This season, the murder mystery attempts to satirize the British social stratification structure. At this point, it’s moot to wonder whether or not it’s any good; instead, you should just take pleasure in the ride.
You (Netflix) has a lot of complex layers, and one of them is that it can’t find a way to settle its internal contradictions. There’s a lot of love for Joe (Penn Badgley), the film’s bookworm and hypersensitive protagonist who can hide his identity completely by donning a baseball cap.
The problem is that Joe hunts and kills women who interest him as well as any men who get in the way of his obsessions. The program has dealt with this minor character weakness in the past by matching him with a woman named Love who is just as, shall we say, over the top as he is.
Eventually, even she proved to be too lethal for him, and at the conclusion of season three, Love was written out of the show along with the increasingly stale comedy of wondering whether people were referring to love or Love.
Having been pronounced dead in the United States after leaving a fragment of his foot in his old home, Joe has now traveled to London in order to re-stalk Marienne, the librarian who piqued his interest when he was living in the suburbs.
Warning for British viewers who might be offended by the show’s use of fictitious locations: Joe pretends to be a professor at a massive university campus that appears to be inside Spitalfields market, and there’s a quick establishing shot of a section of London that looks disturbingly like Oxford.
I won’t even bring up the fact that nobody in England enters a pub and sits at the bar by themselves while sipping neat whisky, or the fact that his walking routes are incredibly efficient. I’ll have a pint and a newspaper over there, please.
Prince Harry mentions his brother Willy and their pub-going buddies with monikers like “Badger” and “Skippy” in the basement of Highgrove, which they called “Club H,” in his memoir Spare. Your view of England is highly modern. Everybody spends the weekend at the country dump, hunting with shotguns, and using insults like “twatty big dick.”
Joe, using the name Jonathan Moore, is an English teacher in the heart of Spitalfields. He resides in a spacious Kensington apartment that he borrows from a Skippy or Badger type named Malcolm. Joe is introduced to Malcolm’s posh circle of acquaintances, which includes Simon, an artist and the son of a billionaire, Gemma, an heiress, Lady Phoebe Borehall-Blaxworth, a socialite, and Kate, the daughter of a supermodel and gallerist (Charlotte Ritchie).
Everything is happy hockey sticks and absinthe-soaked hurrahs until one by one the group is murdered by a mysterious killer who is not Joe. Killing women is obviously very wrong and he is completely over it, so this is exactly the kind of attention he is wanting to avoid now that he is reformed and everything.
The humorous aspect of You is much more enjoyable than the stalker-killer portion, and is the film’s main draw and reason to watch (although this does give it a shot of adrenaline). In the first season, the show poked fun at New York’s highbrow literary community.
The show’s second season embraced the ultracapitalist spirituality of the Los Angeles hippie subculture with relish. Marriage, parenthood, and suburban life were all themes of Season 3. However, there is a sense of being lost in London.
In what ways is this a satire? I suppose it’s taking a shot at the British class system, though with different degrees of effectiveness, which comes as a shock to those of us who weren’t anticipating such a light, breezy thriller to morph into a Crass record.
It tries again to remake itself, this time as a Clue-like Agatha Christie whodunit, albeit it’s ironic enough to include a debate on whether or not that genre is the lowest in literature. It’s entertaining, though it takes a hit from having to compete with Rian Johnson’s Knives Out movies, which are smarter and more modern updates on Christie’s work.
When the program succeeds, it’s because Badgley has charisma and the writers aren’t afraid to throw in a number of unexpected plot twists. We can’t sit around and do nothing while waiting for something to happen.
Joe only has to get a glimpse of a woman outside the window for all hell to break loose. It’s a guaranteed up-and-down ride, complete with a tweed jacket and middle finger for snooty “toffs.” At this point, it practically doesn’t matter if You is any good. It’s funny in a Netflix kind of way, and it’s also kind of terrible. If you don’t analyze things too closely, you’ll have a great time.