The Terrific Writing of “You” Season 3

Season 2 of You finishes on a cliffhanger and was left on when Love, the character that Joe was obsessing over but was ultimately going to kill, decides not to do so because she reveals in a last second confession while he has a knife to her neck that she is pregnant with his child (collective gasp).  I thought it was a hell of an ending to a great season but once I started seeing promo for the now released season 3 of You, I asked myself how the writing team could actually make this cliff hanger into a viable, complete season of television without making it suck. Somehow, they were able to achieve it.

At the beginning of season 3 we see Joe, Love, and their new child moving into their modern suburban home in a neighborhood that looks like idyllic white picket fence America. Joe and Love do this in an attempt to leave the whole trying to kill your lover thing in the past for the future of their child and an attempt for a new start for both spouses.  We see the family get settled into their new idyllic abode, talking to neighbors and getting used to the parent life.  But soon this new phase in Love and Joe’s life starts to show old cracks in each of their personalities.  

As Love starts to fall more and more into motherhood and embraces Henry, their newborn while Joe begins to believe the baby hates him and just doesn’t vibe with him, which turns out to be more of foreshadowing than we know.  This was where the writing staff for You Season 3 really started to shine.  They really allow the predictability and  trepidation to envelop Love and Joe’s life even more than their past transgressions of murder and generally crummy things they have committed.  

But as all sociopaths, Joe cannot help himself, even when everything is seemingly going well and he has a chance for a new start.  He starts to stalk his neighbor, Natalie of Engler wife of tech mogul, Matthew Engler, who was actually a mistress of his who he ended up marrying.  This is a simple but accurate propellant for the events that will transpire throughout the season.  The writing team begins the accumulating snowball of terror and recklessness with this one slip up by Joe.  Joe and the wife of the tech mogul end up flirting here and there and then end up having a  glass of wine at her house and the obvious next step happens of them sleeping with each other.  After this we eventually see that Love finds out about this tryst between Joe and his lover and she ends up killing her in a fit of rage.  This one act pushes that proverbial accumulating snowball down the hill and from there it doesn’t really stop throughout the season.

 As Joe starts to repeat his old ways of killing and mayhem it makes it more sinister that he is narrating his journey throughout the show a majority of the episodes.  Instead of imagining what is going through his brain during these horrific events, we get to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.  It makes the audio portions of these grisly scenes more visceral than the visual portions.  Then Love becomes a narrator in episode 5 and it actually works. The writing staff could have fumbled this novelty but they executed it with precision. They embrace the novelty without making it corny.

Throughout the narration device we run into Love’s inevitable downfall and a recurring theme, her recklessness and negligence to kill.  There were so many times during season 3, where I was shouting on the couch “What in the hell are you doing, Love!!” It wasn’t me yelling at the writing because of the bad decisions they wrote for her but I felt this was the humanity and the bad decisions made by that character. That’s how good television is made.

In the middle of the season we see the return of a familiar device from previous seasons of You, the glass chamber.  During the fourth episode we are reintroduced to the glass chamber which Love and Joe build in the bottom of Love’s bakery. The writing team for You shows off their chops during this sequence of the spouses building the chamber when each of them secretly hides a key in the chamber from the other. This one detail allows for a foreshadowing to a later event in the season and is also indicative of the behavior we have seen throughout these characters and the paranoia that they have exhibited against each other. But this chamber is not only a physical barrier; the writers use it as a literary device. The chamber acts as its own environment because not only of its physicality but also the way it allows the killers to communicate with their potential victims in complete transparency, like some magical tool that sees through the bullshit facade of the dreaded suburban life.      

Supporting and auxiliary characters during the course of a tv show season can bring great admiration or permanent annoyance  to a show, but the writers from You hit a pinpoint mark with this season’s characters.  There are the neighbors,whether that be the tech magnate: Matthew Engler and his petulant and entertainingly cringeworthy son, Theo Engler. Then there are the annoyingly easy to root against perfect suburban couples that become the questionable friends of Joe and Love: mommyfluencer Sherry and her husband Carey (indeed, both of their names rhyme).  But then there is the librarian who becomes a focal point of Joe’s obsession, Marienne.  The writers are able to bring layers and more importantly misdirection to how these characters react and how they behave in context to Love and Joe’s sociopathic story.