Arts and Entertainment

Old Habits Die Hard In the Newest Season of “You”

The third season of Netflix’s psychological thriller “You” is full of twists and turns and explores interesting dynamics.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cover Image
By Julia Shen

Oh? What do we have here? Based on your clothing… a student? Your shirt is untucked, and you’re holding a cup of iced coffee from the cart on Chambers Street, your eyes drooping. You stayed up late last night to do homework, and maybe you even have a test next period. But, you’re still making time to read the newspaper. You’re in the Arts & Entertainment section, so you’ve got taste. You like to be informed and keep up with current trends. You’re lazily sifting through the paper, a bored expression on your face, practically begging me to help. Okay, I’ll bite. What made you stop on this article? Did you want me to notice you? Are you playing coy now?

This is how Netflix’s psychological thriller “You” starts off most episodes: with an uncomfortably long monologue. Recently, the show’s third season has dominated the Netflix charts, even overtaking Netflix’s widely popular “Squid Game” (2021). “You” follows Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), a sociopath masquerading as a bookstore employee who finds himself in a never-ending loop of obsessive relationships that end horribly. However, Joe finally meets his match in his coworker, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), who is equally as psychotic and obsessive as he is. As the couple struggles to maintain a semblance of suburban bliss, Joe and Love’s murderous tendencies complicate their desire for normalcy.

This difficulty to assimilate is a crucial storyline that makes the plot of the show’s third season stand out. Previous seasons of the show followed a similar structure: Joe meets a girl, falls in love, and then murders her once she discovers his obsessive tendencies. However, in season three, the show follows Joe and Love’s dysfunctional marriage and their attempt to assimilate to a suburban community with their newborn son despite their sinister habits. This central storyline enables tense moments and high suspense, leaving watchers wondering who their next victim will be or if the two will ever get caught. Since it is clear that their marriage will not survive, Joe and Love’s broken relationship brings an undercurrent of unease to the whole season. This is emphasized when both Love and Joe both engage in extramarital affairs, fueling the sense of impending doom for the couple. The formation of the story, in particular, is in contrast with previous seasons: the plot simmers, building up the tension until the climax, where it explodes with twist after twist, rendering the ending unforeseeable, unlike the relative predictability of seasons one and two.

The unpredictability of “You” is largely a product of its characters. Throughout season three, the audience is introduced to new sides of Joe and Love as they try to change for the sake of their child. Joe makes a real effort to stop killing people and stay loyal to his wife, while Love remains a ticking time bomb. Her high-strung tendencies force Joe to clean up her messes, putting a strain on their marriage. The juxtaposition of the two is ultimately what makes their dynamic so interesting, begging the question of if they can resolve their irreconcilable differences. In addition to building its existing characters, the season introduces new ones—many of whom end up being victims of Joe and Love. An especially notable character is Marienne (Tati Gabrielle), a librarian whom Joe becomes fixated on. Marienne’s sharp wit brings a breath of fresh air to a show where everybody else seems to be so serious and somber. Madre Linda’s power couple Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant) and Cary Conrad (Travis Van Winkle) seem vapid and shallow at first, but they prove to be a solid unit, providing comic relief and serving as a foil to Joe and Love’s failing relationship.

However, it is the actors that bring the third season to its full potential. Both Badgley and Pedretti have mastered the “crazy eyes,” which is an important part of selling the roles that they each play. Their performances are convincing, even disconcerting, and bring the script to life. Badgley especially embodies the dichotomy that is central to his character; he masterfully depicts a charming, harmless protagonist who—despite his sociopathic tendencies—has the audience rooting for him.

Hand in hand with the phenomenal acting, “You”’s writers paint a convincing picture, striking gold with Joe’s inner monologue, whose utter lack of self-awareness and far-fetched inferences bring a distinct unease to the show. Nonetheless, there remains a lack of imagination when it comes to the convenient and unrealistic ways that Joe and Love get out of some compromising situations. Notably, when Joe was interrogated based on suspicions of murdering a neighbor, he says something awkwardly honest and is let off scot-free. Despite their recklessness when murdering or disposing of evidence, Joe and Love always manage to get lucky and walk away without anyone the wiser.

The third season of “You” is certainly a hit, exploring interesting dynamics as well as new plotlines and characters being introduced. Joe and Love’s hot and cold relationship in tandem with their futile attempts to become better people highlight their complexity while making for an enthralling—and at times, comedic—10 episodes. Given the show’s culmination in a final cliffhanger and renewal for a fourth season, there is no doubt that “You” will continue to deliver and grow more popular while upping its ante. “The end of our story remains unwritten,” Joe remarks in the ending monologue. But I’ll wait… until our paths cross once again.