In a not so shocking twist, Joe sets his sights upon another woman, this time an exquisite librarian. Once again, Joe becomes intertwined in a path of criminal mastery, and the audience finds themselves fearing for the safety of Marianne and all those who exist around her.
In the final episode, viewers are left in disbelief as news of a recent murder begins to permeate Madre Linda. Prior to this, a house fire ensures that Love is no longer, Joe is left missing two of his toes, and baby Henry is left on a hospitable doorstep. In an ominous closing scene, Joe walks through the streets of a picturesque Paris, a slight limp in his stride. “I will find You” he declares as he weaves his way through the busy lane. Find who, you might ask? Well, that’s a question for the next highly demanded series.
Featured Image – John-Mark Smith on Pexels