We’re watching YOU, and loving it. The ominous, all–caps, three–letter word is the perfect title for this juicy ten–episode Lifetime original series, based on a book of the same name by Caroline Kepnes. Since its release on Netflix just three weeks ago, YOU has developed a considerably large following and has both critics and fans itching for a second season.
Watching (or should I say, binging) this show is comparable to being lactose intolerant and choosing to indulge in a double cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake. Delicious, decadent, and exciting to consume in the moment, it doesn’t take long to realize that what you just inhaled actually makes you feel kind of shitty. But who are we kidding? It won’t stop you from going back for more. YOU finds the perfect balance between the psychological horror and thrill of American Psycho and the modern, trendy, plot–driven worlds of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars to create your next favorite guilty pleasure series.
YOU is told from the point of view of New York City native and indie bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley (previously Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey/Lonely Boy). The series follows Joe as he meets and almost instantly falls in love with a beautiful, albeit somewhat unstable, aspiring writer and MFA student named Guinevere Beck, portrayed by Elizabeth Lail. Joe’s love for Beck quickly morphs into an unhealthy obsession as he’s convinced that Beck is the one and that she wants him to save her from her own unhappy life of unfulfilled dreams, entitled friends—especially her old college chum, Peach, played by PLL’s Shay Mitchell—and douchey boyfriends. He utilizes the wonders of technology and social media to stalk Beck and eventually weasels his way into her life and heart, no matter what the cost (yes, this definitely should be read into)..
The objective of YOU is made more and more evident as the season progresses and Joe consistently justifies his increasingly possessive, dangerous behavior by claiming it is all in the name of his love for Beck. There is such a thing as being lovesick, but stalking, conniving, and manipulating to maintain a relationship is no love at all—it’s just sick. Enabled by the vast amount of free knowledge of Beck and her loved ones available on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, Joe’s easy navigation and abuse of the internet throughout the show also warns viewers to be cautious and to protect their privacy.
YOU aims to convey multiple dimensions of each character, but does so especially well with Badgley’s character, Joe. Joe is depicted as a twisted, calculated predator confusing control with love. But there are times where Joe’s kind, human, altruistic side shines. For instance, throughout the show, he consistently feeds, provides for, and even mentors his young neighbor, Paco, through a turbulent home life. He protects Paco from his abusive, alcoholic step–father and nurses Paco’s drug–addicted mother back to health after a near–overdose. The constant back–and–forth of good and bad seen in Joe, along with Badgley's convincing portrayal of the character, makes for an interesting, multi–faceted representation of a realistic villain.
YOU boasts a convincing and relatable millennial world, many attractive actors, and the presence of psychological turmoil and imminent danger. What more is there to ask for in a Lifetime original show? Answer: nothing. So yes, watch YOU. Don’t expect any insightful rhetoric or inspiring plot points. Enjoy YOU for what it is—pure, unadulterated, binge–worthy trash.