Rating: 5 Stars
Guinevere Beck, or Beck as she prefers to be called, walks into Mooney’s book shop looking for something interesting to read. She is broke, her poetry portfolio is still far from finished, and she’s carrying a wealth of secrets that prevent her from finding herself and moving on in life. The books, however, are an escape. Little does she know that within seconds of entering the unsuspecting shop, she’s captured the attention of Joe Goldberg, a lustful stalker with a genius level IQ and a silver tongue that fools even the most attentive of people.
Their meeting is brief, but Beck has unknowingly given Joe the one thing he needs to begin his quest for what he believes is love: her name. This is what happens in the very first scene of the Lifetime show, “YOU.” What happens next is ten episodes of edge-of-your-seat thrills, perfect writing and a terrifying story that could easily be based on true events.
“YOU” is based on Caroline Kepnes’ 2014 novel of the same name. Shortly after its publication, the television rights were acquired by Lifetime which aired the first season during the summer of 2018. Despite the show’s acclaim, Lifetime decided not to move forward with a planned second season. Netflix then acquired the rights with plans to release the second season later this year.
By far the greatest thing about “YOU” is the writing. Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble, the show’s developers, have done an amazing job of communicating the themes of Kepnes’ novel while successfully articulating the language of young people in the 21st century, especially when it comes to social media. The show features a lot of narration by Beck and Joe as they progress further and further into their relationship. This allows the viewer to better understand why these characters make the choices that they do while furthering the plot. The writing is never dull and it never feels forced; it feels very real.
The acting is also very good, particularly from Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and Joe (Penn Badgley). Lail does a great job with her portrayal of somebody who is essentially living a fictitious existence through her actions and her facial expressions. Badgley perfectly executes the narcissistic and methodical nature of his character without over-exaggeration or creating a caricature of himself. The supporting cast also adds compelling side narratives to the show.
“YOU” heavily plays into the potential dangers that social media culture poses to people in our modern age, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 30. The primary question that the novel and the show pose to the audience is “how far would you go for love?” The show aims to answer this through the presentation of stalking both in person and online through the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. This makes “YOU” a very engaging story to witness because it’s so real. The show successfully conveys how easy it would be for someone like Joe Goldberg, an obsessive stalker, manipulate themselves into the lives of others by doing a basic Facebook search. The show does have its fair share of unbelievable elements and sequences, but for the most part, it paints an accurate picture of what modern day social interactions and dating can potentially be like.
This is definitely a show that every college student should watch. It’s binge-worthy and packed with social commentary that many young people can learn from and relate to. It explores difficult topics that aren’t often seen in a mainstream television drama, making it a refreshing watch in addition to being an engaging one.
Overall, “YOU” is a perfect interpretation of everything that could go wrong with social media and dating culture. It is wildly entertaining as well as relevant to a variety of real problems that many young people deal with in one way or another. This is one to check out for sure.