Home » Herald Reviews: You (Series 1&2)

Herald Reviews: You (Series 1&2)

American TV confuses me no-end. Not because it has overly-complicated stories or characters.

It confuses me because most of the TV shows that are crafted in America look, sound and feel great but a lot of shows have massive seasons.

Friends, CSI, X-Files and so many more have these immense 26 episode series that seem to be crammed with more filler than killer.

Using The Walking Dead as an example, it often felt that 16 episodes were genuinely too much for the story they wanted to tell, so you’d be forced to consume below par episodes as a way of them getting a decent sized series when, being honest, ten episodes would be enough.

It means that, even if a series/season has a great story to tell, it’s been held back by episodes that feel a tad soap-y. 

Soapy elements, whilst being fun, are often disposable storylines (like fake deaths under bins) that are forgotten in the next episode or hastily covered up by a better twist shortly after.

When I sat down to watch the Netflix original series: You. I was suitably intrigued, telling the story of Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager, who meets Guinevere Beck, an aspiring writer, and becomes immediately infatuated with her.

To feed his obsession, he soon turns to social media and technology to track her presence and remove any possible obstacles that stand in the way of their romance.

At ony ten episodes long, the space for those soap-esque elements was narrow but somehow they managed to slot some in. 

Joe, played by a suitably creepy/charismatic Penn Badgley, is beyond obsessed with Beck. He follows her, sneaks around her apartment, steals her phone so he can read her messages and is, all things considered, a pretty nasty piece of work.

But the writing of You keeps you on his side, he seems to be the best choice for Beck even though he’s a bit of a controlling, manipulative, liar with a murky past.

It sucks you in and you find yourself excusing his latest horrendous invasion of privacy because he’s just trying to get the girl.

Towards the end of series 1 a few more soap-y elements are put in but You does it differently.

Joe’s voiceover is a constant throughout the series and is always aimed as if Joe is talking to Beck and explaining his actions, so when a soap-y storyline gets dropped in, no-one is more annoyed with it than the main character who must keep his smile in place and find a quick way to use the latest twist to further his own nefarious game to win and keep Beck’s heart.

Beck (Elizabeth Lail) isn’t your stereotypical leading lady either, she has a story arc that see’s her go from having numerous casual relationships to standing up to her lecherous college professor who can “help her get her grades up”.

You is totally unafraid to deal with sexual relationships, domestic abuse, drug abuse and bloody murder, so not family viewing but definitely worth a watch, I wasn’t expecting to like this show anywhere near as much as I did and the quality is kept up by a strong second series that builds on the first, especially with the addition of the character Love, but adds one hell of an ending too.

Yes, Joe is intensely violent and the premise of a lone white male picking off women is intensely questionable, especially because of the sheer amount of gaslighting that Joe does in order to “lure in” his female prey, the show is saved by two things, the performance of Penn Badgley as Joe and the writing which somehow keeps you rooting for a lying, murderous psychopath.

The second series takes steps to address this but only by the finale of its ten-episode run.

To have a show this self-aware without crossing into parody and, to be frank, ludicrous without crossing into the unbelievable, is testament to a talented pool of writers crafting a great ten episode series that keeps you guessing all the way through and I found myself liking and even agreeing with a character who really is a villain, those subtle twists really make this show stand out.

Our review of series/season 3 is coming soon, we’ve just got to finish watching it first.