Second season of “You” ups the stakes

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Sahana Garrett, Perspective Editor

The first season’s story depicted Joe (Penn Badgley) pursuing and ultimately killing the object of his twisted affection (Elizabeth Lail); now, having assumed a new identity and transplanted himself to Los Angeles to evade the consequences of his broken view of love, he meets a new obsession, unsubtly named, well, Love. As played by Victoria Pedretti of “The Haunting of Hill House,” Love is an amped-up version of Beck — with yet more insecurities easily exploited and with what had, in Beck, been a low-key willingness to one-up Joe’s craziness now expressing itself in vibrant flower.

In short, it’s a new city, but a similar template: Joe has found a new person to serve as the staging-ground for his toxic ideas of “protection.” But in amping up that would-be lover’s interest in Joe — to the degree that, rather than needing to lure her in, Joe needs at first to keep her at arms’ length — a central problem of the show only deepens.

In its first season, Joe (as represented in his voice-overs and as seen in his day-to-day life) was a basically likable person whose most toxic inner life only expressed itself in sparky flashes of rage. The character made sense in all moments: The nice Joe and the evil one both made sense, both coexisting within a strangely compelling and surprisingly sympathetic character. Now, in the second season, Joe is given even more nuance as he struggles to juggle ongoing crises with Love’s brother (James Scully) and with a creepy celebrity in his orbit (Chris D’Elia). That’s not even mentioning the new presences of a separate love-interest as well as Joe’s ex-girlfriend (Madeline Zima). No spoilers here, but it’s safe to say that both characters bring a breath of fresh life into Joe’s story, at times cranking up the drama to a wonderfully captivating degree.

The careful conversations and twisting narrative will have most viewers on the edge of their seats just as much as any of Joe’s surprisingly gruesome acts. The premise may be much of the same of the first season, but this new season does it’s best to craft a story that makes sure the audience can’t wait to see what will happen next.
That isn’t to say that the second season is all drama. The introduction and continued presence of Love’s brother, Forty provides plenty of humor.

Critics will perhaps grow tired of the show’s repeated attempts to shock the audience into the realization of Joe’s rotten personality, but fans will absolutely love the increased stakes and compelling narrative woven into the second season—especially the expertly foreshadowed twist.