BY MICHEAL LAKIND
Sometimes I sit and wonder, “Who would ever root for a serial killer?” It seems like Netflix has answered by delivering the second season of their thriller series “You.”
The new installment not only complements the first, but builds upon its structure and brings a new sense of originality to the table. (NOTE: If you haven’t seen the first season, (A) what are you doing with your life? And (B) beware of spoilers).
Based directly on the storyline of Caroline Kepnes’ novel “Hidden Bodies,” which itself is a continuation of “You,” the first season’s source material, the new season picks up right at the end of the first, beginning by resolving the cliffhanger of Joe’s ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers) returning to settle unfinished business.
Fans of the show will be intrigued to find their favorite psychopath, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgely), living in Los Angeles and stealing the identity of Will Bettelheim in his attempt to distance himself from the events of Beck’s death. But mostly to flee Candace. You’ll see why.
Reprising his infatuating performance from last season, Badgley is suave, charming and everything he needs to be to get what he wants, especially so of the audience, from whom he wrings out every last drop of sympathy he can. Like with Paco in the first season, Joe becomes occupied with defending a susceptible teenager named Ellie, which helps to bolster the audience’s support for him, while also leading her annoying SJW older sister/his neighbor Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) to trust him.
Even though he wants to take a break from romance after straight-up murdering four people including his last girlfriend in his Dexter-esque rampage, Joe stumbles upon a young chef named Love (wonder how they came up with that one), played by Victoria Pedretti, who expertly dangles her string in front of Joe with wit and maturity. He is entranced by her intelligence and convinces himself that his feelings are completely different from his of Beck.
The writers’ choice to use other characters to keep them romantically separate is a compelling way to demonstrate Joe’s persistence and lack of resistance to temptation. Nonetheless, he works hard to earn Love’s love by taking care of her relentless, irritatingly-codependent brother Forty (James Scully), whose horrific childhood and substance addictions almost get you to feel bad for him. Until he starts talking again.
Not that he deserves it. By no means does Joe refrain from playing God and resorting to his usual methods of torture. He revives his tradition of locking people in a glass cage. Doing so, and being held prisoner himself, are once again the most dramatically interesting scenes in the series. These scenes bring out the worst of him and Badgley masterfully projects how he is torn between his desire to protect his relationship and the last shred of empathy he possesses. Just as the first season details the freezing of his heart under his boss’ brutality, the new season illustrates his painful upbringing and what brought him to take a life for the first time.
All in all, “You” is a riveting exploration of psyche, relationships and willpower. I guarantee you will be checking your blood pressure every scene until the final pull of the trigger.