For Netflix’s You, one frenzied murderer simply isn’t enough—the engrossing thriller doubles down on its winning formula in season three. Last season, Joe (Penn Badgley) met his match while searching for true love: His partner Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) was revealed to be just as unhinged as he is. In an entertaining but not wholly surprising season three, Joe and Love are married and ready to wreak havoc in the small town of Madre Linda. The couple initially attempt to rein in their bloody urges for the sake of their newborn son, Henry. The two serial killers want to at least try to be good role models.
It doesn’t take long for them to resort to their old tricks. Joe digs out his trusty blue baseball cap—his version of Clark Kent wearing glasses to conceal his identity—to stalk his married neighbor, Natalie Engler (Michaela McManus). Love becomes suspicious, even as she forms a bond with Natalie’s flirty stepson Theo (Dylan Arnold). (Scott Speedman sporadically appears as Natalie’s stoic husband, Matthew, a tech entrepreneur with quite an agenda.) As the Quinn-Goldbergs fall into old patterns and the body count eventually starts to rise, You takes a familiar shape as well.
You continues to offer multiple, increasingly chaotic twists. Fun curveballs are probably expected now for anyone who has devoured the two previous seasons and become familiar with the show’s structure. But You’s mechanical approach still works because the episodes successfully heighten the stakes. Joe isn’t the only committing crimes. In fact, he might be slightly more in control of himself than his wife. (Only slightly.)
As Love is impulsive and wild, Pedretti is absolutely riveting as she seethes in rage, steeps in sorrow, and at a moment’s notice, transforms into a homicidal maniac. The actor’s work in The Haunting Of Hill House and The Haunting Of Bly Manor, or even in You season two was sweet and ingenuous, which makes her dark, expressive turn digging into Love’s pathos even more chilling. Love’s portrayal is bolstered by Pedretti’s sparkling yet terrifying chemistry with Badgley, whose provocative performance makes Joe’s inner monologues almost daunting.
The most compelling aspect of You season three is Joe and Love’s explosive rollercoaster of a relationship. They keep referring to each other as soulmates with a mix of sincerity and abhorrence, and their tumultuous feelings are intensified by the feeling of being trapped in their new home. Madre Linda is a typical affluent suburb with white picket fences and a tight-knit community, similar to the setting of Marc Cherry dramedies like Desperate Housewives and Why Women Kill, where buried secrets thrive under manicured lawns.
To briefly escape this cozy nightmare, Joe works at the local library and strikes a friendship with his boss, Marienne (a sublime Tati Gabrielle). Meanwhile, Love has opened up a bakery, cheekily named A Fresh Tart, in a town where no one eats gluten. For the sake of normalcy and friendship, Love desperately wants to get along with the judgmental mom group in town, led by influencer Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant).
Joe struggles to connect with his son (anyone want to tell him The Great Gatsby isn’t a baby book?), but his and Love’s claims to want to do better take a turn when they bring their child along to bury someone. As Joe and Love drive up Madre Linda’s crime rate, their infamous glass cage sees multiple occupants during the season’s 10-episode run.
You quickly dispenses with the question of how the duo is able to continue their murderous spree. Joe’s a straight white man who attracts little suspicion even as people are frequently killed around him. Similarly, Love escaped scrutiny for her ex-husband’s untimely death and for killing her childhood au pair thanks to her wealth. They both find it easy to hide their monstrosity from friends and family members.
Halfway through its third season, You puts the focus on supporting characters like Sherry and her adventurous husband, Cary Conrad (Travis Van Winkle), adding a more tragicomic flair to the show. Grant delivers another sly performance after her roles in Search Party and Santa Clarita Diet.
You juggles a fair number of narrative threads, like the downward spiral of Love’s mother Dottie (Saffron Burrows), Marienne’s personal problems, and Theo’s budding crush on Love. Throw in an all-male blowout in the forest, as well as half-baked exposition on issues like anti-vaxxers, the 2019 college admissions scandal, and “Missing White Woman Syndrome”—which also happens to be the actual title of episode three—and the third season can feel quite clunky at times. The strong acting manages to keep things afloat.
Love is an adept adversary for Joe, but ultimately it’s his show, his narration, his warped point-of-view. Joe’s inherent need to project, and to distort the words and actions of the women in his life, creates violent chaos anywhere he goes. You builds on his past with flashbacks to his mother, his formative school years, and callbacks to previous characters like Beck, Peach, and Candace. Joe’s toxic masculinity is on full display once again, especially in his interactions with Marienne, and You delivers sharp commentary as it attacks Joe’s nature. His voiceovers are pretentious—“Parenthood is Groundhog Day written by Jean-Paul Sartre”—but the show is self-aware and more enjoyable for it.
Season three elicits some empathy for Joe and Love, but doesn’t excuse any of their disturbing behavior. It renders an understanding of how generational trauma is passed down to them with detrimental results. Though it can be overstuffed at times, You balances brazen humor with emotional intelligence, all while keeping the mystery intact.