I had not heard anything about you before I saw it pop up on Netflix. The trailer suggested a thriller, but a few minutes in you realise that the show is doing something I haven’t seen before, or at least not that I can think of.
You is set around the life of Joe, a Book store clerk played by Penn Badgley, a guy with an unusual way of courting women. Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail, stumbles into his life and Joe is instantly obsessed. He then begins to stalk her and use the information he gathers to help her fall for him, letting nothing and no-one get in between his plan to be with her.
Joe is an evil character. He is snide, lies his way through everything and stalks Beck in a variety of creepy and all to real ways. In the Digital age, everyone’s online profile is a few taps away, and You highlights how much information is out there, even if it’s not so easy to access in reality (I hope). The show focusing on such a clearly evil and selfish character is a very interesting way to tell this story, as we spend most of our time with joe, learning his thought processes and his reasons for doing things.
After a few hours, you are on Joe’s side somehow, despite seeing him do a variety of sinister actions. This unique take on who to put as the protagonist of a show works well, causing you to question yourself when you realise what Joe is actually doing. He does have real redeeming qualities, which is what makes him a compelling character.
Beck is right on the other side, in that she is an inherently good person, but as we see her from Joe’s pint of view, we see a lot her faults. Even if a lot of the faults are ignored by the infatuated Joe, we see Beck is a flawed but still good person. Throughout the series there are a number of these flawed but good people, coming and going and all showing that Joe is a bad person. Through it all though, I found myself kind of cheering for Joe somehow.
All of these character driven scenes are shot with some very unusual techniques, at times the entire background of a shot is blurred, with just the character on-screen in focus. I imagine it is used to give you the view from Joe’s perspective, that all else is blurred and only Beck is clear in his mind. Other than that, the whole show is well made, with solid performances from everyone, especially Penn Badgley in the lead role.
I stumbled into You, not expecting a great deal, and was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the show. The premise does wear a bit thin in the later episodes, before a final ramp up in the finale which sets up a new season quite well. If you’re looking for something easy to watch with interesting characters, this is a solid show to take up 10 hours of your time.
Good: Good performances, unique protagonist dynamic and a story I haven’t seen before make You worth watching.
Bad: Gets a bit samey in the mid to late episodes, and some of the “funny” moments fell a bit flat on me. Couple of annoying side characters that didn’t work to me either.
7/10 – Solid show and worth a watch if you like the trailer.