The Netflix follow-up to the hit Lifetime show, You, has been a viral hit since its premiere around the holiday season. The show follows Joe Goldberg, a serial killer fresh to LA after murdering his girlfriend, Beck, and publishing a memoir framing her therapist for the act. In this season, Joe has a new love interest, aptly named Love, who, in the end, is no different from Joe. She murders his neighbor to cover up his crimes and commits to living their lives together with their unborn child, unbothered by anyone suspicious of the skeletons in their closet.
After the first season of the show gained traction, fans went to the internet, writing thirsty posts for Joe that were along the lines of “put me in your box, Joe” or begging for him to stalk them. These posts were obviously alarming, so much so that actor Penn Badgley has infamously taken to Twitter, responding to posts and reminding them that Joe is, in fact, a murderer. This continued once again with the release of the second season, causing similar reactions from Badgley.
Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) in many ways exhibits behaviors that are influenced and reflective of these problematic responses to the show. We first see hints of this in the episode “Farewell, My Bunny,” when Love confronts Joe about his past. He manipulates Love into believing him, ending on a monologue that includes the thesis “don’t ever stop calling me” and “I have never loved anyone like this before.”
It is revealed in the final two episodes that Love has killed both Joe’s neighbor and ex-girlfriend in order to protect him from being exposed. She locks Joe in his own cage and explains to him: “I’m protecting you because I want to, Joe.” Love recounts her process of finding Joe, which is retold to the audience using a voiceover, mimicking how we’ve experienced Joe’s process.
Love’s actions have been repeated incessantly during an age where the genre of True Crime is more popular than ever. This trend, most often focused on the murder of women, has only
increased in popularity. Following each new documentary, the collective zeitgeist goes on deep dives into the specifics of each case in order to stay involved in the public discourse. Just last year there was a resurgence of the fetishization of killer Ted Bundy, who used his looks and charm to rape and murder dozens of women. Though Love may not be a direct representation of the culture that perpetuates the fetish of killers, she is willing to go to extreme lengths to excuse the crimes of an attractive white male murderer.
In a 2018 interview with Alex Di Trolio, Penn Badgley discusses how love has been defined in
our current cultural consciousness as tied to lust, infatuation, and possession. The character of Love challenges the audience to consider their own definition of love. Through her actions she claims are out of love for Joe, we see that this “love” is exactly as Badgley described: an act out of infatuation and possession. When Love explains her reasoning to Joe, we see her thought process reflected back at us, the same people who have taken online to lust after a murderer. We are then forced to ask: how far are we willing to go to excuse this man?
As the season concludes, Joe and a pregnant Love move into a suburban home and we hear
his voiceover once again, ending this season how each one began: with the discovery of a new woman obsession. This woman is their new neighbor, seen sunbathing through the fence with a stack of books next to her (another consistent theme of Joe’s victims). In this final moment we are forced to accept that though we believe Joe has changed, he will only continue his pattern. Love’s sacrifices and actions have not protected him and he will remain on the hunt in the now confirmed third season. How high must the body count go before Joe is caught?