You Can’t Domesticate its Wild Plot

Designed by Zawar Ahmed

What are you? Based on your poster, some sort of television drama. The font is red, menacing, but the faces are familiar. I see Penn Badgley, who portrayed Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey for six seasons, and Shay Mitchell, who starred on Pretty Little Liars as Emily Fields for seven seasons. Your premise is chilling: Joe Goldberg, a New York City bookstore owner, justifies his relentless stalking of an M.F.A. student by heralding it as an act of love. Worse yet, it’s a pattern, which is why we already have three seasons of this stuff. Okay, I’ll bite.

What are you? You are You.

I was one of the show’s earliest fans. As a big fan of the CW, I was familiar with the show’s stars and bombarded with promotions for months in advance. When it finally aired on TV, I tuned in every week, anticipating the next chapter in the torrid “romance” between Joe and Season 1’s victim, Guinevere Beck. Joe was unpredictable and unruly, and the constant contradictions in his self-serving morals were enchanting.

In Season 2, we are introduced to a similar setup, with Joe relocated to Los Angeles. But his M.O. is the same: fall in love with an unsuspecting woman, kill to be with her if necessary, and obsess over the chance that she might realize who he really is—a serial killer and stalker with severe mother issues. But his new interest, Love Quinn, comes to find out the truth about Joe. And she doesn’t care because she is just as twisted as him.

Joe… doesn’t like this. Because why would he (a serial killer) want to be with someone unhinged? However, she is pregnant with his baby, so he agrees to take on the most gruesome challenge of them all: live in a house bought by her parents with no financial responsibilities whatsoever, aside from occasionally sending money to a girl who was orphaned by Season 2’s killing spree. Did I mention that he takes on a job at the public library? What a stand-up guy!

In Season 3, Joe is still as creepy as ever, pocketing women’s underwear and hiding under their beds, but he takes on a new role: suburban family man in the organic, sugar-free California town of Madre Linda. Watching two unstable parents debate who will watch their adorable baby is a bit unsettling, but that is just the beginning of their marital disputes. Infidelity, a lack of intimacy, and distrust are all part of the flurry of domestic issues that the Quinn-Goldbergs face.

The writers were certainly creative with the direction of the show for the third season, diverging far from the book series it is based on. Although, I can’t help but wonder if the new structure illuminates how predictable the show has become. Part of the intrigue of the plot was always Joe’s willingness to kill and the way he justified it, but the more he denies his own identity as a killer and claims that his “fucking wife” is the crazy one, the more I think to myself, “I’ve heard this rant before.” Yes, it’s his M.O. to stalk pretty women and live in some misogynistic, male savior fantasyland, but you can only watch a man judgmentally rifle through a woman’s books when she’s not home so many times before you somehow accept it as routine. You Season 3 feels a lot like a situational dramedy with the formula slightly tweaked every episode for effect.

Where the drama fails us, comedy picks up the slack. The writing of Madre Linda’s cast of try-hard helicopter parents feels a little too on the nose at times, to the point where the satire makes the characters feel unbelievable. But there are some gems. For example, a certain Madre Linda resident is put into Joe’s iconic “book dungeon” after revealing that he failed to vaccinate his children. Joe goes on an overnight retreat with the men of Madre Linda, where he knocks one of them off a cliff only to be congratulated for letting out his inner beast. And of course, there are the couples therapy sessions where they’re reassured that their violent urges are normal and they have nothing to worry about because they’re not murderers.

No, it’s not as gripping as Season 1, and no, it’s not as shocking as Season 2, but if you’re at all interested in watching two people who are constantly two seconds away from a murderous rampage playing house, You Season 3 might just be the show for you.

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