Saturday, January 19, 2019

Review - You

I was planning to review Narcos: Mexico first, but You turned out to be way too entertaining.
I'm not saying the latter's better than the former - they're both equally superb, but the fact that You is only one season old ( while Narcos is four ), I think it deserves some blog space. :)

Some of you may not know that this series originally aired on Lifetime, before moving to Netflix more than 3 months later.
This proved to be a godsend, because despite having access to Lifetime, StarHub cable somehow didn't include this in its lineup, so I eventually got to see it through Netflix. ( Same thing happened with Bodyguard, which StarHub's BBC Demand channel doesn't carry. WTF! )

The general plot is quite straightforward: guy sees girl, develops an unhealthy obsession, stalks her and manipulates the relationship to suit his own notions of romantic perfection.

Sounds twisted, I agree. And it could've gone wrong in so many ways - but it didn't. In fact, the show was a huge hit, has been given the green light for season 2, and is one of my personal favourites.

So what made it work so well?

Much of its appeal lies in savvy casting. Penn Badgley plays said stalker, Joe Goldberg, with charm, intelligence, menace and creepiness in equal portions. The only other actor who succeeded at this was Michael C. Hall in Dexter ( my all-time favourite TV drama ), and I couldn't be happier to read about similar comparisons in various reviews.
There're other parallels too - from Joe's father figure mentor, to the frequent voiceovers ( narrated by the lead character in a deadpan tone ).

The object of Joe's affection, Guinevere Beck, is played by Elizabeth Lail - an actress I'd never seen before this. Lail is wonderfully cast: pretty in a wholesome, non-threatening way, with a beautiful smile and an infectious laugh. This is key in order to understand Joe's obsession.
However, kudos to the writers for making Beck a complex character who confuses and frustrates Joe, causing him to commit risky acts, upping the suspense significantly. It makes every episode highly unpredictable, keeping viewers hooked and craving more.

The peripheral characters are no less important, especially Beck's frenemy, Peach, and Joe's abused-kid neighbour, Paco. Both play integral roles in the storylines, with a twist in the climactic finale that made me go "WHOA!" Well played, scriptwriters. Well played, indeed!

Another great thing about the writing is the humour. It mostly involves Joe's inner voice and takes the form of sardonic comments. Sometimes, it occurs when Joe panics ( e.g. when a dead body might be discovered ) or, in one standout episode, when he's delirious from a head injury.
Credit goes to Badgley for delivering his lines with such comedic flair. Making me laugh during violent / gory scenes brings back memories of Dexter. :)

Gossip Girl fans will remember Badgley fondly. There, he played perhaps the only good guy in a swamp of douchebags ( he was also the good guy in The Stepfather ).
I wouldn't have pictured him as the villain, but You's producers obviously saw something dark in him and took a chance. Hopefully, this will open the door to even juicier roles. I'd very much like to see him in a period piece. Someone please make it happen!

On a more personal note, I've been stalked myself a couple of times, although not in such a severe manner. Examples include finding out my home address and driving past at night without my knowledge ( he voluntarily owned up to it later ), showing up to look for me during a night shift ( thank goodness I wasn't on duty ), repeated phone calls and messages, etc.
Social media didn't exist back then. Now that I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, people have much easier access to my comings and goings, although I have different privacy settings for more personal posts.

All I can say is, if someone who looks like Penn Badgley stalks me, I may not protest that much lol.
Looking forward to season 2!