This is a spoiler-free review of YOU Season 1, which is streaming on Netflix.
So I decided to re-watch the first season of YOU before Season 2 dropped on Netflix. And the reason I decided to write this review only now, is because this damn series got even better the second time around. I remembered some of the things I had forgotten and I noticed a few situations, actions and dialogue that at first seemed rather innocent but actually held a lot of meaning and made so much sense after watching for the second time. It made me think of how every time I watch Fight Club I notice something new, and then I see the story in a completely different way.
Introduction to YOU
Guinevere Beck, who is played by Elizabeth Lail, is a ‘girl next door’ kind of character who seems rather flat on the surface, just like her superficial friends. But little by little, her true nature and motivations are revealed to us.
Her carefree attitude to life, the fact that she prances around half-naked in her curtainless apartment, and also seems rather promiscuous – indicates to us that she isn’t really concerned for her safety. Like, at all.
Penn Badgley (from Gossip Girl fame) gives the most natural and likeable performance portraying Joe; a seemingly caring, funny and likeable character who becomes obsessed with a girl he has only just met. Fear not, this becomes immediately apparent after they meet, so this is not really a spoiler.
How far would YOU go for love?
The premise of the show is based on the fact that Joe doesn’t do much talking out loud. We hear most of his talking as a voice-over narration in his head, referring to Beck as ‘you.’ A lot of the scenes are carefully guided by Joe’s narration and become quite a bit creepier when you take that audio away.
Throughout the story, we are given titbits of information about each of the characters and their motivations. For example, Joe works in a bookstore and often makes mention of books. But for someone who gives us the impression that he loves books so much, we strangely never see him read. Still, every book that gets mentioned in the series seemingly links to a character or plotline that resonates with a character in the episode.
Part of the unpredictability of YOU is led by Joe’s occasionally reckless behaviour. He is confident and brazen, consistently irresponsible and clearly has no problem breaking the law. This behaviour places him in some tight spots, but his utter confidence and complete lack of remorse help him out on each occasion. The first indication of Joe’s true character is revealed when we see him lie for the first time; so effortlessly.
Joe’s unhealthy obsession spirals from seemingly ‘innocent’ social media stalking into well, much more. The show takes aim at many concepts such as this; that society has normalised and come to accept.
YOU makes us question not only the motivation behind the dynamics of the relationships in the series, but also the ones we are exposed to in our everyday lives.
Binge or bust?
The acting by the rest of the cast is totally natural and feels very relevant. The plot is rather easy to follow and very believable; although obviously some characters take things too far. The first season of the series is based on the thriller novel of the same name, by Caroline Kepnes.
Overall, this is a next-level romcom thriller that has all the interesting twists and dark moments, mixed in between the lightheartedness of social commentary, with a touch of added fun and romance. The stories and secrets in YOU will make you wonder things like: “How does such a likeable character have no real noticeable friends or family?” It gives ever so slight Dexter vibes; although in a much more lighthearted and completely different way.
Is it worth the watch? The writing is really great and very relevant to the world we live in now. The story is totally crazy – it’s an absolute piece of modern art and a fantastically enjoyable binge. So YES. But also, I’m glad it’s just fiction!
Watch the trailer for YOU Season 1
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