Season 3 of YOU leads you on with a promising story before reverting back to its toxic ways

Everyone’s favourite serial stalker and murderer, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), returns to Netflix in season 3 of You. This time, Joe and Love (Victoria Pedretti) turn to upper class suburbia as their choice of locale to raise their new child. Can they blend in with their new neighbours and raise their child in peace? Or will their destructive behaviour tear through the pristine community of Madre Linda.

When this season kicked off, it was like a whole new breed of series. Combining the characters and narratives of You season 2 with some of the themes and locale of Desperate Housewives, this season looked to be crafting a brand new narrative that would be a breath of fresh air for the series. The first 4 episodes of this season are drenched in tension, all the result of a thrilling and deeply engaging narrative arc that spans these episodes. It’s something new for the series and it has the season shaping up to be the best yet. Every little adventure that Joe is embarking on through these early episodes is interesting, and the same can be said for Love. These early moments are predominantly about exploring the relationship between Joe and Love, and how their new venture into the world of parenthood has changed them, for better or worse. It creates plenty of tense moments and has you wanting to jump right into the next episode immediately.

Once the 5th episode hits, it’s like the season loses all sense of direction, focus and intrigue. There’s almost no concrete narrative driving the series forward, resulting in episode after episode of uninspired story arcs, and the feeling like it’s just hitting the same beats as in seasons prior. Nothing about the episodes 5-8 really grabbed me enough to be invested in where things are going, leading to some pretty boring sections. Sure, there’s a couple of inspired moments that make for genuinely interesting scenes, but they’re not capitalised on in the long run. The trials and tribulations of Joe and Love’s marriage is still a core element of these episodes, but it doesn’t have the thrilling backdrop of that core narrative lining the early episodes. All in all, it’s a disappointing chunk of the season that feels like an uninventive rehash of themes and story beats, lacking in focus and undoing all the work of the first 4 episodes.

That being said, from the mid-point of episode 9 through to the very end of episode 10, it returns to form – reinstating the tension and thrills that worked so well at the beginning of the season. It takes the story in pleasantly unsurprising directions, with some appropriately shocking twisty moments and closes out the season in a pleasing manner.

Despite those narrative woes through the middle of the season, Penn Badgley and Victoria Pedretti are mesmerising to watch through every moment. It’s really hard to separate these two performances, especially in this season due to how everything they do is linked. The way they depict the love, conflict, trust and distrust of their relationship through captivating dialogue is brilliant. They each bring varying levels of charisma to each scene and episode, ensuring that no matter which one of them we’re following, there’s always a compelling performance on screen. Newcomer Tati Gabrielle plays Marienne, a librarian in Madre Linda, who delivers an emotionally-heavy performance and makes her character one of the most interesting of the season. It’s as if everything lights up when she walks on screen, bringing a fresh personality that combats some of the ugliness seen through a number of other supporting characters.

Speaking of ugliness, one of my largest gripes with this season (on top of that lengthy dip in quality) is the way it presents almost all of the main characters in a way that makes them inherently unlikeable. That would be fine if we were talking about villains, but these are characters that you’re supposed to like to an extent. It’s hard to get into the specifics without getting dangerously close to spoilers – but there’s a specific act that the main characters all commit at multiple points throughout the season, and it’s utterly frustrating to watch. The majority of the time there’s not even a second thought given, which strips away so much from these characters and contributes to the overall toxicity of the series. It really is one of the most toxic series to every air on TV. It’s not the worst thing in terms of violence and brutality, but the fact that toxic behaviours are explored and excused through almost every episode makes it way up there.

In the end, You season 3 plays the “trust me, I’ve changed” good guy role for the first 4 episodes, offering something new, thrilling and exciting, before throwing it all out the window for a sub-par latter half. That being said, I still think this season sits on the edge of being good, but should have been great. The series may have already been renewed for a 4th season, however for me it appears to have run its course. The way it drifted back into familiar territory more and more through the season shows that the series doesn’t really have much new content to offer. Plus, the way this season ends and leads into the events of a 4th season isn’t all too exciting. Despite looking forward to more amazing performances, I don’t see how this series can pull it back and do anything better than the first 4 episodes of this season. Fans of the first 2 seasons are sure to get a kick out of this one, however if you weren’t a fan before, this won’t to much to change your mind.

6/10

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