A few days ago a rant I was on was compared to “Joe Goldberg”. It was a joke and a minor reference, but it caught my attention. I had no idea who that was at the time, and was obviously curious so I looked into it. Found the show You on Netflix, and was told by that same person to watch it. They said I’d love it. And given the crazed stir that this show has around it online, I figured I didn’t want to be left behind on pop culture. So I started it up the other night.
And now I was going to start season 2 immediately, but I wanted to take some time to really put together what I liked and disliked about the show. I realize that I’m not it’s target demographic, so I’ll run with what I have. And this is by no means a comprehensive review. Just some things I noticed while watching the show that I wanted to mention before I go into Season 2. I won’t put any real spoilers here, just in case you haven’t seen season one, but if you haven’t just go watch it. It’s going to join pop culture cult following levels and you’re going to want to be a part of it.
The first thing I want to mention with season one is that the cinematography was wonderful. I don’t know much about cinematography, but I enjoyed what little things I could point out. The shaky cam and blur effect they used when Joe was freaking out helped the audience (or just me) feel the exact same way without putting words to it. It was a casual way of keeping the audience in his head. And it was effective. Every shot felt in some way meaningful and direct, little felt forced. But the few shots that DID feel forced felt very forced. You could almost tell what was going to happen in a scene just from how the shots were managed and laid out. It wasn’t bad, but it occasionally broke immersion.
The soundtrack was good. I think the most effective part of the music throughout season one was that I barely noticed it was there. It effectively conveyed emotion and tensity throughout but never drew attention from a scene by interrupting. As I said I barely noticed it, this is really the only thing I can say on it.
The acting was interesting. The good things about the acting I could say detracted from the overall performance, yet the bad things helped keep it fresh and flowing. So even the negatives weren’t all bad. Outside of the main characters, it felt like the acting was lackluster in this season. Characters didn’t seem to have any identity outside of their written dialogue, and that was sometimes delivered flatly. But that helped draw attention to the more animated figures at the center. In addition, it could be actors and actresses just caught by badly written scenes that they did their best with. The main cast seemed on pitch throughout but had moments of overacting or non-delivery that left a line or scene wanting. But I think worst of all, there were moments (and I will say moments, the majority of the show didn’t suffer from this) that I just didn’t buy the character of Joe Goldberg. Be it writing or acting, it just didn’t work at many times. But I’ll talk about this later on as well. I think some of the best performances came despite lackluster writing, such as done by Shay Mitchell who played Peach Salinger. Her character’s writing just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like much about it, but Shay Mitchell brought meaning behind every line. Her performance kept her character important in my eyes even when I didn’t believe a thing happening around her.
The writing for You was both brilliant and disappointing. The complexity of character established with your main cast meant that these characters were alive. They were fun and enjoyable to watch, knowing that they had feelings and reactions to the world around them. The secondary cast, on the other hand, felt flat and uninspired. Like they existed only to serve the plot. One particular case of this being the character of Peach Salinger. I couldn’t stand a thing with her character. I didn’t buy much of it, she felt forced, her dialogue and behavior often didn’t make sense. I can appreciate the attempt at making her dynamic, but she just felt like a flat character given botox to add depth after the fact. I have nothing to point out here as evidence, I just know I couldn’t stand her character. But as stated before, her portrayal by actress Shay Mitchell DID sell much of it to me while I was watching. Its really only after finishing it that I have a problem with it. As a concept, the show almost doesn’t work. There just doesn’t seem like there’s enough story to be told there. Not only did they make it work, but they also did so in a meaningful way. They expanded on their base and made the story feel organic and true development of circumstances and evolution of character. It worked. Down to the fact that Joe’s involvement made almost no difference in the story until the end. None of the things he “had” to do needed to be done at all. Which is a stark contrast to other similar characters we’ve seen in recent years. Joe could have done nothing, been truly normal, and possibly prevailed the same way he had throughout season one. Now the end of the season turns that on its head, but it was a brilliant way of portraying it none the less.
Having finished season one I will say I’m hesitant on season two. I’m not sure how well the character of Joe Goldberg holds up into the future. And saddling the entirety of the series on his shoulders feels a little weak to me. BUT I’ve heard over and over again how good season two was in spite of this, so maybe I’m being unjustly critical of him. I just didn’t like him much. But again, I’m not this shows target demographic.
I didn’t like the show. I didn’t dislike the show. There were things about it that I was captivated by, and things I was repulsed by. But I couldn’t stop watching it. I wanted to learn more. And it wasn’t until around episode 8 in the season that I realized the show wanted me to believe certain things. That it was pushing for me to believe one thing in particular, which of course turned out to not be true at the end. I fell into it pretty easily and enjoyed my time watching the show. It was entertainment, and I was entertained. I feel almost obsessed with it, despite the fact that I can’t quite bring myself to say I liked it. It was good. Very good even. But I don’t think I liked it. But I HAVE to watch season 2? I’m not sure. It’s strange. Another nod to good writing on their part. If I’m drawn to keep watching, I know everyone who loved or even liked the show is too.
I’ll probably do one of these for Season 2. Maybe write a bit for every episode and see what I thought / think. Not sure yet. Just keep the content coming as best I can as I journey down this rabbit hole. We’ll see.
See you all next time.