Based on a 2014’s book, written by Caroline Kepnes, “YOU” (2018 – on Lifetime) is small and pretty condensed TV show adaptation that works with quite a charm. It gives us an inside look on a stalker/creep character called Joseph or “Joe” Goldberg (Penn Bagdley), who is following a deep path of obsessive controlling behavior over women he idealizes as “perfect” only by cautiously observing them and then jumping to smart but too head over heels conclusions to justify the belief that they might be “the one”, an object of adoration to always keep happy and “safe”.
This 10 episodes well-scripted season tells the story of Joe’s newest person of interest, a beautiful but troubled aspiring writer with attention issues called Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Each hour we get more insight into how deep the intensity of his “admiration” goes, and even though the show does not take the liberties to travel through a really dark narrative, it is actually terrifying to understand that what we’re just watching is constantly happening in real life and is easily more devilish than this.
From scratch we get to know how kind of sick Joe is, we are not treated to a mystery about the character’s true nature, he is an obsessive stalker with strong impulses to know everything about his prey and own control over situations every time he can; evidently the motto of our character is to always take steps ahead of situations, the fastest you see things coming, the stronger you prevail in life. It’s stated very clearly that he is a predator with all of the wrong reasons to act on certain values he claims because at its core he doesn’t seem “that bad”, but yes, he is, plenty.
YOU works with a conscious and present narrator, Joe himself, a similar treatment like of Dexter Morgan’s in Dexter (2006), but obviously with the anxious personality of Joseph; thank god for this kind of narrative because it does the show wonders to capture viewers curiosity from the pilot, also I was thankful that it didn’t just stay there, it splits a little bit throughout the episodes by giving voice over action to our erratic and seemingly underrated Beck, the other side of the story. She is a puzzle, who does seem a bit weak and fragile because yes, she is the victim, nonetheless the character grows rapidly strong when the script start showing us how many layers her individual has, breaking the illusion fed to us by Joe’s POV about all her “flawless” features and the supreme goodness in “their love”.
The decomposition of innocence is a regular factor in the story, we can see main evidence of this thanks to the younger member of the cast –Paco-, the child of Joe’s next door neighbor who poses an interesting pole to the natural evil of Joe, and aid in the process of spreading some light over his less creepy side.
Strong fixations like what we see here are accompanied by the perverted desire that a person should stay in a certain way forever; such idealization of what an individual represents is so insane, the development of those treats are well done, we can see the constant rise and fall of each character and how a challenge for power keeps happening.
On another note, most POVs and actions of the rest of the cast are quite interesting as well; each rich brat girl (Peach, Annika, Lynn), geeky guy (Ethan) or vicious individual that pops on the screen with some kind of regulation during the episodes hands over a well-based contrast to what’s happening and the whole normalization of this kind of situations. I have to admit that during a few times it felt just a little bit like a sibling of WB and CW’s light thriller-drama shows, but only for a minute, and then it came back to the strong excelling writing.
Wanting to control another person’s life for whatever reason is deeply wrong, justifying it with love, is even worst and it’s always the start of a crime. We see this from many characters, not only the starring psycho but regulars also, you’ll see power plays in different forms and how vast is the palette of being a screwed up person by trying to shape others to your own narcissistic, selfish desires.
I don’t find this TV Show feeding us the idea that the seemingly obvious villain of the story, the star, is an ambiguously good guy even though his awful ways, no; but quite the contrary because it displays layers and examples of how an apparently “regular” person can be this exact way or similar, without actually looking like a potential criminal, murderer, rapist. Everybody is capable of this, regardless the gender, social background or else. History is obviously where the reason for this behaviors lies, but it is so individual and personal that is almost impossible (in real life) to know the absolute everything that led up to the worst result of someone breaking this bad.
I will say, this is a very catching series to watch in a week, or maybe a month, like I said at the start of this post, is a very condensed story. There are no real filling side stories or episodes that lose time without moving things forward, therefore you won’t be feeling less engaged with storytelling.
Also, the plot and how it develops gives us plenty of fuel to discuss such matters of the real-life threats that are even worse than what we just saw. Critical views about social media and sharing excessive info for everyone to see, know, and have a clear look into your life; while at the same time it points out how, the fact that what we are able to look on someone’s profile is not really the life of the people we observe, is just a side of it all, data, info, but not an identity per se.
I found some cool writing here, thanks to developers Greg Berlanti & Sera Gamble. Truly excited to see more of their work together.
Well, here you have a suggestion to check on whenever you like. Remember that YOU is an adaptation of a book, and like most interesting stories, this one will have a continuation as a second season (Hooray!) that will be adapting the next book in the series, “Hidden Bodies” by Caroline Kepnes.
PS: You will be able to catch the show on Netflix next year!