You Season Three

YOU (L to R) VICTORIA PEDRETTI as LOVE QUINN and PENN BADGLEY as JOE GOLDBERG in episode 301 of YOU Cr. JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX © 2021

Season three of “You” is emotionally exhausting to watch — not just because of the gruesome murder, but because of how it portrays failing relationships and the “American Dream.”

The season begins with Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) lamenting that he’s ended up married to (and having a baby with) Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) after finding out that she has killed a number of people. Even though Joe is a fellow serial killer himself, this taints the idolized image of Love he created in his head, so he quietly despises her. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch, as Love is probably the only woman in the world who will accept his sick and twisted behavior. Joe refers to Love as a monster, while he regards his own murders as “mistakes.”

In social psychology, benevolent sexism is an “affectionate but patronizing attitude that treats women as needing men’s help, protection and provision.” This is an important part of Joe’s character. He engages in disgusting behavior in the name of “protecting” the women he obsesses over. He struggles to parent his baby, who was expected to be a girl but happened to be a boy. While he was willing to push through a marriage to Love to protect a little girl, he finds it much harder to do for a boy.

After Joe and Love work together to cover up a murder, they attend couples counseling. In these scenes, and in later scenes as their relationship falls apart, they are somehow relatable, apart from the many, many murders in which they find themselves involved. Throughout the season, they mend and break their relationship in various ways, and Love is often the one who tries to fix it (without ulterior motives). This is more tiring to watch than the murder scenes, because it’s more realistic than a couple getting away with 15 murders between the two of them. Joe and Love find that suburbia and domestic bliss aren’t for them, although Love so desperately tries to make it to be. Love is constantly miserable, and her unhappiness echoes that of many unhappy new mothers in real life, which makes the season emotionally draining to watch.

I found myself feeling sorry for Love, until she commits one murder that makes her seem especially cruel. Up to that point, however, I was bothered by the fact that I could sympathize with her. Like Joe, she never has bad intentions in her own mind, and often murders trying to “protect” her family. Both she and Joe committed understandable — in some cases, forgivable — murders as children. While I may have been manipulated by her crying multiple times each episode, and Pedretti’s good looks, Love is at least fighting to save the relationship because she still loves Joe. Joe meanwhile, fixates on multiple women, each of which he’s convinced is his soulmate. Furthermore, Love’s readings of their relationship are accurate, while Joe is delusional about the objects of his obsession.

I was also annoyed at Joe for pursuing other women while he’s already married to someone who should be perfect for him. He’s too interested in finding a woman who’s different, not like other girls, because he wants to be intrigued. This made his character even more hateable to me.

“You” has been criticized for romanticizing a stalker and serial killer. While the viewer knows what’s going on in Joe’s mind, Joe often seems like the perfect boyfriend/husband to the women he pursues, and the series is shot through a warm, romantic light. However, the show is intended to criticize the rom-com tropes we’ve been conditioned to romanticize. Badgley himself has said he’s uncomfortable by people lusting after Joe and that his character doesn’t deserve redemption, although the series is intended to be a thought-provoking social commentary.

“Joe is not actually looking for true love. He’s not actually a person who just needs somebody who loves him. He’s a murderer! He’s a sociopath. He’s abusive. He’s delusional. And he’s self-obsessed,” Badgley said in an Entertainment Weekly interview.

The series also touches on “missing white woman syndrome,” as the murder of an affluent white woman stirs the town, to Joe and Love’s dismay. Additionally, Joe’s last fixation, a Black woman, is repeatedly screwed over by the legal system in a custody battle for her daughter, prompting Joe to take drastic action.

Even the climax of the series focused more heavily on relationships than action. A couple trapped in the Goldbergs’ soundproof cage make a breakthrough in their relationship, while Joe and Love’s marriage ends in violence. The ending was a bit over-the-top, and sad, although I feel gross for being sad about it.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.