Monday, 2 March 2020

TV review: You, season 1, Warner Horizon (2018)

Once you get past the discomfort of watching a nerdy bookstore clerk turn out to be a serial killer – it might just be so typical for someone, for example a lazy person, to think, if she were so inclined, that a person who likes reading BOOKS would also be a psychopath – this romance-cum-crime-thriller is very clever.

There are other flaws, though, such as a tendency to rely on such tired formulations as the abused child who turns out to have problems controlling his emotions or, even, of perceiving the world accurately. The show is also heavily plot-driven so that secondary characters are as fully realised as the leads. The police are remarkably obtuse, and because of the physical damage that the protagonist, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), sustains, some episodes verge on slapstick (you wonder if he’ll suddenly turn into one of Monty Python’s “Knights Who Say Ni”).

Despite his homicidal tendencies, we root for Joe all the way, partly because of the narrator’s voice (Joe’s) that efficiently lambastes Millennials by attacking their weakest points. Hookup culture and the gilded lives some people show the world on social media have had equally harsh critics but this is on Netflix so more people are going to be exposed to this satire. The following tribute for Joe from a viewer was not uncommon on Twitter.

You might say with some justification that a major theme of this series is the ways that men mistreat women. Secondary character Claudia (Victoria Cartagena), has an abusive relationship with a man and her son Paco (Luca Padovan) turns to Joe for support. Guinevere Beck (who calls herself “Beck”; Elizabeth Lail), the female lead, starts seeing Joe and their relationship runs alternately hot and cold until the crisis.

What is good about this show apart from the suspense it engenders in the viewer? It is compulsively watchable, and its poetry is strong: inspired writing adds lustre to scenes that might otherwise have been tepid or perfunctory. The need to add death as spice for plots in productions of this kind is unfortunate, but ‘You’ cleaves faithfully to the rules of its subgenre, so arguing with fate is pointless. 

Crime is not the only fictional method of showing how men and women interact, or the ways women cope with the crap that some men deal out, but women are drawn to crime dramas, and ‘You’ has been popular on Netflix, as the following tweet confirms.

Sadly, in the same period of time I was watching this series another Australian woman was murdered by an intimate partner. In this case he burned her so badly she died, and her three children died by fire as well. He was a football player of some renown, so aggressive behaviour was encouraged, in his case, by the community’s seemingly insatiable desire for such entertainment. 

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