First look review: You Season 2
Jo Bromilow | On 21, Dec 2019
Warning: This contains spoilers for You Season 1. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free review of Season 1 here.
Close your blinds and lock up your obsessive best friends, everyone: Joe Goldberg’s back. And this time, he’s willing to go further than you can get on the subway.
When Season 2 of You was announced so speedily after the drop of the first, fans were delighted but confused, none more so than those who had read the page-turner on which it was based. How would the story continue with the extremely conclusive conclusion of the first season? And, when the finale arrived, loaded with dramatic moments and a jaw-dropping cliffhanger, we were as confused as poor Paco (Luca Padovan) is likely to be for his entire life. Is Candace actually alive, or is she a manifestation of Joe’s repressed guilt? Is Joe going to get away with his string of murders, or is the jig now up with the return of his flame-haired former paramour? How are they going to drag out this cat-and-mouse or grand delusion for another delicious season of the trashy, twisty, iconic You?
The answer, it seems, is simple – get Joe the hell out of dodge and into a brand new location, and a brand new identity to try and maintain as he unwillingly ingratiates himself with the insufferable zen of the LA scene.
If the first season of You was a cosy, PSL-scented pastiche of the New York literary scene, Season 2 turns Joe’s withering glare on the sun-scorched simperers of the City of Angels. Gone are the cardigan-swaddled literatis such as Ethan (Zach Cherry) and Blythe (who is missed – Hari Nef’s deadpan delivery was comic perfection) and in their place we have clean-living, green-juice swilling hipsters such as new love interest named – yes, really – Love Quinn (Victoria Pendretti), her brother Forty (James Scully) and their assortment of moneyed, green juice-sipping friends.
As Joe does his best to blend into their world under the name and the guise of Will the health food shop worker, old impulses and instincts catch up with him all too quickly, as the threat of Candace’s reappearance drives him to greater and greater lengths to keep in Love’s good graces.
So much of what makes the new season of You (overseen once again by Caroline Keynes, the writer of the original book) is how rigidly it sticks to the formula of the first season. There’s a young person for Joe to protect to give him a redeeming side, there’s a neighbouring woman with a good heart and poor judgement for the morally dubious Joe to counsel, and a chaotic influence on the girl of his dreams for him to win over or work around. There’s sex, there’s casual violence, and there’s a truly iconic montage reminiscent of early seasons of Hannibal. And, of course, there’s the infamous cage.
The brightest new addition is Love herself – wry and knowing where Beck was willfully naive, and there being a touch of the Kat Dennings about Victoria Pendretti only bolsters the perception that she is more than a match for Joe’s misanthropy and dry delivery. But winning moments and the show’s ability to lean into its ridiculousness aside – there is actually a scene where Forty and Love play tennis and Love loses – LA just can’t compare to New York.
Joe’s schtick as the handsome psychopath next door was a relevation in the first season – and Penn Badgely hasn’t got nearly enough credit for his acting or for his ongoing campaign against the sex appeal of his terrible yet compelling antagonist in a send-up that makes Daniel Craig’s hatred of James Bond look tame. Joe’s put-downs (“you waste of hair”) and the script’s other zingers (“he’s been clean since 9/11!”) sang together so harmoniously against the sullen backdrop of old bookstores and dimly lit apartments.
But the glaring sunlight of LA shines too strong a light on a show that is best suited to lurking in the darkness, a horror in the shadows as opposed to a washed-out villain in plain sight. Plus, the supporting cast of the first season – notably the fantastically ridiculous Peach Salinger (Shay Mitchell) – buoyed Joe along on a wave that isn’t so able to lift him here. The second season is meaty, fun and perfect for the post-Christmas lull. But, like Joe himself, You’s lost a little of that loving feeling.
You: Season 1 and 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.