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I've been hearing a lot about You recently—originally on Lifetime, more recently binge-able on Netflix—usually along the lines of "I didn't like it at all, but I couldn't help watching it." Count me as someone who also couldn't help watching it, but/because I liked it a lot. Indeed, pathbreaking, revelatory, and tour de force are not too much to say about it. Including that last episode, and that jolt of an ending.
The series has something of American Psycho in it—being about a stalker and a kind of serial killer—but it's much more than that. It's about why people are especially afraid to fall in love with people who love them deeply. It's about the power of books, and words, and lies. And it's about a world—our world—in which social media has made it so easy to deceive.
Our protagonist Joe Goldberg (who manages a bookstore with a handy basement) does have a heart in him somewhere, as Beck, his obsession, tells him. He does his utmost to protect Paco, his neighbor's son, in danger of being beaten by the lout who lives with Paco's mother. Joe will do almost anything to support and protect Beck, except when that gets in the way of his own self-preservation. He may be a sociopath, but he's a much better than average boyfriend.
There's a literacy in this story, more than a passing glance at fables and white and black knights and princesses, which leaven the depravity, and serves as almost a co-equal foundation of the series. There's an understanding of human nature, what makes us all tick, that supports Freud's contention that the difference between sanity and psychosis can be razor thin. All of this animates a plot that's full of surprises and twists, though I did guess a few of them. Penn Badgley as Joe and Elizabeth Lail as Beck are just perfect in their parts, and I can well understand why Joe loves Beck so hard.
Netflix has called for a second season. I'll be watching it for sure, an unconflicted fan.