Pop Culturing: Love is Dangerous in Netflix's 'You' Season 2

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday December 26, 2019

Penn Badgley in a scene from "You."
Penn Badgley in a scene from "You."  (Source:Beth Dubber/Netflix)

The narrative about the first season of "You," a serial killer drama starring Penn Badgley ("Gossip Girl"), is a story deeply tied to today's TV industry. After debuting on Lifetime in 2018, the show failed to capture an audience but found a new home when it began streaming on Netflix. Similar phenomena have happened, most notably with "Schitt's Creek," which has gone on to become a hit thanks to a second run on the streaming platform. But unlike the beloved comedy, Netflix picked up "You" from Lifetime and its second season debuts on the service Thursday.

"You" Season 1 ended in a way that if the show didn't return, it would have been a satisfying conclusion to its story. But we live in a time where shows rarely end and are often being forced to return ("End of the F*cking World," "Big Little Lies"). Sometimes, sophomore runs work out, other times not so much. "You" Season 2 falls somewhere in between; it's a fine continuation of its story (that steps up an interesting Season 3, should it get renewed) but likely won't court any newcomers to the over-the-top drama. Without spoiling much from Season 1, the new installment of "You" follows Joe (Badgley) fleeing his home and life in New York City due to some deadly events. He's most especially trying to get away from his ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers), who is forcing her way back into Joe's life after he left her for dead during a nasty breakup before the events of Season 1. For intellectual and bookish Joe, the place anyone would least expect him to be hiding is in glitzy and vapid Los Angeles.

Victoria Pedretti, left, Penn Badgley, right, in a scene from "You." Photo credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix

With a new setting, "You," based on the novel of the same name by Caroline Kepnes and developed for TV by out producer Greg Berlanti ("Love, Simon") and Sera Gamble ("The Magicians"), can start from scratch. New town; new Joe, who vows to be a "good guy" again. Things didn't work out with his, other, ex-girlfriend, Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and Joe is determined to change his ways. No more stalking women, keeping people in glass boxes and murder. He's using a different name this time — Will — as he meets new people and gets situated in the city he despises. But bad habits are hard to break and it doesn't take long before Joe slips into his old ways, especially when he continues to run into Love Quinn ("The Haunting of Hill House" star Victoria Pedretti), a young chef who works at her parents' health/book store alongside her brother Forty (James Scully) which happens to be where Joe is now employed.

At first, Joe tries to resist and avoid Love, knowing that it won't take long before he slips into his old waves and devotes himself fully to Love. He tries to distract himself by getting involved in the lives of Delilah (Carmela Zumbado), the building manager where he's now living and an investigative reporter, and her precocious teen sister Ellie (Jenna Ortega), an aspiring filmmaker who is interning for a middle-aged comedian named Henderson (Chris D'Elia). With hints of "The Long Goodbye" and other L.A. noir, "You" Season 2 is just as addictive as its first season. With a move to the City of Angels, Joe is planted into the entertainment industry, allowing the show and its writers to have some fun. (There are name drops in almost every episode, a police officer named David Fincher, played by Danny Vasquez, and in the back half of the season, Joe is drugged and has to figure out if he killed someone while blacked out.) It's a twisted tale where Badgley plays Joe as sometimes charming and relatable, sometimes dumb and goofy, but always demented and evil. It's a tight rope walk and the driving force behind "You." We're in his and Joe talks to us, the audience, so we get to see him plan his every messed-up move.

James Scully, left, Penn Badgley, right in a scene from "You" Season 2. Photo credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix

The second season of "You" also takes some time to dig into Joe's childhood, slowly revealing why he is the way he is. It's nothing interesting until a major reveal in the final episode kicks in where the puzzle pieces come together. It's worth the wait; plus the sophomore run of "You" is built for an easy binge (10 hour-long episodes), making it a perfect acquirement for Netflix. That said, it also comes with the similar issues of a Netflix series have; there's a lot of bloat to "You" Season 2 and it doesn't justify a 10-episode run. Nevertheless, the show holds its own and has some intense moments that will keep you coming back for more.

Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled Pop Culturing. Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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