The internet’s stalker crush is back with a new object of fascination. The former Lifetime series “You” debuted its sophomore season just before the new year.
“You” became yet another series to find a whole new life at Netflix. Developed by Sera Gamble (“Supernatural,” “The Magicians”) and Greg Berlanti (“Riverdale,” “Arrow” and “Dawson’s Creek”), the first season aired on the Lifetime network, attracting a modest audience over its run. But when it started streaming on Netflix, it went viral with a reported 40 million accounts viewing the season.
This season sees obsessive bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, portrayed by Penn Badgley (“Gossip Girl,” “Easy A”), move to Los Angeles and take on a new identity. Based loosely on Caroline Kepnes’ novel “Hidden Bodies,” the season is a compelling continuation of the series
As teased at the end of the first season, Joe’s ex-girlfriend Candace Stone — who he believed he had killed — is in fact alive. Furthermore, she has been keeping tabs on him and is hellbent on exposing him for his crimes.
Instead of attempting to kill her again, Joe flees across the country to start a new life. Once there, he becomes Will Bettelheim and yet again finds love at first sight — with Love. Yeah, it’s a bit on the nose, but this isn’t claiming to be award-winning television.
While the majority of last season focused on Joe’s obsession with Beck and her friendships, the writers decided to add more subplots to create a more expansive story this season. Obviously, Candace does not stay away for too long and is soon a factor yet again. Similar to season one, Joe develops a protective compulsion for his teenage neighbor, Ellie. Lastly, in flashbacks cut in throughout the season, the show takes the time to examine Joe’s childhood and try to explain how he ended up this way.
The change of scenery allows for other shifts in the show, too. The cinematographers play up the difference in weather, capturing a warmer palette and lots of light flares. The writers take the opportunity to play up the cultural differences between New York and LA. Joe takes aim at the people, their obsession with fame, their health kicks and the stagnant climate. At first, the season appears to be a scathing critique of the City of Angels. But as it progresses, it becomes a teasing love letter to the city and its people.
Badgley does an excellent job of inhabiting and embodying this alluring protagonist. He does a wonderful job of maintaining his simultaneous presence within the scene and the voice-over diatribe. This season more than the last, you can feel him play into the satire more than give in to the character.
Badgley’s new co-star this season is Philadelphia-area native Victoria Pedretti (“The Haunting of Hill House,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”). Pedretti gives an excellent performance as Love Quinn and brings her complex and misleading character to life in a vulnerable, frenetic way. She is the highlight of the new season, giving a much more interesting foil to Joe than Beck did in season one.
Given more screen time this season, Candace (Amber Childers) highlights the brilliance of the writing in the series. Somehow, they manage to make the obvious psychopath a likeable character to root for. Candace, the not-quite-rational but obviously moral and traditional “hero,” is perfectly shaded to come off as the villain and an annoying nag. It is an uncomfortable discourse on likability that the show forces the audience to sit with.
All in all, the second season of “You” is a fantastic continuation of the story. It does much better than many Netflix originals at keeping the original essence of the series that fans love and adding something new.