Is “YOU” Really As Scary As People Claim It To Be? A Review of Season One

Sonali Blair, Journalist

A recently released, psychological thriller,  TV series “You” on Netflix has attracted a large following. Many claim that the hair raising factor of this series is the possibility of this modern stalker story becoming a reality: “Yeah it’s scary because it could happen and you would never know.” and “I only watched the first couple episodes and it just made me feel like it’s way too easy to stalk people and find them and that freaked me out.” The use of social media in this series is one of the admittedly frightening factors, considering how the main character abuses the many apps people often use nowadays. Some, on the other hand, do not find the show to be scary and it is more of a thriller in a sense: “I don’t think it is scary because it is kinda predictable and also it is more suspenseful than a racy scary.” 

Set in New York, this thriller gives the intimate inside view of a psychopath’s mind and somehow that makes the whole experience slightly less eerie. Penn Badgley, formerly known as ‘Lonely Boy’ from his days as Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey, plays the creepily charming character Joe Goldberg, a bookstore clerk. The show is narrated entirely by Joe himself, putting all of his thoughts and emotions on display. The raw connection the series creates between the watcher and Joe himself, allows hints of empathy when experiencing a collective of his everyday life. His noisy neighbors –who fight constantly by the way–as well as his inability to keep up with his ‘victims’ athletically is what adds that slightly twisted humor to the series, making it equally entertaining in a different way. Joe can be misinterpreted because his character cares for his neighbor’s kid, Paco, throughout the first season where he provides Paco job opportunities, trust, as well as an occasional meatball sandwich and book. 

The whole premise of the show is molded by Joe’s encounter of the apparent love-of-his-life, Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), a poetry graduate student. Lail’s character eventually introduces herself as ‘Beck’ which seems to give off this cool ambiance to her character. The reality of it all is revealed later: she is a try-hard and self-absorbed person with an inability to stand up for herself once things get truly out of hand; she cannot think for herself; she needs people in her life in order to say that she has friends instead of genuine relationships. 

There are an abundance of characters in this series that add flavor to the show. Beck’s lame hookup partner Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci) is one who adds that true entertainment to the show. Benji is one of those characters that you immediately get angry with, an example being him revealing ersatz feelings to her to simply get her into bed. A toxic relationship if you ask me. However, one of the humorous aspects of their whole relationship is that Benji is slightly similar to Beck: a self-absorbed, weak person who cannot stand on his own. Beck’s relationship with Benji, which runs its course quite early in the season, is one of the first unfavorable demonstrations of Beck’s disingenuity.  Joe spends a lot of his time lingering outside of Beck’s apartment, peering into her apartment through windows that are uncomfortably intimate; however, it seems that Beck prefers to showcase her life as such. This series does not dwell on many things–such being that the significant turning points in the show are not explored as much as many would like–as it trails the fast-paced life of a stalker and murderer. As the series progresses, Joe attempts to forcefully build a relationship with Beck through the memorization of her schedule and lingering wherever she goes (without Beck’s knowledge) . He constantly thinks he is responsible for her; that he needs to take care of Beck, a damaged person. However, it could simply be that he refuses to care for himself and therefore finds ‘victims’ to intensely “care” instead. He is a pathological liar, a good one, allowing him to develop an intimate relationship with Beck: fueled by the disturbing amount of information Joe had gathered during the blossoming of their connection. 

Beck eventually decides to introduce Joe to her closest friends, which in reality only serve as  items she believes are necessary to feel any personal value. Her friends couldn’t be deemed as quality either; Furthermore, take Peach (Shay Mitchell) for example: a rich, toxic and whiny girl who is almost weirdly protective of Beck. An example being how she has high-end dietary restrictions: “Some people think I’m being uppity, but I can’t have any fast food. And if I drink, it has to be a high pH, you know, like Ketel One or Goose and pear juice.” Peach’s royalty-like attitude brings some intrigue into the show, that being that her attitude is something that Beck strives to be around in order to reach the same amount of privilege as Peach has. Yet, one of the reasons Beck is doomed from the beginning is because of her ignorance: Peach insults and tears her down constantly but Beck still sticks to her hip. 

Being set in New York only reverts many viewers back to the “Gossip Girl” days. The choice of New York was very clever, for New York is so flexible with moods and tones that the mold of “Gossip Girl”  is slightly differently toned to “You” yet both are not far from each other. Just like “Gossip Girl,” “You” is just as unbelievably preposterous when considering the glass case in the basement of Joe’s bookstore, where he can either have the freedom to preserve and fix old books or imprison people, either one a normal occurrence in the show. 

This all leads into the question, is “You” truly as terrifying as people claim it to be? The truth of it all is that the series is based on personal opinion and fears; it either highlights someone’s worst fears or does not. Many find it to be disturbing solely because this could easily happen to anyone. Yet, others are not frightened but more exhilarated by the thrill of the show. Yes yes, there are some disturbing moments where viewers witness the actual murders play out; the show is not as graphic as some would have thought. Everything is always a matter of opinion, yet the refreshing uniqueness that the show provides is one aspect that trumps all the negative critiques. This balance of different opinions really shows how good of a show it is. “You” is never boring and considering the plot-lines in different forms of entertainment these days–i.e. the most explosions will be the best movie or the reincarnation of an already famous plot will maybe become as successful as the original–“You” is the unique needle in a haystack that many people have been needing. So, if this sounds intriguing you should take a look because I promise you, you will not be disappointed.