A TV show about a habitual stalker is gripping in premise, but there’s only so many times you can watch the same old story play out before things get boring. That’s something the creators of Netflix’s You fortunately realised by the end of season two, giving our obsessive protagonist Joe Goldberg (played by Penn Badgley) a new lease of life.
Last time we saw Joe, he was ready to kill his latest fixation, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), who he’d recently found out also has a murderous streak – until she confessed to him that she was pregnant. “Nothing is more important than this,” he told her and the couple left behind their blood-spattered corner of LA for a peaceful suburb of San Francisco, ready to start anew.
You season three catches up with the pair in that quiet neighbourhood of Madre Linda, getting to grips with parenthood. Their son, Henry, is healthy and happy, and none of the neighbours have a clue about their dark pasts. Sure, the town might be full of fake influencers and rich douchebags with no sense of self-awareness, but at least there are no bodies waiting to be found. What could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, it turns out old habits die hard, no matter how much you try to be a good person (or parent). Joe and Love both battle their toxic sides via couples therapy – where they talk about their crimes behind passive-aggressive domestic façades – and with the beacon of hope that is their baby constantly hovering over them. Becoming a dad has changed Joe, at least a little. Where he wouldn’t have given a second thought to some of his gory antics in the past, now he frets over them.
When a slip-up inevitably happens, it first threatens the couple’s marriage before ultimately bringing them closer together. They vow that that was the last time – no one else will be hurt by their hands again. The only question is: can they stick to their promise?
You’s third season finds clever ways to keep us caring about Joe and Quinn, despite their obvious issues, and willing them to become their best selves. It’s a show that refuses to get stuck in a rut and even manages to slip some subtle, very relevant political messages into its subplots. There’s a fair amount of social commentary – about anti-vaxxers and the disproportionate attention that gets paid by the media when white women disappear – woven into the dialogue, none of it feeling heavy-handed.
With season four already confirmed by Netflix ahead of these new episodes’ premiering, it’s clear we’re not done with the Quinn-Goldbergs and their obsessive, impulsive tendencies yet. How You’s writers will keep things fresh in the future remains to be seen but, for now, they’ve managed to create an exhilarating third season of a show that, in other hands, would be a predictable slog.
‘You’ season three is streaming now on Netflix