‘You,’ Season 2 Review: Same Recipe But It Tastes Alright
The new season of ‘You‘ keeps up the pace
The Netflix hit series ‘You‘, co-produced by Disney owned A&E Networks, has just returned with a second season, eagerly awaited by the fans. And the pressure was on considering the major changes from season 1.
Some of the challenges were to bounce back after the departure of ‘Once Upon a Time‘ actress Elizabeth Lail, who played Guinevere Beck, the other lead character (due to being murdered, mind you) and come up with an equally compelling, and yet different, storyline as the original. Basically, keep it spicy with new ingredients without losing the taste (I’m allowed to make that analogy — cooking is one of the new season’s motifs).
So did season 2 of ‘You’ do just that? Yes. And no.
Torn between temptation and redemption
In season 1, viewers got to meet Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley, John Tucker Must Die), a charming bookseller in New York City with troubling seduction methods in a basic-looking cloaking cap and, incidentally, a killer in his spare time.
In season 2, they get to learn more about Joey, from child to repentant murderer as he starts anew in sunny and spiritually awakened L.A. Running away from a bullying past, the season opens with the roles switched as Joe, now called Will Bettelheim is left no choice but to hide from his ex Candace, who came out of the grave (quite literally) and has sworn revenge.
Will gets a new place and finds an apron-wearing job in an organic store. It is a fresh start — in appearance only — but a new girl very soon catches his eye and becomes the new object of his obsession.
Love Quin (Victoria Predetti) stands out immediately in that faux woke, green-juice-drinking, chakra-cleansing, literature-allergic, Instagram aficionado crowd. She is a talented, intriguing, “forthright” and lowkey social activist cook — a better and more authentic-looking version of late ex-love Beck. Will dares to believe he has found the one this time. But first, he needs to prove himself worthy of true love.
Will strives to become a better person, trying to push away old thought patterns and impulses and to do things differently. He succeeds at times but fails often inevitably. And this is what season 2 of ‘You’ is about: delving into the mind of a murderer only to understand there is no way out. Flashbacks bring depth to the character and further reinforce the idea that Joe is doomed to repeat those same old thought patterns and impulses. Doomed to be a killer.
The season craftily explores Joe’s psyche as it progressively unveils the fate he is inexorably headed to. The viewer finds himself stuck along with Joe in this endless loop, the product of a yearning that can never be assuaged; of a void that can never be filled.
A feeling of déjà vu
Despite the many changes (starting with the setting as Joe leaves bookish New York City for hipster Los Angeles), the plot suffers from repetitive patterns at times. The friendship phase, the invasive friend/relative who stands in the way, the child/teen stuck in a messy family situation, the girlfriend with terrible parents, the breakup 2/3 episodes before the finale and even the freaking glass cage; all those elements from the first season make a blatant (and lengthy) appearance in the new one.
I am all for parallels and winks, but some of the above were dangerously flirting with self-plagiarism. I caught myself watching monotonously through some episodes with a strong feeling of déjà vu, like Neo looking at the black cat in the Matrix, minus the bewilderment and with dullness instead.
What saved the season was the plot twist of Joe finding his female alter ego in the person of Love. Plot twist which I unfortunately predicted back in episode 2 because of course Joe Goldberg would ironically end up trapped in a relationship with an obsessive, overly loving murderer with sociopathic tendencies. Karma is a bitch.
The final scene was, again, expected (for the right reasons though) but is intriguing enough to sign me up for season 3. I also look forward to finding out how Joe will deal with bad L/love.
Season 2 of ‘You’ is currently streaming on Netflix.