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‘You’ season 2 review: Penn Badgley delivers again in a deliciously wicked follow-up

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) and Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) in a scene from ‘You’ Season 2 on Netflix  

The final scene of season 1 of You left us in suspense as a wide-eyed Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgely) is confronted by livid ex-girlfriend Candace Stone (Amber Chylders), whom he thought he had killed off before he fell depraved head over heels for Guinevere Beck… whom he also killed. Joe then runs away to the last city in which anyone would look for him, and one he hates at first sight: Los Angeles.

Los Angeles becomes a looming character this season; the kind one is not sure whether to detest or adore. The city is unapologetic in its snobbery while being authentic in its flaws – the total opposite of Joe who ironically engages in reverse snobbery while justifying his inhumane actions. Thank goodness Joe did not end up on Sunset Boulevard; instead he nestles in hipster Downtown LA at which the centre is an ultra-hippie multi-purpose store Anavrin (yes, that is Nirvana spelled backwards).

‘You’ Season 2, Netflix
  • Starring: Penn Badgely, Ambyr Childers, Victoria Pedretti
  • Episodes: 10

With this location shift, the music becomes more New Age-y while the cinematography becomes more experimental with denser hazing and wider shots. Creators Greg Berlanti and Sara Gamble did right by choosing LA; who doesn’t love a smarmy fish – Joe – out of water?

Joe, as Angelenos would say, has ‘rebranded’ as Will Bettelheim, working in Anavrin’s book section. When he’s not filtering out books for ‘Bisexual Pescetarian Book Week’, he is skulking around LA, making sure his neighbours are not accomplices of Candace. It still befuddles me that in this show, shoving a baseball cap over your head is the human equivalent to an Invisibility Cloak.

Then we meet Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti, The Haunting Of Hill House) who is the polar opposite of Beck. While the name is totally cringey, Love is far more personable than Beck and without the irritating ingénue vibe many disliked in the former. At Will and Love’s first conversation, we cannot help but wonder if she will be the perfect foil to Joe’s depravedness.

Supported by strong cast

Taking the place of Paco, the kid in New York for whom Joe had a soft spot, is the brasher and savvy Ellie Alves (Jenna Ortega) whose older sister Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) is an investigative journalist and Joe’s landlord. The show would not be doing its thing if it did not address #MeToo; enter actor and comedian Henderson (Chris D’Elia) whose collective air-time in the entire series is probably as long as a Vine. While these secondary characters are a sight for sore eyes, they are nowhere as riveting as the previous season’s scene-stealer and icon-of-privilege Peach Sallinger (Shay Mitchell, Pretty Little Liars). Coming in close, though, are Forty (James Scully), Love’s twin brother – yes, together they are Forty Love – who struggles to stay clean, and another Will (Robin Lord Taylor, Gotham) who becomes an unusual victim of Joe’s.

Given season 1 was originally a Lifetime original which did a lot to romanticise ‘Creepy Joe’, Netflix takes the social-justice reins for season 2, without diverting the direction of the show. Season 2 gently ups the gore factor for sure, given we really take a greater deep dive into Joe’s inner-workings. This might not be for everyone but the small doses of blood and bone do amplify the danger.

Season 2 unravels at a decent and addicting pace, given the urgency of Joe’s past clawing at his heels. Adding dimension are the continual literary allusions point to Russian literature – a contrast to the hippie LA – and Joe’s continual references to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment perhaps point to the concepts of legal karma and the consequences of Joe’s crimes.

We are well aware by now that Badgley hates everything about Joe Goldberg and everything he stalks – I mean, stands – for. Interestingly, Badgely seems to have been given license here to play a little bit more with the character as he moves from one weird setting to the next. His synergy with Pedretti’s portrayal of sweetness and vulnerability encapsulates the ‘lure’ well but not to a point of irritation, as it did with Beck.

It is unsurprising that Badgely really delivered with Joe, especially through the monologues which sound more overwhelmed. The character choices invite a fair bit of audience participation in the form of eye-widening, groans or gasps. This reminds us that You is essentially about Joe’s construct, not about obsessive stalker romances which go wrong. For many, the season ends on satisfactory note, leaving strong segues for a third and possibly more mind-bending season.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 10:33:17 PM |

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