Netflix’s stalker thriller You returns for a second season, and it kills

Perhaps the most deliciously satisfying thing about You is that it began as a Lifetime show. It seemed to fit right in, too — based on the novel of the same name by Caroline Kepnes, the show followed bookseller Joe Goldberg as he began to stalk a woman named Beck, gradually inserting himself more and more into her life as he attempted to woo her and isolate her from all her friends. You know. Lifetime stuff.

After a killer-but-little-watched first season, the show migrated to Netflix, where it will maybe find the audience it deserves — and yes, it does deserve it. Because You masquerades as trashy thriller in order to get you to underestimate it — dismiss it, even — while it goes to work subverting every assumption you had about it. It’s a trick that doesn’t seem repeatable, but in You’s second season, out December 26th, the show somehow pulls it off.BUT AS A CRIMINAL? HE’S HILARIOUSLY INCOMPETENT

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The second season of You is a bit of a reset. You’s first season was fairly conclusive (I’ll be vague to preserve the fun for those who haven’t seen it), so in its second season, Joe — trying to start over after the first season’s events in New York — moves to LA, a place he hates, but also a place no one knows him.

After briefly entertaining the notion of being a changed man who has left his stalking ways behind, Joe quickly falls into his old patterns. This time, his obsession is a woman named Love, his coworker at the hybrid wellness store / bookshop Anavrin. (Spell it backward and groan with me.)

At first, it seems like You is simply repeating itself, playing the same beats with a different woman in Joe’s sights. To a certain extent, that’s true — there’s even a running subplot about a troubled woman who lives next door with a plucky kid Joe becomes protective of, a mirror image of season 1 — but as the twists pile up, the reflection comes across as intentional and effective. And it’s not like there aren’t new things happening here. Love’s codependent relationship with her brother takes You into some unexpected places, and the show’s new setting gives it new arenas for exploring toxic masculinity. There’s also some leftover threads from last season that turn the pressure up. And finally, harkening back to a similar moment in season 1, when the show finally breaks free of Joe’s perspective to let the audience in on Love’s side of the story, things really take a turn.m

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