The pitch-black comedy/ thriller stalker hit “You” is back with a bang, following murderous couple Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) and Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) as they settle down in suburbia with a baby boy.
Season 3 of the Netflix hit, now streaming, builds off the first two seasons about psycho killer Joe — who thinks of himself as an intellectual and a romantic — as he fixates on women that he thinks are “The One.”
In Season 1, his infatuation with Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and his entanglement with her pretentious New York artsy friends ended with murder galore. Season 2, which saw Joe move to LA, shook up that formula: when he became obsessed with troubled chef Love Quinn (Pedretti, “The Haunting of Bly Manor”) their story didn’t end with her becoming another one of his victims. Instead, she revealed herself to be equally as unhinged and bloodthirsty as Joe.
So, to nobody’s surprise, becoming new parents in the ‘burbs outside of San Francisco, surrounded by tech entrepreneurs and wellness enthusiasts, does not spell out domestic bliss for Joe and Love this season.
Although Joe proclaims his desire to become a better man for his wife and child, he is, soon enough, back to his old tricks — becoming a little too intrigued by their neighbor, Natalie (Michaela McManus), while his snappy voiceover casts scathing judgments on everyone he meets. For instance, when Joe and Love encounter locally famous “mommy blogger,” Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant), he describes her work to the viewer as, “A mecca of humblebragging and superiority, fronting as hard-earned wisdom.”
For her part, Love feels aimless in their new life and adrift without her brother (who was shot at the end of Season 2), grasping to connect with potential new friends including Sherry. Backed by her family’s money, Love and Joe find themselves in a lavish new world, surrounded by wealthy neighbors who casually make remarks such as, “I’ll go get you some Pinot. It’s from my friend’s winery. They 3D-print their wine barrels.”
Joe is never as smart as he thinks he is, but he still holds enough charisma to make what could be a distasteful show go down smooth and easy. Badgley is still perfectly cast, playing Joe like a gleefully dark twist on his famed “Gossip Girl” character Dan Humphrey, while Pedretti puts a nuanced spin on what could be a clichéd femme fatale role in less skilled hands. Where previous seasons were a cat-and-mouse game between Joe and his unlucky leading lady, Season 3 becomes a balancing act between Joe, Love, their ability (or lack thereof) to adjust to married life and new surroundings, and their impulses (yes, including murder).
“You,” which started on Lifetime before moving to Netflix, is a hit— last season, the streamer touted that 40 million households tuned in, though who knows that that really means — in part because it blends a psychological thriller with a satire of rom-com tropes. Since both genres are big on their own, it’s no wonder the combination works. (It also helps that it’s part of super-producer Greg Berlanti’s oeuvre). Even so, shows that center around terrible characters like Joe have to walk a fine line between not romanticizing their actions while still injecting enough fun that the story doesn’t become grim. Season 3 sticks the landing.
“You” is a show that could easily become formulaic, or fall into the trap of liking its antihero just a little too much to follow through with consequences (see: “Dexter”). Season 3 sidesteps potential pitfalls and delivers its signature blend of pulpy satire and darkness while still presenting fresh twists. It’s no wonder it’s already been renewed for a fourth season.