Why We’re All Obsessed with the Show, ‘You’

Before listening to this episode, catch up on everything that happened in season two of You. The podcast transcript is almost word-for-word what is said in the episode but a few transition words are different. Also, I added headings and images here to help split up the text. TW: This post/episode does mention suicide as there is one that happens in season three of You.

Podcast Transcript

'You' season 1 official poster

Welcome everyone to the audio version of WhatSamWatches. This week’s episode is gonna be a little different because this won’t just be the audio version of a blog post. Instead, its its own podcast episode! And I plan to make more of these in the future. So for my first full podcast episode, I’m talking about You. The show on Netflix, not you as the audience. Anyway, this show already shot up to Netflix’s number one spot the week season 3 came out and even beat the super popular, Squid Game. So, now that I’ve finished binge-watching the new season, let’s get onto the show!

I think the concept of the show, You, is really what sucked us from the start. Joe, as obsessive and psychotic as he is, everything he does is for love. It only becomes a problem when he inevitably takes it to the extreme. He doesn’t have a problem with crossing the line between going too far if he believes his actions are justified. In season two, he meets and falls in love with a girl named Love. And what the second season really showed is the fact that Joe’s not really falling in love with these women. He’s falling in love with the idea of love. That unconditional perfect love that he wants so desperately. So Love’s name being the word love was really just this big metaphor. 

Season 2

'You' season 2 official poster

But in season two, Joe finally starts to realize that he hasn’t been the best guy over the past year. He’s killed a lot of people, but more that, he finally has to start facing the consequences of that. His first girlfriend, Candance, catches up to him and plans on telling Love who he really is. Which she knows because he tried to kill her. But all he really did was kidnap her, knock her out, and bury her. But he thought he killed her so seeing her show up again was a shock, to say the least. So most of season two is spent running off to LA and trying to prove to himself that he’s a good person.

But at the end of season two, everything changes. And not just because there are more murders for Joe to cover up. He finds out that Love is just like him. At least in the sense that she has killer instincts. She kills people for love. But when Joe sees her do it, he has a problem with it. But I don’t think it’s just because he’s coming to terms with the fact that killing people is crossing the line. I think it also has to do with the idea of the woman he’s fallen in love with. It’s that sense of innocence in these women and it’s only when he starts to realize they’re not who he thought they were when he’s no longer interested.

The Baby

Joe (played by Penn Badgley) and Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) holding baby Henry

The fact that Love is pregnant changes everything and now he feels a sense of responsibility. So he marries her, even though he doesn’t really love her anymore (or at least he thinks he doesn’t) and they move to the suburbs to be, or pretend to be, this normal suburban family. He wants better for his kid so he spends all of season three trying to be better again. But this time, there’s some gravitas because he has a kid. Speaking of which, he has a boy, Henry, and that makes him feel even more conflicted.

They originally thought they were having a girl but when he finds out that they had a son, he starts to panic a little. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, if I’m being honest. I get that he doesn’t want his son to be like him but he already knows that Love isn’t all that different from him. So whether their baby is a boy or a girl shouldn’t really matter if it’s really just about trying to mold their kid into being a better person than him. Sidenote, I found it really weird that Love and her mother call the baby Forty after Love’s now-dead brother. Especially since she’s the one that killed him. Love’s mother obviously has no idea but it is weird for Love to call her baby Forty when she’s the one who killed him.

Joe and Love in Season 3

Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) and Joe (played by Penn Badgely) looking out the window

That aside, season three also really presents a really interesting dichotomy. While Joe and Love are both killers, they’re actually much more different than we previously thought. Throughout the entire show, part of what makes Joe so interesting is the fact that he is the epitome of the overthinker. He immediately catches it when a woman’s flirting with him and walks himself through what he thinks her thought process might have been. And then if he’s interested back, which if we’re being honest, he kind of always is because he’s desperate for affection, he dives in.

He learns everything he can about her so that he can better assure that he’ll be successful when he finally makes his move. And then later, when he meets her friends and/or her family, he starts to mentally dissect them too and determines which ones he thinks are good for her and which ones aren’t. And only after that is when he decides he’ll kill someone. It’s when he believes that person isn’t good for the girl he loves or when he believes they’re not a good person. 

Love Kills Again

Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) looking at Natalie (played by Michaela McManus) while standing behind her

Love, however, is different. She kills people too but is so much more spontaneous and impulsive. And we really saw that in season three. There’s the neighbor that Joe becomes infatuated with and she kills him because of her jealousy. But she doesn’t really plan it out. Natalie, the neighbor Joe likes, shows Love this new space that she can use for her bakery and Love kills her with an axe. And she only does that after she finds a box of things that Joe kept hidden. In it are a bunch of things that have to do with Natalie, like the scarf she wore but got blood on after clinking her glass with his a little too hard. And afterward, Love has no idea what to do so she calls Joe, who always has multiple backup plans because again, he’s an overthinker. 

Then for a while, they come together to cover up this murder. Eventually, the problem fixes itself. Kind of. Another one of their neighbors, Gil, reveals to Love that his family had the measles. And this wouldn’t be as big of an issue except baby Henry got the measles and was hospitalized for a while. So, Love called everyone in the neighborhood to make sure that all the parents were aware but when she called Gil’s family, they didn’t say anything. To make matters worse, it turns out that Gil’s family consists of anti-vaxxers. Despite the obvious connection to modern-day politics, Love is not happy about it. So, she hits him in the head with a rolling pin and drags him to their glass cage.

Gil’s Suicide

Gil (played by Mackenzie Astin)

When she gets Joe involved, he doesn’t want to kill Gil, even though he’s angry at him too for what he did. But at this point, he’s still trying to be a better man for his son. So, they end up leaving him in there while they figure things out. Joe does what he does best and looks into Gil and his family and when presenting what they found, they discover his son sexually assaulted a girl at his last school. Not only that, but Gil and his wife helped cover it up and allowed it to happen again at his new school. But Gil didn’t actually know that it happened again. He was just naive enough to think it was a one-time thing so Joe and Love leave again to figure out what to do next.

But then, Gil hangs himself in the glass cage. After learning about who his son really was and how he contributed to another sexual assault, he just couldn’t handle the guilt. Upon finding his dead body via security cameras they’ve set up in the cage, Joe eventually puts together a new plan that helps solve all their problems. They take Gil back to his home and set up the hanging again and type out a suicide note where he confesses to killing Natalie. And they’re able to do that without getting caught because Gil’s family has been staying with his wife’s family.

Joe and Love Try to Make it Work

Joe (played by Penn Badgley) and Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) in couples counseling

As for Joe and Love, they go to couples counseling but they obviously can’t talk about everything because they literally murdered someone. But counseling actually ends up helping them. At least for the time being, and Joe no longer feels obligated to be in this relationship for their son. But he goes back to being in love with her again and he’s finally starting to change his perception of what a loving relationship should be. Before, his definition or at least perception of love as this idyllic idea. This pure and innocent undying love and every time he’s realized that his relationships aren’t pure anymore, he does everything in his power to get his relationships back to that. And that’s essentially like the honeymoon stage of the relationship.

This time, there’s just more at stake and that is enough for him to stay and try to make it work. And I mean really try. His idea of making it work before meant making it all go back to the surface-level infatuation he feels at the beginning. Now, he finally starts to realize that love isn’t that simple. That real love is more than being happy together and that a real and loving relationship takes work to keep. Well, at least that’s how he feels early on.

How Parenthood Changes Them

Joe (played by Penn Badgley) reading baby Henry a story

But over the course of the season, both Joe and Love also navigate what parenthood means for them. They both want to do better and be better for Henry, but they realize it’s easier said than done. Joe never had any parents to look up to, he doesn’t have a prime example to follow other than maybe he’s read in books. Which, by the way, we get it. He’s obsessed with books and pretty much likes anyone that’s also that into books.

Joe’s Childhood

Younger Joe (played by Jack Fisher)

But let’s get into Joe’s character for a minute. Joe’s past is, undoubtedly, complicated. His parents didn’t turn out to be the best people, let alone parents, and he later grew up in a group home, which is what we see in season three. But as crappy as his childhood is, it does shed a lot of light on why Joe is the person he is. His childhood is abusive; first with his father (or at least father figure) which we saw through flashbacks in season two, but also in his group home. In fact, Joe’s father is so abusive that he does something about it.

He shoots him. But only after he endures his torture of getting cigarettes burned onto his arm. And the same happens at the group home. He gets bullied there by the other kids and he doesn’t fight back. Instead, he takes the beatings because he knows killing his father was wrong. So wrong that his mother sent him away to this group home. And all of that really shape who he’s become today. 

Nurse Fiona

Nurse Fiona (played by Kim Shaw)

Although Joe’s a killer, he’s still, in a weird way, a pacifist. He only ever takes his aggression out when he’s pushed too far. But the way he rationalizes it has a lot to do with Nurse Fiona, who we meet in a series of flashbacks throughout season three. She’s kind and caring and presumably the first person that ever really cared about Joe. But that doesn’t stop the incessant bullying he endures in his group home.

The other kids beat him and he lets them instead of fighting back. And Nurse Fiona admires him for it. So when Joe sees an opportunity to physically hurt Fiona’s aggressive boyfriend, Travis, he doesn’t take it. He lets it go but he later lives to regret it because Fiona, quote-unquote, disappears. The police tell him she’s disappeared to Ohio but he doesn’t believe that. Instead, he thinks Travis did something to her so now whenever he does kill someone, he rationalizes it. He knows it’s wrong but if he’s killed someone that he genuinely believes is a bad person, he’s able to compartmentalize it all easily and a lot of that has to do with that pent-up shame, regret, and aggression that he’s pushed deep inside him. And it only ever comes out when it all gets to be too much for him.

Love’s Parents

Dottie (played by Saffron Burrows) holding a glass of wine

But then there’s Love. Her mother, Dottie, comes and goes throughout the entire season and even though she’s been there throughout her entire childhood, she’s not exactly the best maternal role model for Love either. She grew up wealthy and is able to take advantage of that by opening up a bakery relatively easily. But she’s always thought of her parents as being too self-absorbed. And Dottie let her husband “destroy her self-worth”, as Love puts it. They also constantly left Love and her twin brother, Forty, with their au pair who turned out to be sexually abusing him.

And that’s where Love’s murders started. But she frames Forty for the murder and her parents, instead of punishing them, cover it up by making it look like a suicide. After that, Forty becomes an addict and Love is the one that’s always protected him and taken care of him. That is, until she murders him. But then Love’s rocky relationship with her mother comes to a head when a drunk Dottie takes baby Henry to burn down a vineyard. A vineyard that Dottie bought but her almost ex-husband is trying to take from her. Love confronts her after they bail her out of jail and Dottie points out the fact that taking care of Forty gave Love purpose. And she admits she might be right. 


Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) and Joe (played by Penn Badgley)

Love may be compulsive but she always had a reason for it, even if she didn’t think through her actions the way that Joe does. Love kills people because she has this need to protect people because of how she had to protect Forty. So both Joe and Love have crappy parental figures. And it’s ultimately led to them becoming killers. But it doesn’t stop them from at least trying to be good parents for Henry because all they want is for him to not grow up the way they did.

By the time we get to the middle of season three, both Joe and Love are fixated on different people. But they also keep referring to each other as soulmates. So, when Joe starts obsessing over Marienne, the librarian, he just sees it as a healthy way of letting his inner beast out. In a way. He’s initially unwilling to make a move or act on his feelings for her, but he starts to think that he can just watch her. The way that he did when he fell for all the others. But he thinks he can keep it under control but this show wouldn’t be good if that was the end of it.

Where Their Relationship Goes Downhill

Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) and Joe (played by Penn Badgley)

And in the beginning, Joe and Love are in it together. They’re honest with each other about most things, the things that really matter. But later, they tell each other that they don’t need to know their every thought. And that really is almost like the beginning of the end. Joe clearly can’t keep his fascination with Marienne to a minimum the way that he thinks he can whereas Love tries a little harder to stay away from Theo.

Then, Joe learns more about Marienne’s past and how similar their pasts are. But not in the way he’d learned about the women he obsessed over before. He still stalked her but he tried to control his urges by not looking her up online. He also learned more about her through Dante, a friend who also worked at the library. 

The “Perfect Husband”

Joe (played by Penn Badgley) wearing a baseball hat with baby Henry strapped to him

Unfortunately, Joe learns that Marienne’s in a crisis of her own. And that desire to protect and save her from it all takes over. And it doesn’t help that Marienne feels the same way. They share a kiss but they both agree they can’t let it happen again. But it doesn’t stop Joe from wanting more and still wanting to keep Marienne close. So he finally gets past the idea that he and Love are soulmates because he doesn’t think they are anymore. But he’s not completely past her either. He acknowledges that there’s still love between them. They’re just not soulmates.

But Joe still wants to be the perfect husband. Or at least keep pretending to be one. After what happened at the end of season two with Delilah and what happened with Natalie at the beginning of the season, he knows to be careful. He doesn’t want to be with her anymore but he also knows that if Love finds out about him obsessing over Marienne, she could kill her. But when Joe takes Dottie to rehab, she makes him realize that Marienne isn’t the only one that could be in danger. When we met Love in season two, she mentioned she’d been married before and that he died from cancer. But Dottie tells Joe that she believes Love may have actually killed him. And knowing what Love’s capable of, Joe realizes that he also has to look out for himself, not just Marienne.

The Marienne of it All

Joe (played by Penn Badgley) with a crying baby Henry strapped to him while he talks to Marienne (played by Tati Gabrielle)

But he’s so focused on keeping Love at bay with this new obsession that he doesn’t fully realize he’s falling back into his own old patterns. Well, he does. He just thinks he’s better now and that he won’t take things too far this time. Marienne has an ex, Ryan, who has custody of their daughter, not because he deserves it, but because he comes from a rich family and he made it look like she wasn’t capable of being a good mother to their daughter, Juliette. 

But now, Marienne’s reopened their custody case. So, like before, Joe stalks him and is set with the idea that Ryan is a bad guy. Not only that, but he’s determined to help Marienne get custody of her daughter. And it really comes down to Joe’s desire to protect her and save her because he couldn’t save Nurse Fiona. But being that Joe’s married, Marienne isn’t willing to have an affair with him, even though she acknowledges that there’s chemistry there. Unlike her ex, Marienne’s actually in recovery and wants her next relationship to be open and honest, which won’t happen if it’s a secret extramarital affair.

Joe, Marienne, Love, and Theo

Ryan (played by Scott Michael Foster) speaking at an NA meeting
YOU (L to R) CHRIS O’SHEA as ANDREW in episode 308 of YOU Cr. JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX © 2021

Joe’s convinced Ryan’s a bad guy and we all know what he does to bad guys. Or at least ones that threaten the happiness of the person he loves. And he’s not exactly wrong. Apparently, Ryan’s not as clean as he presents himself to be. In fact, he’s not clean at all and he probably never got clean. He just hides it well. So Joe kills him and eventually makes it look like a robbery and a stabbing. And he does it all because he wants Marienne to stay with him. With Ryan having full custody, he was going to take Juliette to Jersey for a new job he got. But now Love’s the one in the way. So he wants to run away with Marienne, Juliette, and Henry.

While Joe obsesses over Marienne, Love falls for the neighbor’s kid, Theo. In the show, he’s supposed to be a young college kid but it is weird knowing that they’re almost the same age. But going back to Love’s impulsivity, she acts on her feelings. But after she does, she feels so incredibly guilty. So she starts ignoring Theo and tries to talk herself into being back in love with Joe, but it doesn’t really work.

Joe Wants Out

Sherry (played by Shalita Grant) and Cary (played by Travis Van Winkle)

She tries to keep her distance but after she slept with him, it’s no wonder why Theo keeps coming back, confused. But their relationship proves to have benefits because Theo informs her that his dad, Matthew, is looking into all their neighbors because he’s convinced she was murdered by someone else. Even though her case is officially closed. But Matthew also succumbs to his obsessive side and looks at all the security footage from everyone’s security systems.

But then, a solution presents itself. Or so it seems. Lately, Joe hasn’t been interested in having sex with Love, who’s genuinely trying so hard to make it work between them. Their neighbors, Sherry and Cary (and yes, it’s weird that their names rhyme), are in an open marriage and want to have a foursome with them. And that’s considering the fact that Love admits that her marriage is having some problems in that area. Joe sees this as an opportunity to end his marriage, but to make it seem like Love’s the bad guy. Because he doesn’t want to be the bad guy.

Joe’s Plan Backfires

Sherry (played by Shalita Grant) and Cary (played by Travis Van Winkle)

But then Joe’s plan backfires, again. Love realizes that Joe’s obsessing over someone else. She sees him space out during their swing session with Sherry and Cary and runs out. They have this big argument while Sherry and Cary are upstairs in their bedroom and Love blurts out the fact that she killed Natalie for Joe. And of course, Sherry and Cary hear the whole argument and after they all fight, Joe and Love take Sherry and Cary, who are unconscious, to their glass cage and the cycle begins again.

But after trapping them in the glass, it turns them both on and that’s when Joe realizes, their love language is violence. But now, Love’s leaning into it. She almost starts to embrace the violence because it’s keeping their marriage alive. Sherry tries to use her friendship with Love to convince her to let them out. And it starts to work until she says the exact wrong thing. She says that Love and Joe’s marriage didn’t stand a chance so she leaves a gun for them. One can shoot the other and she’ll let the survivor out. At first, they stick it out together but after Cary tries to shoot his way out of the cage, the bullet grazes Sherry’s ear and things start to look grim for the both of them.

Sherry and Cary in the Cage

Sherry (played by Shalita Grant) and Cary (played by Travis Van Winkle) locked in the glass cage

Sherry, to get back at him, shoots him in the leg. But she just wanted to graze him with the bullet just like he did to her. She apologizes profusely and they’re actually able to talk it out and make-up. However, they’re still trapped in the glass cage for a while and Cary’s not doing too well. Then, Sherry sees a scratch near the keyhole and realizes that there’s a key hidden somewhere inside the cage. And she eventually finds it and gets them out of there. So even though there’s been a lot of death this season, Sherry and Cary make it out alive.

But before that, Theo eventually finds Sherry and Cary in the glass cage, where they tell him everything they know about Natalie’s murder. Theo doesn’t fully believe them. Instead, he thinks Joe killed Natalie. And that’s because Theo starts looking into the security footage that his dad’s been obsessing over and eventually sees a suspicious clip of Joe on the day of Natalie’s murder. But at that point, Matthew is already reprimanded by everyone because Sherry lets Love post about Matthew’s snooping on her popular blog. 

Theo Comes Back

Theo (played by Dylan Arnold)

Regardless, Love lets Theo believe that Joe killed Natalie and he just wants to get her out of what he believes is an abusive marriage. But Love refuses to leave her family. So she says goodbye and convinces him to leave. But then hits him in the head anyway and leaves him there in the basement. For a little bit, we think he’s dead but Joe discovers he’s alive when he starts moaning after Joe’s already bagged him. So Joe injects him with a paralytic and later we find out that he left Theo at a hospital. And Matthew finds a paralyzed Joe after Love leaves to drop off some cupcakes for a party. Eventually, he learns that Theo’s at the hospital so Theo also makes it out of the season alive too.

Later, Love realizes who Joe’s been fixated on. After Ryan, Marienne’s ex, is murdered, she puts the pieces together. And she is not happy about it. And Love finally confronts him about it. But the truth is, Joe’s not the only one at fault here. Love had an affair too and they’re both clearly unhappy in this marriage. 

Love vs. Marienne

Marienne (played by Tati Gabrielle) and Juliette (played by Dallas Skye)

What it really comes down to is how similar Joe and Love really are. The biggest difference is the fact that Joe wants better. He doesn’t want to be this killer. Love doesn’t necessarily want to be one either but she’s not trying as hard not to be one. Joe doesn’t want to stay in this marriage anymore, one that is making him into the guy that he doesn’t want to be anymore. And Love goes in the opposite direction. She desperately wants to keep this marriage. She desperately wants to stay with Joe and more than that, she wants him to want and love her. And that difference is exactly why their relationship doesn’t work.

Finally, Joe tells Love he wants out of this marriage. But that isn’t the end of it. Henry fusses and Love leaves the room to soothe him and Joe realizes she might just kill him when she gets back. So he takes the knife. However, that’s when it goes downhill for him. Love puts a paralytic on the knife, so Joe grabbing the knife paralyzes him. Love invites Marienne over. At first, Joe and probably everyone watching think that Love invited her over to kill her. And maybe she thought she was going to too. But then Juliette comes in needing to use the bathroom so instead, she tells her the truth. Or at least part of it. She tells her that Joe killed her ex and that he will kill anyone for the one he’s obsessed with. And at that time, that happens to be Marienne.

How the Season Ends

Joe (played by Penn Badgley) laying on the floor with his mouth covered with a napkin

After talking to Marienne and letting her and her daughter leave, Love realizes that Joe’s the problem. And goes over to kill him. But at that point, the paralytic is starting to wear off and Joe surprises her by injecting her with the same paralytic, but a lethal amount of it. Apparently, Love’s just been growing it in her garden and Joe found out a while ago. So Joe’s last kill of the season is Love. And he makes her death look like a murder-suicide. Even though Joe’s still alive, he cuts off his own finger and bakes it into a pie for the police to eventually find. 

But he still has Henry. And if he keeps him, he knows that Henry will always know what he is: a murderer. And that realization comes courtesy of Love’s last words to him. He knows he’s not good enough for his son so he leaves him with people he knows will take care of him: Dante and Lansing, who had been trying to adopt another baby for the last few years. And at the end, Joe’s still holding out hope for Marienne. So he escapes to Paris, which is where she’s from, to try to find her. And it just circles back around to his constant obsessive nature and always taking it to the extreme. He knows his behavior is wrong but his obsession clouds everything for him. It doesn’t matter anymore because he’s convinced himself that he’s doing it all in the name of love. 

“We’re Perfect For Each Other”

Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) on the floor, paralyzed, as Joe watches her utter her last words, "We're perfect for each other"

Love, before she dies, says that they’re perfect together. And maybe in some alternate universe, they would be. They are so alike that they could be. But Love was always ready to dive into the deep end for their relationship, she was always ready to kill for him the way he did for her before. But after they get married and have a baby, it’s not enough for him. Joe can’t get past the fact that Love wasn’t who she said she was. When he found out that she was a killer like him, he was ready to kill her. The baby is the only reason why she didn’t die at the end of season two. But Joe continually insists that this time is different than the rest, and he did in season two when he first started obsessing over Love. 

So while I don’t know exactly what’s in store for the fourth season of You, what I do know is that Joe will continue to fall into this pattern. He will continue to obsess and he’ll continue to be a killer, as hard as he tries not to be. But even though we’re constantly going through Joe’s obsessive cycle, it really is the real draw of the show. Even though Joe is a killer and should be the furthest thing from a role model, we still weirdly sympathize with him. And sometimes we might even convince ourselves that he will be different this time around because he’s trying so hard to be different. To be better. But it never ends up being enough to stop his behavior. To stop his obsessing, to stop his killing nature.

Why ‘You’ Works

Love (played by Victoria Pedretti) and Joe (played by Penn Badgley) arguing in the basement

But part of what made the last two seasons so interesting to watch was the dynamic between Joe and Love. They are so similar but they have one distinct and detrimental difference. Joe wants to be better and is desperately trying to be better. And if he’s honest with himself, he knows he’s never going to become a better person while he’s with Love. They want the same thing: to love someone so completely and to have that other person love them back. But Love isn’t good enough for Joe. She’s a killer like he is, but he still sees her as less than because he still sees himself as the good guy, despite all his murders. And while we all know that Joe’s a murderer, we still strangely sympathize with him. And that’s really the key to why this show is such a success.

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