Can one be a good father if one is a bad man? That is the primary question posed by season three of Netflix’s electric romance/thriller series, You, and also posed by serial killer Joe himself. For anyone worried about whether the third season will live up to the hype of the previous two seasons, rest easy. I would go so far as to say this newest iteration might even be the best one yet! Following season two’s cliffhanger ending, Love (Victoria Pedretti) and Joe (Penn Badgley) are “stuck in a white picket purgatory” and hard at work raising their beautiful baby. With Love’s secrets out in the open and armed with the knowledge that she is just as much of a killer as Joe, the urge to protect baby Henry reigns supreme, even as Joe feels a lack of connection to him. Love’s jealous tendencies may prove to be the biggest issue of all. Can Joe measure up, becoming the parental figure he lacked in his own life?
With a new season comes an exciting and fresh crop of faces to flesh out this suburban hellscape. Adjusting to life here is easier said than done, especially when Joe’s mysterious realtor neighbor, Natalie (Michaela McManus), catches his eye. Natalie’s tech entrepreneur husband (Scott Speedman) and cute spunky stepson, Theo (Dylan Arnold), become more involved as the season progresses. Other new faces include queen bitch, Sherry (Shalita Grant), who basically runs the town, Sherry’s ultra-bro workout freak husband, Cary (Travis Van Winkle), douchey reporter, Ryan (Scott Michael Foster), and compassionate librarian, Marienne (Tati Gabrielle). Each new character leaves a mark, profoundly affecting the primary story of Joe and Love in one way or another.
Though the title of the first episode this season is “And They Lived Happily Ever After,” it should come as no surprise that Love and Joe do not exactly have the healthiest fairy-tale relationship. Both fall into familiar murderous habits, with the toxicity of their love turning cancerous. The simple solution of couples’ therapy may not even be enough to salvage what they once had. They get in an emotional screaming match at one point about how Joe will have to keep killing people, and Love is not enough for him! It is easy to see both sides of the argument. There is a point in the season where the couple makes love while picturing two completely different people. This clever juxtaposition highlights merely one of their numerous issues. Love and Joe share nearly equal screen time, even as their own separate agendas take sharp left turns.
Love’s annoying new “friends” invite her out for a latte after basically insinuating she is not very “fit,” but she learns very quickly that playing nice with Sherry may be paramount to getting her bakery business up and running. On the flip side, Joe struggles with cleaning up Love’s messes, finding new obsessions, and grappling with his place in being a dad. Flashbacks pad out Joe’s captivating backstory, holding up a mirror to poor parenting. Finally seeing this aspect of Joe come to light after all this time feels necessary, thanks to its narrative importance related to baby Henry.
As the explosive third season of You begins to unfold, its parallels to Dexter become all the more apparent. When Dexter had to deal with raising little Harrison, his entire life viewpoint shifted, as does Joe’s. It adds an entire new layer of surprise and compassion onto Joe’s character—Badgley peels off each layer with tenacity, and his insightful and often quite funny narration reflects that. Pedretti plays an even more unhinged version of Love than we saw last season, a given now that her motivations are clearly laid bare.
In trying to be normal, both actors are forced to put on a coat of disguise. A shocking moment in the final minutes of the first episode propels the story in ways that reverberate through all ten episodes. Setting the stage in this manner is just the beginning, as each subsequent episode features a gasp-worthy cliffhanger designed to keep the viewer powering through episodes. Possibly more than either season before it, this third iteration feels designed expressly for a satisfying binge-watch.
This third season has its claws out for anti-vaxxers, as well as the catty spoiled attitudes of the wealthy. It does right by its strongly-built characters, and delivers crazy sequences of shocking intensity (and gory kills!) As far as looking forward to the future, season four of You feels imminent. The finale brings everything full circle, provides necessary closure to this part of the story, and gifts us an ending that promises a new beginning. “I’ll be careful. So so careful. Things will be different this time,” Joe promises at one point this season. I am not sure how different they become, but I am loving the journey.
You brings a big bundle of joy as season three debuts on Netflix, coming Friday, October 15th.