‘You’ runs out of ideas in season two

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Joe Goldberg is back and creepier than ever in this season of “You.” On Dec. 26, Netflix released season two of their hit psychological thriller, “You.” Season one of the show captivated the internet, sparked serious Twitter debate and inspired thousands of memes. Season two tries to recapture the magic but tries a little too hard. 

Penn Badgley (“Gossip Girl”) returns as Joe, bookseller by day and murderous stalker by night. Basically, Joe is the natural progression of Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey. The perfect fit for the role, Badgley is able to seamlessly switch between romantic boyfriend and creepy stalker. Without such a competent lead, the show would be much less effective.

The first season closed with Joe murdering his girlfriend, framing her therapist for the crime and publishing a book in her name detailing the entire thing. The second season opens with him fleeing New York and his past crimes to start a new life across the country in Los Angeles. 

The new setting gives Joe even more opportunities to be pretentious ­— the entire first episode is just Joe complaining about Los Angeles. You name it, and Joe makes fun of it: hot yoga, juice cleanses, selfies and dogs in strollers. He even gets a job at a satirized version of Whole Foods. 

With the new season comes a whole new cast of characters. Like in the first season, the supporting roles bring a lot to the show. Opposite to Joe is a new love interest, played by Victoria Pedretti (“The Haunting of Hill House”), who is ironically named Love. The show indulges in a few too many “Love” puns, which quickly get old, but she is a well-developed character. Pedretti has an innate likability but is also able to keep up when the show gets darker.

Love also has a twin brother, named Forty (James Scully, “Heathes”) — an intended tennis pun. Despite the unfortunate name, the former junkie and aspiring filmmaker nearly steals the show. Joe once again befriends a neighborhood youth, Ellie (Jenna Ortega, “Iron Man 3”). Replacing Paco from season one, Ellie is a little older and is a prodigious, aspiring filmmaker. Her relationship with Joe humanizes him, a contrast to the monster the viewers know him to be. 

What makes “You” so effective is the portrayal of Joe. Yes, he is insanely creepy. Yes, he stalks, spies and murders. But when he is not up to nefarious deeds, it is easy to confuse him for a regular book clerk and a likable, if somewhat nerdy, guy. This is where the horror is really driven home — it is easy to think of real life people who are just a little off, like Joe.

Up until the last half of the second season, the plot matches that of the first season beat for beat. After that the show cranks up the volume and gets even darker and more twisted than season one. A vindictive ex makes an appearance, dark pasts are revealed and it turns out Joe might not be the only murderer in his inner circle. 

While “You” does make some surprising choices, it is relatively easy to figure big plot points out before they even hit. The season is a rehash of the first, taken to the extreme in every count. Once again, the season closes with a cliffhanger, teasing the possibility of a third season. But based on this season, it seems like the writers have exhausted their creativity.

With ten 45-minute episodes, “You” is a perfectly binge-able length. It is certainly not a groundbreaking series in any way and can be cringeworthy, but it is enjoyable. It is the perfect show to casually watch or have on in the background.