‘You’ prompts sympathy for cold blooded killer

Molly Strader


Originally released on Lifetime in September 2018 with unsuccessful results, “You” became the Netflix binge-worthy show of winter break so much so that it has been taken on for a second season. Following an aspiring writer, her oddly charming stalker/boyfriend and her uppity friends, “You” evokes many emotions from its viewers.


The audience experiences a confusing simultaneous hatred and love for Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), New York City’s resident stalker and serial killer as well as the show’s narrator. The show builds Goldberg’s backstory as his present character’s actions get deeper into the realm of creepy and evil. Flashbacks of him locked away in the basement of the bookstore he works at bring to light his emotional hardships. The audience also feels bad about Goldberg’s ex-girlfriend cheating on him. Do these hardships, however, justify his actions?

The simple answer is no. Goldberg’s actions are selfish no matter how hard he tries to rationalize them to the audience. Because the audience hears his thoughts, more specifically fears and rationale, as the narrator, they end up feeling bad for him when he harms another person. The audience actually find themselves hoping he isn’t caught burning a body or locking away a grown man.

As far as the audience knows, Goldberg kills five people. Two of the kills are intended to sway young Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), who he stalks through social media and the internet. Some viewers give Beck more criticism than Goldberg because her character is poorly developed. Her background story roots in going to an Ivy League school, procrastinating writing assignments, having issues with a drug addicted dad and hooking up with a lot of guys. Honestly, she probably could have avoided some issues by putting up curtains in her giant apartment windows and password protecting her devices.

In comparison to the other people Beck flounces around with, Goldberg actually appears to be a good boyfriend, maybe a bit clingy, but overall so good that the audience forgets he killed Beck’s best friends. As with any new relationship, the couple faces issues. Beck needs time after her friend Peach Salinger (Shay Mitchell) seemingly kills herself, and she asks Goldberg to let her go. He does let her go, dates another woman and only lightly internet stalks Beck as any millennial ex would.

Beck later chooses to go back to Goldberg because she actually loves him. Her actions bring into question fate and free will in the situation and point out that he did not need to become a felon to make her love him. Beck’s decision leads to her eventual off-screen (assumed) death at the hands of him, making his jawline his only redeemable quality in the end, but also leading viewers to ask: is Beck really dead?

There is too much to unpack about this show, but it is well made, suspenseful, emotionally draining and sure to grab the attention of viewers, leaving them to question human instinct.

“You” can be seen on Netflix here. The book the series is based off of can be found here.

Molly Strader can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @mkstrader.