I wasn’t sure what to expect with season three of You. For the uninitiated, Netflix’s runaway hit series follows an obsessive guy, named Joe Goldberg (played by Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley) as he becomes infatuated with various women – and ultimately kills to be closer to them.
We left Joe at the end of season two in a new relationship, with a baby on the way no less, moving to the suburbs. How could a third season maintain the suspense and thrills if Joe had settled down?
Well, there’s the fact that Joe married the equally chaotic Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti). In season two, Love is revealed to be just as obsessive and prone to violence as Joe, making him her “perfect match” (if your perfect match is supposed to mirror your toxic traits, I guess). We also had Joe peering through his suburbia fence and spotting a gorgeous female neighbor, with the implication that Joe was an old dog who would definitely not be learning any new tricks.
But season three doesn’t go down the way you’d expect. If you thought we’d be strapping in for another ten episodes of Joe relentlessly pursuing a new woman and abandoning his wife and child, think again. Without giving away any spoilers, there’s a pivotal moment in episode one that binds Love and Joe together like never before, with the season focusing on the push-pull of their need to present a united front, alongside their increasing distrust of each other.
It makes for great tension – you aren’t sure if you’re rooting for them as a couple, or hoping they’ll split up without killing each other in the process. Add their new baby into the mix and the stakes are higher than ever – and while season three has plenty of intrigue and, yes, murder, it’s really about how Joe and Love navigate being literal partners in crime, as well as being a family.
It’s pretty impressive that a series about toxic obsession and crime managed to seamlessly mix in the highs and lows of parenting.
This season is as much about what’s happening with Love and Joe outside of their home as it is about what’s happening inside it; Joe’s struggle to connect with his child. Love’s changing relationship with her mother now that this woman is also grandmother to her baby. Finding romantic and sexual connection as parents in a new dynamic that sees them sleep-deprived and busier than ever. I thought I’d tire of following Love and Joe’s parental woes but it humanizes them in a way season two could never – you wind up wanting these people to cover up murders and criminal activity so they can remain a family for their son.
You really needed to make us root for Joe, too – the series has already been renewed for a fourth season, and while the writers had definitely tried to humanize Joe with his broken childhood and compassion for others experiencing abandonment and abuse, season three’s new stakes are also new stakes for us as viewers. We need Joe to escape his crimes because we want him to be a parent to his new baby.
It all gets a little uncomfortable, as this series always has been. In a way, the complicated relationship we’ve had with Joe in the past is mirrored in his relationship with Love during season three. She is undeniably even more toxic and erratic than Joe, and he grapples with covering up her crimes because he cares for her, over abandoning her entirely. Essentially, Joe is us circa seasons one and two, which is very clever.
So, is it worth a watch? Yes. Somehow, we’re still left hoping Joe will find peace as a father, and a happy relationship – even if we’re unsure he deserves it after everything he’s done. Oh, and everything he, erm, hasn’t learned in the process.
YOU Season Three IS STREAMING now on Netflix.