Spoilers for “You” ahead.
Up until the third season, “You” falls into the same pattern. Joe meets girl. Joe falls in love with girl. Joe becomes obsessed with girl, stalking her and maybe even going so far as to kill anyone who gets in his way. Joe sometimes even murders the girl if she doesn’t end up fitting into his unattainable fantasy of their relationship (RIP Guinevere Beck). This is not to say that these seasons weren’t enthralling (they most definitely were) — it’s that Season 3 takes things in an entirely new direction, revealing what would happen if Joe did get his happily ever after.
(For those who need a quick refresher on everything that has happened on “You” up to Season 3, stars Penn Badgley and Victoria Pedretti recap it all here.)
“Sometimes a man gets exactly what he wishes for and that can be the most perfect punishment of them all,” says Joe Goldberg (Badgley) in the second season’s finale, effectively setting audiences up for what was to come in the third season. He’s now living in Madre Linda, a “soulless suburb” with his wife Love Quinn (Pedretti) and their newborn, Henry.
The honeymoon phase is most definitely over, as Joe already feels trapped in his marriage to Love, appalled by the fact that she’s a murderer too and not the idealized “perfectly imperfect” girl he dreamed her up to be. He finds himself restarting his quest to find “The One,” certain that this time it’s his next-door neighbor Natalie (Michaela McManus). Soon after, he’s fallen back into his old habits — stalking her, stealing her things and daydreaming about how much happier he would be with her. However, it’s not long after until Love — acutely aware of Joe’s behaviors when he has an obsession — finds his secret stash of Natalie’s things and buries an axe in her chest.
“I think we need to go to couples therapy,” she says shakily on the phone to Joe as she stands over Natalie’s dead body. And that’s right where Episode 2 picks up.
These therapy scenes are some of the show’s finest. As a clearly tense Joe and Love sit across from Dr. Chandra (Ayelet Zurer), they recount what brought them there, conveniently leaving out the fact that it involves a homicide. Instead, they describe Love’s reaction to Joe nearly cheating as breaking a vase.
“Priceless,” he describes, referencing the value of Natalie’s life.
“Cheap and tacky,” Love retorts, speaking her own feelings about the woman she killed.
As the therapy scene cuts back and forth between their fictionalized version of events and the grim reality of what actually went down, viewers catch a better glimpse into the Quinn-Goldbergs’ rocky relationship dynamics, a major part of what makes Season 3 so intriguing.
In theory, their shared dark desires should make Joe and Love work well together. A perfect match made in hell. But in actuality, they’re still very different, with the impulsive Love acting more as a foil to the calculated Joe. While Love’s at-times reckless actions get the couple into trouble more than a few times throughout the season, Joe’s not blameless either, straying from his own marriage and gaslighting Love when she suspects so.
A scene of them fighting in the rain as they attempt to bury Natalie’s body encapsulates the exact problems with their relationship and how things have become much more complicated now that they both seem to only know how to solve their problems with murder.
“But now, I will be burying bodies until I’m 70 years old!” yells Joe. “Because if I’m not 100% percent into you all of the time, you will keep killing people!”
“If I’m not enough for you, you’ll kill me,” Love screams back.
Some people online have compared it to the iconic “It’s Not Over” scene from “The Notebook” if, you know, Noah and Allie were serial killers. However, there is no kiss in the rain, just a cut back to Dr. Chandra’s office, where she coaxes them into sharing their fears within their marriage, allowing the two to understand each other better. She then leaves them with a final word of advice to act as teammates instead of opponents and they take it seriously. (If only Dr. Chandra knew who they really were, then she’d see how dangerous this advice could be.)
They come home promising one another that while they would certainly kill for each other and Henry, they don’t want anything like that to ever happen again. They just need a way to ensure it won’t.
It’s not long after that the infamous, basically impenetrable glass box from the previous two seasons makes a return, placed in the basement of Love’s new bakery and hidden in plain sight as it is stocked with her baking supplies. Joe states that it’s just there to buy them time if something happens, not to house any corpses (don’t hold your breath — at this point there are still eight episodes left in the season and anything could happen).
While the couples therapy seems to have been helpful for both of them, it’s clear that they don’t fully trust each other, sneakily hiding their own spare keys inside the glass box in case one of them decides to entrap the other. And maybe it’s with good reason because they start arguing again soon after, only able to keep things together for so long before they both fall back into their old patterns.
When asked by Decider if their characters preferred fighting or working as a team, Badgley and Pedretti both answered fighting.
“They’re either lying to each other or they’re lying to themselves when they’re working, unfortunately, and when they’re fighting is when they’re the most honest,” Badgley said, further explaining the reason for his response.
On top of this, the pair struggles with problems beyond just each other. Joe’s still a fish out of water in Madre Linda, unable to vibe with the tech bros and mommy bloggers. Thanks to her roots in Los Angeles, Love fares a bit better but she also sees right through the façade put up by many of the people who try to befriend her, specifically Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant), momfluencer extraordinaire. They keep reminding themselves that they moved here to get away from their pasts and give Henry a better childhood than the tumultuous ones they had (after all, you move to Madre Linda for the schools), but that doesn’t exactly make things any easier.
Henry serves as motivation for both Joe and Love to be better people. In fact, Joe even swears that Henry’s changed him and he’s not a killer anymore (once again, don’t hold your breath). However, it becomes harder and harder to believe this as the baby often accompanies his parents to the scenes of their crimes, his presence felt as his carrier is placed just feet away from mommy and daddy’s victims. Joe and Love can make all of the promises they want to their son but their growing body count throughout Season 3 proves otherwise.
The only shortcoming of the third season can be found in its decision to briefly address the COVID-19 pandemic in just a couple of lines of dialogue while also doing absolutely nothing to show that a pandemic has happened. There are scenes in hospitals where characters roam around sans mask. “You” would have been better off not bringing up the coronavirus at all, as it doesn’t have a single effect on the main plot or any of the subplots. If anything, “You” makes its most effective commentary on the times in its “anti-vaxxer” storyline, which shows the ramifications of not getting one’s vaccinations. These consequences prove to be quite deadly, as they directly affect the Quinn-Goldberg family and ultimately the story as a whole.
At its core, “You” is so easily binge-able. You’ll often find yourself pressing the “Next Episode” button before Netflix can even finish loading it for you. It demands to be put on in one sitting, the salacious plot engrossing viewers with its many twists and turns. In fact, the show’s already been renewed for a fourth season, proving that no matter how wicked Joe Goldberg is, viewers still want to see what he does next.
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