Netflix made it possible for you to watch “You,” and enjoy the carnage that unfolds when Joe Golberg (Penn Badgley) finds himself a new obsession.
When a character who goes to deranged lengths to stalk/control young women like he’s collecting them, the natural response is to root against him. I have never watched a serial killer and thought, “Wow, I hope this dude gets a happily-ever-after in some far away town where nobody knows what he’s done.”
This character is a little bit different than a Bundy or a Dahmer. He only exists in fictional media. The “You” book series laid the foundation of what this character became on-screen, but Badgley had a big hand in how he became a killer. The actor himself doesn’t like Joe, and has stated a few times that he had to be convinced to play this morally dark character. If the man himself doesn’t like Joe, why do you?
Is it some internal mission to save this obviously quite broken man? Do you find yourself rooting for him because deep-down, you know in your heart that he can change? Is there some small part of you that believes in his mission? I mean, surely he kills people, but most of the people he takes out are criminals or creeps. Dexter is a serial killer too, but he has a strict code, he only hurts the worst people in society. Joe doesn’t have that code, but he does project a sense of right and wrong. Is that enough to make him a sympathetic character?
I don’t think so.
Joe Goldberg is a villain in every definition of the word. Whether or not you agree with what he is doing, you can’t argue that he is right. Even when he does something like killing Peach–the character that was horrible to Beck and her entire group of friends–Joe still had no right to go to her house and take her life. He continually takes matters into his own hands, which is something that can’t happen in a functional society.
Season three shows how demented Joe is. His wife Love, (who herself is a horrific killing machine) has given Joe a nice life. He has a home in the suburbs, a wife who is literally obsessed with him and a son. His son is a young kid he loves to death.
But it still isn’t good enough.
He still finds new women to stalk, harass, threaten and kill for. In the third season, he has two new people he’s infatuated with, but because of Love, they both lose their lives. His neighbor Natalie literally loses her life, while Marienne is forced to flee the country to escape the Goldbergs.
Joe is a bad person. He ruins lives and leaves nothing but destruction in his wake. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching what Joe does, but I don’t think you should be a “Joe Stans” when this show reaches an epic conclusion.