You Season 2 series review: Another satisfying descent into the mind of a likeable maniac
What makes season two of You intriguing from the word go is the backdrop
Our favourite stalker-turned-serial killer returns in season 2 and the fact that this sentence does not sound odd at all, is reflective of You season one's success. Imagine rooting for a character you would run away from if you met him in person. Based on Caroline Kepnes' eponymous book, the first season's finale saw our stone-faced, yet brilliant bookstore clerk Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), who holds the darkest of secrets in his heart as well as in a huge glass cubicle, bounce back to normalcy after getting rid of his dear love, Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), once and for all. But that joy did not last long, thanks to an old mistake - his ex-girlfriend Candace Stone (Ambyr Childers) - returning into his life. Season two finds Joe moving to Los Angeles to start all over and lead the normal life that he always dreamt of amidst the chaos of what he endured in New York. But will the demons let him?
Showrunner: Sera Gamble
Cast: Penn Badgley, Victoria Pedretti, Ambyr Childers, James Scully
What makes season two intriguing from the word go is the backdrop. Joe tries to find solace in Los Angeles but ends up becoming a fish out of water. For someone who is being followed, it's good to find a spot where he is hardly expected. However, he finds it hard to blend in with a crowd that is predominantly filled with influencers and those with dreams of taking over Hollywood. He gets to hear terms such as 'pitta imbalance', and sees a wannabe culture filled with a weird obsession for welless and eventually ends up finding work at a place named Anavrin (read it backwards). For someone who finds love at the wrongest of places, he tries hard but succumbs to the grace of an aspiring chef and one of Anavrin's owner, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti).
The reason why Joe, someone who has been in his share of bad relationships, falls for Love is convincing and relatable. She's a confident independent woman, in contrast to an insecure Beck or an obsessive Candace. He finds peace in finding someone like Love who has her own set of emotional baggage - her husband is dead, her rich parents don't care about her and she has to fend for her twin brother, Forty (James Scully), who can be quite a handful. The fact that she still manages to smile, makes her irresistible to Joe.
What follows is a series of events that intentionally mirrors the happenings of season one. In place of a nosy Peach Salinger, we have Forty, the co-owner of Anavrin and someone who has a close eye on Love. Joe's young neighbour from season one, Paco, is replaced here with Ellie (Jenna Ortega), another close figure. As the younger sister to his landlord and investigative reporter, Delilah (Carmela Zumbado), Ellie's surprising maturity and her journey with Joe is gratifying. His vigilantism that saves her from trouble, makes up for his creepiness.
The compact list of characters and their respective arcs are interesting, even if not all of it comes to play in the grand scheme of things. Be it Forty's despicable attempts to revive his film directing career, Candace's ploys to get into Joe's head, Delilah's dark history with the much-loved comedian Henderson (Chris D'Elia), the subplots may be many, but they all come in handy in making Joe who he is.
Unsurprisingly, Penn Badgley steals the show once again as Joe who is now using the pseudonym Will Bettelheim for a new identity. His awkwardness, especially, is a pleasure to watch. His expressions and voiceovers make for some of the season's best scenes and also helps us delve deeper into his psychosexual obsessiveness.
Despite being convenient at times, the writing is great. The knots at frequent intervals and how Joe unties them make up for some of the improbable events. The reference to Crime and Punishment, a Chekhov's gun, in the first episode, is a lovely touch. Unlike in season one though, the romance here feels rushed and I wish we got to see more of who Love really is. The twists, though leading to some satisfying payoffs, are easy to anticipate. You season two is an almost fulfilling watch of how dangerous today's world can be and how people, in grey areas, can still find redemption.