Last Christmas we all became utterly engrossed with the gloriously trashy thriller that was Netflix's 'You'. The ultimate guilty pleasure, it was consumed at the same speed as a page-turning poolside read on your holiday. Which would make sense considering that the show is adapted from just that - with the first season based on Caroline Kepnes's 2014 book 'You' while this second season is loosely based on its sequel, 'Hidden Bodies'.
'You' was your classic boy meets girl - except the boy was actually a murderous stalker. 'Gossip Girl' alum Penn Badgley returns as the enigmatic Joe in season 2, who has now relocated to Los Angeles to escape the clutches of his vengeful ex Candace (Ambyr Childers). 'The Haunting of Hill House' star Victoria Pedretti has long been geared up as Joe's new love interest, with her character called, wait for it, Love.
As we promised, we won't give away any spoilers here, but what you really want to know is, is the second season any use?
We're here to give you a resounding yes. In fact, you could even say it's better than season 1.
What can be difficult with the second season of a show like this is that fans now know to expect lots of twists and turns so it's even more difficult to keep them on their toes. However, what helps a show like this in its second season is that the central character is already set up. We don't need to wonder how far Joe is willing to go, we've seen him murder at least three people now, we all know what he's capable of. As an audience, we are now harder to shock so the stakes need to be raised considerably.
Thankfully, 'You' season 2 does all of this. While at first, it may seem like it's going down the same well-worn path, this second season takes you down a much different yet equally gripping road.
There was a lot of talk after the opening season about the fairly ill-advised crush viewers developed on Joe while watching 'You'. Yes, clearly a terrible idea, he's the bad guy! But this is what the show does so incredibly well. You cannot help but find yourself in the morally ambiguous ground of rooting for Joe at times. There are a lot of reasons for this and it's not as simple as just 'fancying the bad guy' or that you want to see Lonely Boy get the girl (or that this is what all rom-coms have trained us to do).
First off, it's because Penn Badgley is, to be fair, superb in this role and utterly compelling to watch. This second season also gives us much more of a back story that help, at least in some part, explain why Joe is the way he is. It's also because most of the story is told through his first-person perspective, you are constantly given his reasons, however messed up, for making the choices he makes. He takes you on his dark journey with him and it's all well and good until suddenly you are watching him trying to get rid of a body and you get a stark reminder of just how f*ed up he actually is.
The subject of Joe's interest in season one, Beck (Elizabeth Lail), wasn't necessarily very likeable for some viewers. However, Victoria Pedretti's Love is the exact opposite and you immediately warm to her and want only good things for her, initially just wishing she would get as far away as she can from Joe (who now goes by Will, by the way, his new LA alias to stay off Candace's radar.) Love and Will's relationship also feels so real and earned. It's tender and adorable and you can see how they are falling for each other. Once again you can't help but hope these two crazy kids might just work it out. But then you remember one of them is legit crazy.
As usual, there's a mix of supporting characters that Joe (we'll just keep calling him Joe) gets tangled up with. As he is now in LA, a lot of them are absolute walking cliches but a shout out to Joe's neighbours Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) and Ellie (Jenna Ortega) who are great additions to the season.
Some of the others, we'll be honest, are very poorly written. The dialogue between Love and her friends at times is downright cringeworthy. Maybe people really talk like that in LA, and if so, we must never go there ever. Fordy, Love's twin brother', is given the most amount of screentime of the sideline characters and while he proves necessary to the overall plot, he's endlessly irritating to watch. Although perhaps that's a testament to James Scully, who plays him.
This season has thankfully avoided the whole "he's behind you!" thing (because that was just getting ridiculous in season one). It even seems to poke fun at this in a market scene between Joe and Love. There's also a lot less pseudo-intellectual navel-gazing and much more food porn thanks to Love's skills in the kitchen.
There are a couple of episodes in the second half of the season where the story seems to go off course, but stick with it because it soon gets back on track. And the most impressive part of this second season is just how well all the various elements come together, which is what you want from a good story really. It does lay it on a bit thick with explaining the plot sometimes, however, putting in unnecessary flashbacks to previous conversations. Come on 'You', give the viewer more credit, we're following along just fine.
So yeah, 'You' hasn't quite shaken off its "cheesy trashy thriller" label but this second season still leaves its first outing in the dust. The stakes have been raised, the body count is higher and you soon become as obsessed with this story as Joe is with love. We are starting to feel a lot less guilty about this particular guilty pleasure.