[Series Review] YOU: Season 2

I’ll be honest, the first time I watched YOU, sometime last year while sick, I was not a champion of it. I was disturbed by the obsession that people had with the main character, Joe, especially considering he’s an abusive psychopath; however, I eventually understood why people loved the show the further into the series I got: it’s addictive as fuck. All that said, I, along with most people I know, were waiting with bated breath for the new season and guess what? You don’t have long to wait as Season 2 is just around the corner – December 26th to be exact.

To best describe the plot of Season 2, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: “When we last saw Joe (Penn Badgley) his heart was tragically broken and his past just caught up with him in the form of long-lost ex-girlfriend Candance (Ambyr Childers) – a woman now hell-bent on teaching him a lesson. Season two finds Joe on the run from Candance – leaving New York City for his own personal hell: Los Angeles. He’s fresh out of an intense relationship that ended in murder. The last thing he expects is to meet an incredible new woman but he’s falling in love again – with a woman named Love (Victoria Pedretti). Is history repeating? Or will this time be the real thing? Joe’s just crazy enough to risk finding out.” Along with Badgley, Pedretti and Childers, this season also introduces us to characters played by James Scully, Carmela Zumbado, Jenna Ortega, and Chris D’Elia.

I think it’s safe to say, especially after this season, that I have a love/hate relationship with Joe Goldberg…er…well now his name is Will Bettelheim. Because when you’ve murdered people and you decide to start over, of course, you have to change your name. Penn Badgley once again does a terrific job portraying an unassuming gent that sometimes you forget that, oh yeah, he’s an abusive killer. That said, Will (which is what I’ll be referring to Joe as for the rest of the review) has run away from his own demon, a demon which takes the form of his non-murdered ex-girlfriend Candace. However, what Joe comes to find out rather quickly, is that his past, and Candance, aren’t that far behind him.

Penn Badgley in YOU | Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/Netflix

I’m glad that this season gives us some more backstory about Candance – especially in regards to the last time she saw her ex-boyfriend. More importantly, it shows us why Candance has decided to go after him on her own instead of with the police. Ambyr Childers does a superb job in her role as Candance – giving us a performance that not only shows her determination and vindictiveness in crushing everything that her abusive ex has now come to love but by also showing those quiet moments of vulnerability and fear towards what Will has done to her in the past and what he could do to her now.

When Joe arrives in Los Angeles, he is able to pick up a job as a bookseller for a hipster-style new-age grocery store titled Anavrin (which is Nirvana backwards – eye roll please). It’s there that he meets Love Quinn, a chef who is also the daughter of the wealthy owners of Anavrin. Played by Victoria Pedretti (who’s career has already begun to skyrocket since The Haunting of Hill House), Love is the main reason why I would re-watch this season again. The reason is because of all the small nuances I’m sure I missed the first go-around. She, also, has her own tragedy to contend with having lost her husband and still trying to deal with the grief of that. However, she has learned that you only live life once, and upon meeting Will, takes matters into her own hands. Though Will initially resists, due to his fear of hurting her (in more ways than one), he gives in to her after realizing that she may be the best thing to have ever happened to him. For once, Will believes he has truly fallen in love.

However, loving Love comes at a price. Her incredibly problematic twin brother Forty Quinn (James Scully) is a failed filmmaker/screenwriter, who is now the “manager” of Anavrin and has a bit of a penchant for drugs, alcohol, rehab, and his family’s money. However, throughout the course of the season, I found that I was really drawn to Forty. Sure, he’s not the brightest bulb out there but he’s his own tragedy which makes it hard not to sympathize with him at times. Plus we find out how fucked up his childhood was which has an even greater effect on the person he has become. He immediately forms an attachment with Will, who he mainly refers to as Old Sport, forming a friendship that would be more one-sided and beneficial towards Forty – though there are moments of genuine care that he does exhibit towards others, they are just few and far between.

Carmela Zumbado, Jenna Ortega in YOU | Photo Credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix

Lastly, we are introduced to Delilah (Carmela Zumbado), a tabloid journalist, and Will’s landlord, who is trying to break into the big leagues with a controversial story on a comedian named Henderson (Chris D’Elia). We also meet her younger sister Ellie (Jenna Ortega), a rambunctious teenager who is hell-bent on becoming a filmmaker and who begins to intern for Henderson, against Delilah’s wishes. I love both of these characters so much because they bring a lot of fiery dialogue and attitude to the show that I felt was something that was needed more in Season One (with the exception of Shay Mitchell who absolutely KILLED it the first season). Delilah, in particular, was another complex beast who hid behind a facade of toughness even though on the inside she is broken. Her relationship with Will is one of intense defiance and independence which is something that works both for and against her.

In terms of the story, I liked the majority of what was unfolding especially because it showed how each character’s separate life ended up interacting with Will’s. That said, I did have some issues with the #MeToo arc that was woven into this season. I know it’s important to stay relative to current events, but maybe not use a serious movement that gave millions of women/men hope to speak out, and free themselves, from abuse into a story that romanticizes abusive behavior. I think because of this, I wasn’t as into the season as I could have been because I felt like it was used as a gimmick. At the time, this resulted in me ultimately feeling conflicted in my overall thoughts towards the show and even as I write this, I’m still not sure if I really loved or hated it.

All that said, I wouldn’t necessarily dissuade you from watching YOU: Season 2. It’s still just as addictive as the first season, I just feel really bothered with the #MeToo angle and wonder if there was any sincerity from the writers when they decided to add that to the narrative. What I do know, is that Season 2 is incredibly binge-worthy and will keep you on the edge of your seat during your Christmas vacation, especially when all the scandalous secrets come spilling out. YOU launches on Netflix December 26th.

Shannon McGrew
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