Friday, 26 April 2019

Why You gets under our skin – series one review

 **imported content from the old website**

The adaptation of Caroline Kepnes’ 2014 novel, Netflix thriller YOU has it all – beautiful people, hyper-modern drama and every character inhabiting some sort of grey area. The show’s first season has won praise – but what is it about the series that makes it so addicting? And how much of this praise is really deserved?

Spoilers will be kept to a minimum here, but read on at your discretion.

Plot


Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley from “GOSSIP GIRL”) is a young, hot bookstore manager, who one day meets a young, hot wannabe writer – Guinevere Beck, aka just ‘Beck’ – (Elizabeth Lail) who wanders into his store. He is instantly attracted to her; we hear his oily thoughts as he notices her clothes, her hair, her lack of a bra; of course, she is doing it all for attention. When she hands him her credit card for payment, it is obviously because she wants him to know her name. From the first moment, we are inside Joe’s head, stuck in there through the series as we follow his increasingly extreme actions towards starting a relationship with Beck. On at least one occasion, we manage to escape from his mind and jump into Beck’s narration for a little while, but otherwise we are always privy to what Joe is thinking. This is very important to the series as a whole.


Joe stalks and manipulates Beck, slowly but surely taking control of her life and driving her into his arms. But it’s not as simple as Joe would like – and things threaten to crumble around him.

Thoughts


“You”, like its lead, Joe, has many faces. At first glance, the show is about a creepy stalker who uses social media and violence to control the woman he is infatuated with – and it is that – but since we are riding along in Joe’s head, we are compelled to see events from his perspective. We are inclined to be sympathetic to Joe, to understand him as he ‘justifies’ his every action. Joe may not be the ‘good guy’, but he is still our protagonist. The way this is handled reminds me very much of “DEXTER” – his narration has that same polished, calm cadence that makes you believe in him, and yet the things he does make you want to scramble out of his headspace as fast as you can. It’s a cognitive dissonance that the show encourages, to its credit.


Beck, the object of Joe’s obsession, is also presented as being in conflict with herself. Like Joe is both good and bad, Beck is presented as both ‘virgin’ and ‘whore’; Joe covets her like a precious flower that needs to be cared for and protected, but Beck also frequently cheats on and lies to the ones she loves; she is no angel herself. Beck cannot be a perfect damsel who we root for 100%, much like Joe cannot be framed as entirely villainous, because the show wants to have its cake and eat it too – the cognitive dissonance goes both ways: we love and hate Joe, and love and hate Beck (even though she is inarguably the victim here).

When watching this, we are in Joe’s head, but we also are him – as we are Beck. Each of the two leads represents different segments of the audience, or the same people at different stages in their lives. We are forced to relate to one or both of them at every turn.

Some see themselves in Beck – the struggling writer, the one who’s smarter than her peers and desirable to all because she’s ‘not like other girls’. We both long for and fear Joe; in many ways, he is the perfect boyfriend; he will do anything for you – make breakfast, listen to you, comfort you…kill for you.



Others see themselves in Joe – the ‘good’ guy, the ‘put-upon’ guy, the man who swoops in to save the broken girl, only to be stepped on time and time again. We keep fighting for love but love keeps kicking us down. I read one of the Google reviews for this show where the guy literally said his main takeaway from this was to not fall for girls like Beck anymore – even though she is the one who is being stalked and controlled. It goes to show how the series manages to have such a wide appeal – because it crawls under the skin in different ways for different people. Whether the effect it has is ‘good’ or not, it doesn’t matter; every person who watches the show will take something unique away from it.

Although I have a lot to say about the series, I certainly have my problems with it too. I won’t dive in too deep at this point, but characters are often overly frustrating when they do not have to be, and we come to a point where almost everyone is entirely unlikeable. Beyond that, the narration can be a little much at times and choices made by certain characters feel unrealistic and obnoxious. It’s a shame, because these factors (plus a rushed ending) hurt what would otherwise be an excellent stalker-meets-girl story.

Closing Analysis


“You” is a modern thriller that is often frustrating, and yet frequently engaging. Ultimately, I find the implications more thought-provoking than the show itself, but it’s still a good, creepy watch. With only ten episodes so far, it’s a quick one too if you want to start binging and catch up.

Cheers and cheerio!

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