Despite having an objectively terrible name, “You” has been one of Netflix’s great narrative hits, driven by the strengths and weaknesses of its main character, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), whose natural skill for stalking, killing and forgery combined with his terrible judgement of character in himself and others arguably makes him his own worst enemy.
If you need a refresher, there is a short montage at the beginning of this season recapping seasons 1+2. Long story short, Joe has a bad habit of stalking women he likes and accidentally killing those that get in his way, and those he falls in love with have a bad habit of ending up dead. Joe, who is a skilled librarian and repairer of books, tries to do good, but is haunted by a troubled past and is prone to violent outbursts when he feels like he is cornered. Season 2 ended with him marrying Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), a multiple murderer like Joe whose wealthy family tied up all the loose ends in that season, and they’ve since moved to the suburbs, with Love giving birth to their son, Henry.
But not all is well in suburbia, as the couple grows restless in the fictional California town of Madre Linda, which is billed as the safest place in the state. Without having to provide for themselves (though Joe gets a job at a local library to pass the time), they quickly learn that a marriage between two serial killers in a place where murders rarely happens is not the happily ever after they hoped. Killing aside, they also find out exactly how shaky the foundations of their marriage is, as Love and Joe didn’t really know each other for all that long before getting married — in fact he only reason he didn’t kill her last season was because she was carrying his child.
We meet a lively cast of characters at Madre Linda. There’s the neighbors, Matthew Engler (Scott Speedman), CEO of a huge tech firm, his unfaithful wife, Natalie (Michaela McManus), and his college-aged son, Theo (Dylan Arnold). Madre Linda’s social scene is run by “momfluencer” Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant), who is married to health and outdoors guru, Cary (Travis Van Winkle). Joe’s boss at the library is single mom and divorcee Marienne Bellamy (Tati Gabrielle) and his blind and good-natured co-worker, Dante Ferguson (Ben Mehl), who I personally think is one of the best characters of this season.
The season gets rolling when Natalie comes onto Joe, which prompts Love to kill her, despite the fact that Joe turned down her advances. This leads to a twisting cat-and-mouse game as Joe and Love’s marriage undergoes enormous stress, as both suspect the other of being unfaithful and unhappy. Without spoiling too much, they come up with a plan to cover up Natalie’s death, but it’s not enough to evade the scrutiny of Matthew Engler, who cares little for digital privacy protection, and the death shakes up the whole town, as it garners a disproportionately amount of media coverage (Episode 3 is literally titled “Missing White Woman Syndrome”). This all kicks off a series of unfortunate events arguably more wild, engaging, and insane than last season’s.
Badgley still has not lost his luster as our leading man — he seems like he was born to play Joe Goldberg, with his inner monologues being key to the show’s success. Pedretti also serves as an excellent leading woman, complimenting and oftentimes serving as a foil to Badgley’s cold and calculating performance, as Love — just like the emotion — is oftentimes unpredictable and disarming.
Like Seasons 1 and 2, Season 3’s success is also reliant off of excellent script and character writing, as well as great performances from its supporting cast all around. While “You” Season 3 does have its fair share of flat characters, almost everyone is given believable motivations, goals and vices that naturally create interesting narrative threads, which makes the show unpredictable and therefore addicting to watch. If you’ve gotten this far into this show, you know the drill by now: Prepare to binge Season 3 over the course of a few days.
Perhaps what is most impressive about this show is how it’s able to completely abandon its establish setting each season — leaving behind all of the supporting cast associated with those locations, and much of the main cast — and completely rebuild each season, as Joe attempts to restart his life. Already though, Joe enters Season 3 on his third fresh start — it makes one wonders if he is capable of breaking his cycle and if not, how long can he continue running away and resetting?
“You” Season 3 is an excellent narrative-centric season of television that you won’t be able to look away from if you’ve gotten this far into the show. But I do think that the already-announced Season 4 should finally wrap things up — any more and I think it’ll be in danger of overstaying its welcome.
“You” Season 3 gets a 9/10