Like 40 million others across the planet, I’ve been watching You, Netflix’s latest binge-obsession about a serial stalker/killer named Joe (played by Penn Badgley). I’ve just finished the series finale, and upon completing this first series, I’m left wondering if you can truly like a show if you hate all of it’s characters? And is a second series even worth it? (Some spoilers to follow if you haven’t seen or finished the series yet).
The series started out okay, but around the half way point I found it started to drag, and I fully realised how much I hate all of the characters except for Paco, the sweet little kid who lives next door to Joe (but even he was ruined for me in the end.)
Let’s look at Joe first. I got an instantly creepy vibe from him, which was good considering how psychotic he is and I give all credit to Badgley for generating that with his performance. But the show tries hard to make you feel sorry for him because he had a bit of a rough childhood, and ex girlfriends cheated. I mean, yes, that is terrible, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to condone stalking and murder! On a little side note: what the hell is up with people tweeting thirsty messages to Badgley like Joe is just some misunderstood guy? Do people not realise this character is a murderer? Or is it all okay because he doesn’t look like one of those creepy, middle-aged, bald, out of shape loner types you tend to see on the news in relation to this type of stuff? News flash to the thirsty people of Twitter: IT’s NOT!
So, okay, not being a fan of the crazy stalker/murderer is a given. But my god, I did not expect to hate almost every other character too. In this type of story, you’re supposed to sympathise with the characters when they are killed off. I wasn’t hoping they would die, but I sure as hell didn’t miss them when they did.
Let’s take Beck for instance. Annoying beyond belief! If she wasn’t whining about her professor, she was whining about her writing, her friends, her father and his new family, or all the douchebag guys who have wronged her. Beck always has somebody to blame for her problems rather than facing up to the fact that she might be the cause of at least a few of them (all, more likely, but I’ll give her some leeway). Take for instance her sanctimonious break up scene with Joe in which she declares “if we don’t have trust, we have nothing”, and all the while she is sleeping around with her therapist behind his back (not sticking up for Joe here, but we knew he was a creepy dude at the point, she didn’t). Then later, she only decides she wants Joe back when it seems like he is happy with somebody else. There is also an attempt in the finale to show Beck in a new light, by showing she was never part of the “cool gang” in school and that’s why she behaves like she does. It’s a little too late at that point!
Perhaps even more annoying, but we thankfully see less of them, is Beck’s group of friends, comprised of spoilt bitch Peach and “influencer” Annika. There is also a third friend, Lynn, but to be honest I don’t even know why she’s even there. Peach is Joe’s main rival for most of the series and Annika is at least specifically related to the plot in at least one episode (although she is everything that people hate about the “influencer” culture – vain, fake, overblown ego…the list goes on). But Lynn just seems to hang around, not really offering anything of substance or value. She’s a completely throwaway character. If you removed her, you would not miss her!
Peach, is your typical insecure girl who positions herself as the head bitch in charge just because she thinks that a famous last name (she’s supposedly related to J. D. Salinger, the famous author of The Catcher in the Rye) and money means you can treat people like dirt. As if she wasn’t self-obsessed and crazy enough, you then find out she is harbouring a weird crush on Beck and trying to manipulate and control her in anyway she can. And did anyone else hate the way she insisted on calling Joe “Joseph” in that holier than though voice? Plus, what is the obsession with Beck? She’s really not that great from what I can see!
Rounding out a cast of unbearables is: Benji, the sleazy, drug addicted poser that Beck basically allows to use her whenever he feels like it (Beck seriously knows how to pick them). Ron, Joe’s abusive next door neighbour who beats Paco and his mother Claudia. I actually had sympathy for Claudia in the beginning but she is given multiple opportunities to get out for Paco’s sake and she doesn’t take them (I know this is true in many situations in real life as it is hard to break away, but it’s hard to watch the sweet kid living in fear when people are offering her help and she doesn’t take it). Karen, Claudia’s sister and Joe’s brief girlfriend after his break up with Beck, seems cool in the beginning, but turns out to be one of those people who tries to make people hate stuff just because she hates it. Then there is Blythe, a rival gradate student in Beck’s class, who doesn’t show up often, but who is instantly unlikeable due to her air of superiority and belief that hardly anyone is as good a writer as she is. She’s never really a fan of Beck’s writing, but as soon as Beck’s death causes a spike in interest in her, she’s talking about her as if she’s the second coming of Shakespeare to any TV camera in sight. The falseness really grates!
Paco, the adorable kid next door who loves books and just wants the deadbeat parole officer to stop beating his mom and letting him go hungry, is probably the only likeable character throughout this whole series (unless you count Ethan, a clerk at the book store Joe manages. He’s not around much and doesn’t really add much plot wise, but he’s fine when he does pop up. Or maybe that’s just because everyone else is so awful?).
But even Luca is a little tainted in the end. After Joe kills Ron, Luca sees him as is saviour, and obviously not knowing Joe’s history, thinks he is a good guy. This leads him to closing the door on Beck when he could have freed her in the finale because he now believes that if Joe is keeping her locked up, it must be because she is a bad person and not because he is a raving lunatic! It leaves you wondering if Joe’s influence is turning the kid into Joe 2.O.
As I watching the finale, I was getting the feeling that everything was being wrapped up and that You was going to be like a mini-tv event-type series. But then they went and threw in a cliffhanger that will lead into another series in the form of Candace. The way I see it, if the second season has such an unlikeable group of characters as the first, it needn’t bother!
I heard from someone on Instagram that the show is based on a book. Maybe I’ll give that read and see how it compares! Have you watched You? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, our on social media…just check the side of this post on desktop or scroll down to the bottom on mobile if you are interested in following along! I’d love to hear your thoughts!