I’m going to start this post off with a bunch of disclaimers:
- There will absolutely be spoilers for the show in what is to follow. Turns out there are spoilers for Gossip Girl as well.
- I have not read the book that the show is based on. It’s You by by Caroline Kepnes if you’re interested. (and just a note, I am interested but I’m not really into scary books)
- At this point, I have read a ton of spoilers for both the book and the show, and they are so intermingled in my mind, I’m not sure that I can straighten them out.
- This is all based on my opinion, and I definitely respect the personal opinions of anyone else who may read this and disagree with me, but let’s play nice.
Okay… I think that’s it.
First things first, if you’ve missed all the hype, what is You about? Well, plain and simple, it’s about a stalker and his victim. Predator and prey. Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) falls in love with Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and basically won’t let anything… or anyone get in the way of his pursuit to make that love two-sided. It’s a twisted, sometimes charming (??? SOS), and ultimately tragic love story. To concisely sum up how it made me feel: unsettled.
Are Joe Goldberg and Dan Humphrey one and the same?
So, seeing as I watched the final episode of Gossip Girl and the first episode of You on literally the same night, it should come as no shock to you that the first thing I want to weigh in on are all the Joe Goldberg vs. Dan Humphrey theories/memes/whatever. Do I think they’re funny? Absolutely. My husband was able to make the connection mere minutes into the first episode of You. Do I agree? No, not really.
Dan turns out to be the (holy shit!) creator of Gossip Girl, a gossip website that hurt the people he loved most over and over and over again for years. And while, yes, that is super creepy and honestly bad, it pales in comparison to what every other character was up to: murdering a parent, lying about the father of a child, drugging their best friend, sleeping with another man the night before their wedding, marrying only to become royalty… to name a few. Plus, he didn’t do it alone. He gave the website a name, and basically sat back and relaxed while townies exploited their friends and families for social status gain. Everyone, except for Nate apparently, which seems like bullshit, did all the heavy lifting for him. Dan was merely blending in with his surroundings, which happened to be an environment of absolutely terrible (and beautiful and entertaining) people.
Joe on the other hand… Joe is murderer. A serial killer. Plain and simple. Gossip Girl is to Dan as tweeting from the accounts of your slain victims to make people believe they’re still alive is to Joe… It’s not comparable. At all. There’s too much facial association here. Dan and Joe, worlds apart. And that’s the that on that from me!
Next up: Is You good?
I am so bummed that I can’t find the article that sparked all my thoughts on this specific question, but to summarize, the writer answered with a firm ‘No,’ because she argued that the show is based wholly and solely on the inner and outer monologue of Joe, a crazed lunatic, and basically left all of his victims nameless, faceless strangers to the viewers.
And wow, I could not disagree more. Ever the contrarian, I feel the total opposite.
I’m just going to say it right now. Every character on You (with a few exceptions like maybe Ethan, Blythe and Karen) is deeply troubled. Joe’s parents are basically absent (why? idk. I missed that or they didn’t tell us), and he grows up with an abusive bookshop owner who tells him, “Some people deserve to die.” Beck’s father suffered from severe substance abuse and even though he has fully recovered into her adulthood, everyone close to her thinks he is dead because she says he is (WTF?!). Peach is essentially literary legacy royalty, and that social status has pressured her to suppress her sexuality for her whole life… which is perhaps what makes her think it’s okay to stalk her best friend and ruin the lives of other friends via social media. The Paco/Claudia/Ron triangle is a drug, alcohol, and abuse cocktail of disaster. I just feel like I know the least about Joe.
Come on, we meet Beck’s family. We learn about her tragic childhood. We know she drinks too much and sleeps with strangers. She’s broke. We learn her hopes and dreams. Her terrible taste in men. Her friends are kind of morons. For crying out loud, we know that Beck was destined for the same fate, whether it was at the hands of Joe or Peach. Beck is absolutely not nameless or faceless. I feel like I know everything that makes her tick. So, is the show good? Can something so disturbing be ‘good’? IDK, but I totally disagree that the show is definitively bad because we don’t get to know Beck. Trust me, we know Beck.
Is Joe likable and charming?
I know it will pain you all to hear me say that yes, I absolutely think that he is. And also yes, I think it was imperative for his character to be portrayed that way.
I’m no expert here at all. Not claiming to be. But, I listen to a ton of My Favorite Murder (a true crime podcast) and I’ve learned a thing or two about socio/psychopaths. Oddly, the most researchable characteristic of sociopaths is that they are wildly charismatic, historically well-liked people. Don’t believe me? Do a little research. Ted Bundy is a prime example.
But, it’s all a facade. This is well played out in You. Joe seems to be well-liked and sought after at parties, at work, and in social situations, but it’s all superficial. Joe doesn’t have friendships that bleed into his life outside of those settings. Friends don’t come over. Texts don’t come through. It was all very perfectly scripted.
How’s the acting?
In my opinion, it’s incredible. That I can watch an entire show (in one weekend) and walk away from it feeling unsettled (as I mentioned earlier), which is what it totally set out to make me feel, is proof that the acting is phenomenal.
Do you ever associate actors and actresses with roles they played really well? For example, I can’t really stand to watch Jennifer Carpenter (Emily Rose in The Exorcism of Emily Rose) in anything because I am actually scared of her. Of her face.
Penn Badgley does the same thing for me here. Gone are the days of thinking of him as Dan Humphrey, or perhaps the even more lovable ‘other Tucker,’ as those have now been replaced with a distinct feeling of fear and unease when looking at him. And while that’s kind of a bummer, job well done, Penn.
Okay, time to tie up some loose ends and weigh in on some theories because this post is a novel.
Is Paco Joe 2.0? I don’t think so. I think Paco was an absolutely genius character developed for the show (he’s not in the book) whose sole purpose is to serve as a device for making us viewers think Joe has some humanity. And we should feel that way. Because underneath the stalking and the serial killing, Joe is, in fact, a (really messed up) human.
Is Beck actually dead? You know, the show could really go either way with this, but I think that yes, she is. It’s a bummer for Elizabeth Lail, because she really portrayed Beck beautifully, but I just doubt we’d take that much of a detour from the book, and SPOILER: Beck is definitely dead in the book. Graphically so. I did read that part.
Is Peach actually dead? This is an interesting question that hadn’t crossed my mind at all until Crystal brought it up last night, and I’m actually kind of hoping that Peach isn’t dead. I love continuity in a series, and it would be really nice to have some familiar faces in season 2. This would be a major plot twist, and I feel like Joe and Peach would do some twisted bargaining with each other because unlike Dan, Joe and Peach are truly two peas in a pod.
Is Candace actually alive? I want to say no. With each murder, Joe became more mentally unstable with increasing hallucinations involving Candace. Seeing as Beck’s murder (and Joe may consider this more like her betrayal) would have been the ultimate devastation to Joe, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Candace is nothing more than an emotionally driven figment of Joe’s imagination.
Will there be justice for Dr. Nicky (John Stamos)? Well, my friends, we can only hope. #silverfox
Wow. That was really long winded. Here I am a week later, and the show is still sticking with me and definitely has me feeling uneasy and on edge. How very millennial and scary it is to be living in the age of the internet. Have you finished You? What did you think and what do you expect to see in season 2? I’d love to know.
xoxo gossip girl is a saint compared to Joe