Third season of Netflix’s ‘You’ digs its own grave

Penn Badgley and Victoria Pedretti star in the third season of ‘You,’ which gained instant popularity when season one was released in 2018. Despite excellent performances from both actors, season three descends into little more than a murderous reality show. // Photo courtesy of Netflix

With the arrival of Halloween, the infamous Netflix show “You” returned on Oct. 15 for its third — and not final — season. Even before this release, the “Hidden Bodies” adaptation confirmed the coming of its fourth season. But one has to ask whether or not this is a good thing.

There is no questioning the captivation of the first season of ‘You,’ but after a shaky storyline in the second season, the third season continues this decline. Unlike the first season, Penn Badgley (“Gossip Girl”) returns as a co-star in his role as Joe rather than the main character. Reprising her role as Love from the second season, Victoria Pedretti (“The Haunting of Hill House”) becomes one of the main focuses, starting in the first episode.

With the addition of Love, the audience no longer follows Joe’s internal narration. The perspective shifts to both Joe and Love’s internal dialogue, which distracts from their character development the previous seasons built. This personal perspective was one of the unique draws of “You,” but the transition away from it detracts from the coherence of the show’s storyline.

The second season ended with the epiphany that Love has and continues to share in Joe’s obsession with killing. As a demonstration of her love, Love murders Candace (Ambyr Childers, “Aquarius”) to protect her future with Joe and her baby. As the loose ends of season two are tied up, Joe and Love elude the cops, and the murders are pinned on Forty (James Scully, “Heathers” ) after his death

However, season three begins with these ends unraveling. A common factor in every “You” season is Joe’s fatherly instinct to protect a child: first Paco, then Ellie (Jenna Ortega, “Jane the Virgin”) and finally his son, Henry. While Paco was beautifully written out, the writers hit a snag when finishing Ellie’s character. With only a few mentions, Ellie is expected to live dependent on Joe’s book-selling profits with the knowledge that he and his friends are her friends’ and sister’s murderers. After being mentioned maybe three times, Ellie’s name is dropped from the rest of the season as if she had been forgotten about.

This new season is separated from the other two in its focus on Joe and Love creating relationships while becoming first-time parents — along with the casual murder and frame jobs of course. The season begins with high hopes and an intriguing storyline as psychopathy meets cookie-cutter suburbs.

However, as more characters are introduced and developed, the show turns from a psychoanalytical romantic thriller to a murderous reality show starring residents of every stereotype.

Oddly enough, the third season of “You” can be compared to the Netflix series “Santa Clarita Diet.” This comedy horror show follows a wife who becomes a zombie and her husband who helps her hide their consistent murders in order to sustain her zombie cravings. Similarly, Joe seems to be simply forced to clean up all of Love’s murderous mistakes but without the cushion of comedy that “Santa Clarita Diet” thrived on.

Joe, who had previously been seen as charming in his own twisted way, became an annoying counterpart to Love’s unstable personality. Although both characters were portrayed beautifully by Badgley and Pedretti, the written characters made finishing the season difficult. At each murderous turn, there was less of a surprise and the routine of murder-suicide became so frequent in the series that the season lost its shock effect.

While the third season has its flaws, some moments remind the audience why they started watching. In returning to his stalker roots, the audience gets a glimpse at Joe’s dark charm once again. The dynamic between Love and Theo versus Joe and Marianne kept a sense of intrigue, although brief. Despite its predictability, the ending to the tenth and final episode of season three was beautiful. As wrap-ups go, this one was clean. The true beauty in this episode is seen in the strength of Joe’s parental love, which has been strong throughout the entire season.

Based on the extended storyline within the third season, one can only assume the writers were scraping together anything they could. These ideas are still able to captivate audiences and create new perspectives in the thriller genre.

Even as an easy binge, “You” Season Three would not be a top pick to watch; however, psychological thrillers are “in” now, so no one will be surprised when the next season of “You” reaches the Top 10 on Netflix.