The typical serial killer to fall in love with – ‘You’

You would think that for someone who is constantly in search of captivating stories on all kinds of platforms I would have pretty much seen everything by now. After having watched some truly mind boggling series of varied genres and unpredictable storylines, and spending time understanding patterns and intentions behind stories and plot lines, I thought I had reached a point where nothing would really surprise me anymore. And then came along this insane series ‘You’ starting Penn Badgley and a number of beautiful women that managed to blow me away yet again.

It wouldn’t be a spoiler if I stated that it is an unconventionally presented serial killer series featuring a presumably disturbed man whose stream of consciousness is the key highlight of the show. He sure is a righteous man with an impeccable taste in literature. He makes complex references to literature and is extremely considerate towards the tiniest of details. He is capable of intense love but you’d never know what would throw him off. Of course, he is meticulous and efficient in every task he does.

This is not the first time this plot has been experimented with. But this one is on the crime and punishment level where the protagonist has an insightful discourse to deliver through every step of his life. You would expect that the madness and mental instability that he displays would be the shock element, but in fact, for me the shock element was how easy it is to connect to what he thinks and acts upon. Joe Goldberg, the protagonist, has the most appropriate and the most convincing explanations to almost every wrong thing that he does and we have no option but to empathise with him most times. Sure, there are some completely unreasonable moments but the logic of his existence explained in the most literary and intellectual manner overshadows the moments where there is any lack of reason.

If the aim of ‘You’ was to disturb the viewers by actually connecting them to the plot line and make them feel empathy for a serial killer, it has succeeded immensely in doing so. You wouldn’t think you would connect to a killer and root for him every time he promises to get better, although we know that there are more episodes left which means he is bound to spiral. Is the concept entirely new and unpredictable? Absolutely not. From the beginning Joe displays distinguishable qualities of a serial killer. An intelligent perfectionist who gets completely obsessed with a new girl every season, he wants to protect her and goes to literally any length to do so. You can almost predict the ending, and yet what keeps you hooked till the end through four seasons now?

Firstly it is the consistency in upping the game stakes with each new season. Usually it is a serial killer against the world. You would expect him to move on from one victim to another deploying new type of strategies and approaches to fulfil his deeply rooted drive towards morally explicit controversies. But from the second season onwards the show takes a new approach while keeping the motifs intact. It gets more and more interesting how Joe manoeuvres through new adventures in life without getting caught, but staying true to his deepest nature. Each season, he promises to be a better man and leave everything behind, but the murder magnet that he is; he keeps ending up in the most questionable scenarios.

I don’t intend to sound dramatic, but Joe is an incredible man. A serial killer that I would never want to encounter; but an incredible man nonetheless. He suffers from an equal measure of superiority and inferiority complex. He devours books and protects them like his life depends on them. He is observant of the tiniest of details and has the wittiest answers to difficult questions. And he has a dark, intense sense of humour that will make you fall in love with him without a question. A typical predator alright.

I cannot help but wonder if the writers intended to make Joe a typical serial killer character with a layer of conscience to him. He is a killer, and at the same time he’s a good man. The polarities living within him make him amongst the most interesting characters. I believe that a character with polarities is a tricky task for the director and the actor because its easy to embark upon the cringy path while bringing it to life. Joe is not a 100% authentic throughout the series, but he’s as close as it gets.

‘You’ managed to surprise me with how engaging it is. After the second season, I could hardly predict anything other than the absolute end. After so many series and films that have played around the serial killer theme, this one is my favourite in the thread.

Added edit:

The final part of the last season is out now and of course I finished it in a day. I cannot believe how they ended it. You would expect that a conscious serial killer would perhaps opt for atonement or punishment. It does happen and in the most unexpected way. And more happens. The ending was something I simply did not predict. The writers have knocked the ball way out of the park with the climax – its as disturbing as it is unexpected. Incredible script, hands down.

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