Film & TV

Review: You (Netflix)

Credits: IMDb

By Niladri Singh

The hit series You was adapted from the novel of the same name, written by Caroline Keepers and published in September 2014. The show, which initially aired on Lifetime, was passed on to Netflix and has performed wonderfully, keeping audiences engaged with the tale of a murderous protagonist, as he moves from one city to another, discovering (not so) new ways to solve his problems because he is always met with more trouble than he planned or wished for.  

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), the reserved and thoughtful, sweet-smiling, literature loving, psychopath, with (if I may) a Bundy-esque charm about himself is the central character around which the show revolves. Like a psychopath on a trip, the show takes you on a ride and all through the mind-numbing tribulations he faces, racking up bodies, churning and chopping them as he goes.  

Two things are constant in the show, Joe and where does he come from, where does he go – the glass cage. Having been renewed for a fourth season, let’s discuss what it is that keeps us coming back to You. Do we empathise? Do we sympathize or do we just fantasize? 

People who generally like crime documentaries and associated genres are more likely to enjoy the show. The show follows the model of the stream of consciousness, here, the consciousness of a murderous psychopath. We have access to the thoughts in his mind as they occur, a sense of his worldview, an understanding of his purpose, his past, his present, and even as we condemn the unspeakable things he does, we can’t wait to see how far he goes and how far he gets. It isn’t empathy, and after the real-life crime documentaries I’ve watched I know it isn’t sympathy. If anything, it is seeing how and if he will survive the next unquenchable urge he has for violence and for love, which to this man is one and the same. 

In the show that started in New York, moved on to Los Angeles, and then took us to the tidy and safe suburbs of San Francisco, Joe Goldberg must keep moving and his penchant for murder acts as catalyst. In the third season, we get to see a more careful version of him, a father, a husband, a man capable of change, and a team player, but as we have established, he isn’t any of those things. I reckon it must be fantastic to find a partner who has the same nasty and evil urges as oneself. Joe found Love (yeah right). Where did that end up?  

The voices in his head won’t stop him from killing and the more people he kills, the faster he will have to run, the larger the target on his back. The end of the third season also saw multiple survivors. Will Joe ever get caught? How fast can one run from the past?  How will he get away? Is he capable of change? Will he make a mistake? Good thing, season 4 was announced by Netflix even before the premiere of the third. Let’s see where the journey takes us next!