It is not surprising that the Netflix series You went entirely under my radar for a while. Produced by the makers of Riverdale, with actors from Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars it seemed to be another teen drama that I wouldn’t be attracted to watching. I had my doubts – the trailer did not engage me at all – it was only by the force of a very persistent friend that I finally bit the bullet and gave the first episode a try – and then the second – and the third. Ten episodes down and now I am a hardcore fan.
Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is a New York City bookstore manager who meets an attractive customer while at work named Guinevere Beck a.k.a. Beck (Elizabeth Lail) who is a student and aspiring writer. This encounter quickly leads to Joe falling madly in love and developing an obsession with Beck. With the assistance of social media, Joe can feed his infatuation for Beck, and he soon learns where she lives, what her daily schedule looks like and much more. It was easy to see that Joe was willing to do anything for the girl of his dreams – and that nice guy Joe may not be so nice after all.
Joe stalks Beck with ease due to her openness on the internet. I felt that there was a not-so-subtle undertone of highlighting the dangers of social media and online security. Of course, this is a relevant topic in today’s society, but at some points though, the educational aspects came across a little strong – it gave me the feeling I was being warned by my parents about stranger danger while shaking their index finger at me. However, online safety wasn’t the only life lesson the show had to offer. The series dived into many other topics, especially those of a psychological and philosophical nature – which had me drooling at the mouth.
Much of the series centres around Joe as protagonist, and the use of internal dialogue, which can so easily fail in TV shows, works terrifically in this series. By getting to hear Joe’s thoughts, I could get inside his mind and witness his reasoning and motivations. It was clear that Joe believed that his actions were for a good cause, to save people, to help people – even when those actions were morally questionable and even downright wrong. This unique way of storytelling transported me into Joe’s world so smoothly, and it became harder and harder not to sympathise with him, despite the fact he is a complete sociopath.
While is it is exciting to be inside Joe’s mind, there was one episode where the perspective switches from Joe to Beck and we get to experience Beck’s inner thoughts. She gets a chance to share her side of the story. What was so fascinating about this switch is that I could see that the characters think they understand each other, but they are both so wrong – which made me realise that even if I think I know someone, I will never be able to understand them fully.
The show did let itself down a little concerning realism. Beck, of course, has big windows with no curtains, no passwords on her phone or laptop, and somehow Joe seems to go around completely unnoticed by Beck, even when he is right next to her, by simply wearing a baseball cap and looking down. A few of these moments really call for a cry “that would never happen in real life!” at the screen.
Unrealistic scenes to build drama aside, this 10-episode series had the ability to jump from one genre to another magnificently. It lures you into looking at a scene from a trashy romantic angle and then switches, almost instantly, to be a dark thriller – and then back to romantic, just for kicks. These jumps were done excellently throughout the series, and I believe they are there purposefully to highlight how one event can be seen in many different lights – what you may have seen as harmless, could have more sinister aspects.
The different point of view that the show conveyed so well made me see that we all look at the world through a unique lens – we come with our filtering system that is built up over our lifetimes. What is true for one person, may not be true for others. A good act with good intentions, may not be seen that way by others. In this case, from Joe’s point of view, stalking a girl isn’t a bad thing, but done out of concern for her safety. Of course, the other side is that stalking is not an act of love, but one of possession and control. It is the perspective-taking nature of this series that shines.
This ‘glossy’ drama has characters who I thought would be flat, but transformed into well-rounded, intriguing personalities. The plot itself brought the shocks with every episode, which meant I had to binge-watch the entire series. You left me with a feeling of morally confusion, and I ended up questioning my version of right and wrong. The storytelling techniques used were genius. Always being in the mind of a psychopath was thrilling, and the series uniquely twists the traditional hero’s journey on its head. Joe’s warped view of reality was a refreshing experience – albeit a little strange and disturbing at times.