Look who's (still) stalking on 'You' Season 3. (Spoiler: It's Joe, of course.) : Pop Culture Happy Hour When the Netflix thriller series You premiered three years ago, it started a lot of conversations. The show was told largely from the point of view of a charismatic serial killer named Joe, played by Penn Badgley, and it followed his obsession with and stalking of a young woman. Now in its third season, Joe hasn't changed much as a person, even though his circumstances have. He has a wife now, and a baby, although he's hardly living the typical suburban dad life.

Look who's (still) stalking on 'You' Season 3. (Spoiler: It's Joe, of course.)

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LINDA HOLMES, HOST:

When the thriller series "You" premiered three years ago, it started a lot of conversations. The show was told largely from the point of view of a charismatic serial killer named Joe, and it followed his obsession with and stalking of a young woman. A second season focused on a different young woman, and now there's a third.

AISHA HARRIS, HOST:

Penn Badgley plays the dangerous Joe. He hasn't changed much as a person, even though his circumstances have. He has a wife now and a baby, although he's hardly living the typical suburban dad life. I'm Aisha Harris.

HOLMES: And I'm Linda Holmes. And today we're talking about "You" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. It's just the two of us today. And before we get started, I want to clear up some sort of rules of the road for this episode. As we mentioned in the intro, this is the third season of "You," and what we're going to do is talk for a while about the show while spoiling only the events really of the first two seasons, talking more kind of vaguely about the third. Then we'll take a break, then we'll do a more spoiler-y conversation about this third season and what happens in it. So you won't miss that transition. We will definitely give you some warning.

So Joe, who's played, as we mentioned, by Penn Badgley, is a dangerous serial killer. In the first season, he stalked and eventually killed a woman named Beck. And in the second, the tables wound up being turned on him as a woman named Love, played by Victoria Pedretti, became obsessed with him and ultimately turned to murder to cement her relationship with him. They ultimately got married. They have a baby. And when we find them in Season 3, Love and Joe are trying to settle in as a suburban family, even as Joe continues to restlessly fixate on new women.

Aisha, you have seen all three seasons of this show. I picked this show up in Season 3. What is your kind of - what has been your general take on this show?

HARRIS: Well, I'm very curious to hear your thoughts as someone who jumped into this...

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: ...From Season 3 because, to me, the first two seasons, I think, were doing something really interesting and smart. The conceit of the show is that throughout this, you are almost always seeing things from Joe's point of view. And he narrates.

HOLMES: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "YOU")

PENN BADGLEY: (As Joe) Wow. Hello there. Who are you? Based on your vibe, a student. Your blouse is loose. You're not here to be ogled. But those bracelets, they jangle.

HARRIS: So you hear his thoughts, his stream of consciousness and also his calculating in how he's going to - he walks us through what he's planning to do, how he's feeling at any moment. And there's a couple ways that can go, you know, considering that he is a good-looking man in, like, the most conventional white guy way. That is sort of the premise of the show is that he's able to get away with so many things because of that and because of the way it disarms everyone, men and women.

What I really liked about the first two seasons is that even though we are in his head, it's doing this sort of like "Lolita" Humbert Humbert sort of thing where it's like, you should feel appalled by what's going on, and I think it kind of helps demystify in some way the many ways in which Joe is a terrible person. And it does so knowingly. Like, the show - at least in the first few seasons, I think - knows that Joe is repulsive and terrible and is - basically in some ways, he touts a lot of things that could sound like incel talk, like, you know, the men who are on all of these websites talking about how women don't love them, women play games, blah blah blah blah.

Season 3, I feel - I'm wondering if the show has run its course because in the first season, he's obsessed with Beck, and it's set in New York. And we get to understand the way in which he thinks about relationships and he fixates on them. And then once they no longer serve him, he either harms the woman in some way or - well, he always - he harms everything he touches. He harms the woman in some way, and then he moves on to the next obsession. The you is always a different person. And in...

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: ...Season 2, the twist with Love, I think, was really, really fascinating. And with Season 3, it's like, now we're going to sort of subvert these tropes about marriage and also suburban, mostly white, yuppie lifestyle. And I don't think it translates as interestingly or feels as subversive as the previous two seasons do because we've seen this happen before. We've seen all of these...

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...Deconstructions of suburban life. And I don't think the show is really able to make that as interesting as it could be, even with the added layer of, oh, but these are also two, like, serial killers who can't stop killing (laughter).

HOLMES: Right, right.

HARRIS: To me, it didn't do enough. So I'm curious...

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...To hear what your thoughts were on how it translates for you, especially not knowing what happened before. I mean, Season 3 does hint at things and refers back to...

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: ...Certain things. But I can imagine it might have been a little bit, like, confusing.

HOLMES: So I'm not necessarily big into, like, super violent monster things with very weird exceptions. So when I heard that this was like a very close up, like, watch this guy stalking and terrorizing this woman, it really did not sound like a me kind of thing. And then there was enough coverage at the end of that season where the coverage of the finale of that first season pretty much went pretty explicitly down a road of, like, this ultimately turned out the way it always had to turn out, which is that you think maybe he's not going to ultimately kill her, but he ultimately does, right? And so I definitely knew that that was how that season had ended.

So I had, I think, looked at some, you know, summaries and stuff like that because, even though I didn't want to watch it, I was curious about it because people thought it was interesting. It was making it onto, you know, year-end lists. So I was pretty familiar with what had happened in that first season. The second season, the descriptions that I read of it were a little more confusing, so I definitely did not follow as closely what the results of the second season had been, except that I knew that there was a woman who to some degree kind of turned the tables on him a bit. The other thing I had been very aware of was this kind of dialogue that's taken place in the press and with interviews with Penn Badgley about the way people relate to Joe. Because, like you said, Joe is attractive, charismatic, funny sometimes, you know, written to be funny sometimes.

HARRIS: Yeah.

HOLMES: And there's a real risk of people kind of attaching to him in a way that feels gross and weird as opposed to what you're talking about, which is demystifying, like, how guys like this really operate and think. And the thing that was interesting to me was, I think now that you have this woman operating who you're not seeing the world from her point of view nearly as much as you do his, she's not the narrator, right? You know, he's not in every scene. There are scenes that are Love and somebody else. But you definitely don't get her POV the same way you get his. And what that starts to mean is that he is legitimately presented as harried because of this difficult, demanding, irrational woman that he lives with. And I think the shift in that perspective where there's someone now of whom he is sort of not a victim, but like who he is - sort of constantly rolling his eyes like, oh, me and the wife. I was a little uncomfortable with where that put the audience relative to Joe. Do you know what I mean?

HARRIS: I can totally see that. I mean, I think one thing that I do appreciate about this season is that one of the questions that the show I think is asking is like, OK, what does justice for Joe - like, against Joe...

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: ...Look like? And again, this is where the metaphors and the themes kind of become sort of rote. But there is a way to look at this as, like, this is his prison. This is his punishment - is being trapped in this super sterile world of, like, it's in the bay, in the Bay Area, where, you know, there's mommy bloggers and everything's vegan or organic or whatever, and that is his own personal sort of hell. The other thing that I think the first few seasons do so well is that the entire time we're in Joe's mind, he still thinks that he's a good dude (laughter). He justifies every killing, everything he does. In the first two seasons, they had sort of two different younger figures who came into his life in a way who he was, like, trying to protect.

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: And so that sort of gave him this, like, oh, I may do these things, but, like, I also want to make sure these young, innocent kids are protected.

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: And so he tries to say, oh, I'm going to - I'm only killing this person because they got in my way or they said something wrong or, like, I couldn't help it. And I think it's interesting to see that dynamic happen between him and Love because Love doesn't have those same hang-ups about it. She just goes all in.

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: And to see that sort of back and forth between them where he's, like, sort of trying not to do any more killing, but she's just like...

HOLMES: Right. Right.

HARRIS: ...This is what I've got to do. And that to me is like somewhat interesting.

HOLMES: Yep. And that sounds like a perfect opportunity to transition to talking about some of the more specific events of this season. So we're going to take a very quick break, and then we're going to move into this more spoilery Season 3 conversation. So we'll see you in just a minute.

All right, time for spoilers. We're going to give away a lot of events of Season 3, so come back later if you haven't already seen it and you want to be surprised. There are a couple things that happen in Season 3. The first is there's a little bit of a fake-out at the beginning that actually started at the end of Season 2 that suggests the season will be about Joe's obsession with this neighbor named Natalie. But before too long, Love catches wind of this interest on Joe's part and kills her. So we go in a different direction, which involves settling in with Natalie's husband, who, of course, is desperate to figure out what happened to her. He's played by Scott Speedman - and his former stepson Theo, played by Dylan Arnold, who has spied Love next door and is very intrigued by her. Love and Joe also have a couple of neighbors they're becoming pals with named Sherry and Cary, played by Shalita Grant and Travis Van Winkle. Sherry is kind of a cool influencer. Cary is one of those self-styled rich hippies who's always trying to talk about masculinity and his feelings. And of course, Joe is now fixating on an entirely new woman. Her name is Marienne, and she works at the library. She's played by Tati Gabrielle. You were talking, Aisha, about the way that Love doesn't really have the same need to justify what she does necessarily. She's a little more just sort of enthusiastic about it, one might say.

HARRIS: (Laughter) Yeah.

HOLMES: Do you feel that way about her kind of fairly early killing of the neighbor?

HARRIS: Oh, yeah. I mean, that was - that felt very much like the "Psycho," you think this is going to be about Marion Crane, and then she gets murdered at, like, 20 minutes, 30 minutes into the movie. I appreciated that fake-out. I do think, though, their dynamic in the relationship has - so there's the first few episodes they're going to couples therapy.

HOLMES: Yes.

HARRIS: But they have to talk in code because they can't actually say what they mean, like, oh, you killed the neighbor and, oh, I have to help you.

HOLMES: Right, exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "YOU")

VICTORIA PEDRETTI: (As Love) I caught him about to cheat. It's the same thing.

BADGLEY: (As Joe) The difference is that I almost did a bad thing, and she actually did a terrible thing. But I can't say what she did, so I'm the villain.

(As Joe) I'm not saying I'm blameless.

HARRIS: I think what I appreciate about it is the fact that there is no easy out for Joe because he could divorce her. He could leave her. But she knows everything he's done or most of what he's done and vice versa. So like, they're kind of trapped in this terrible, terrible relationship.

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: I also think it's interesting that even though there are hints that Love - well, not even hints - like, Love does cheat on Joe with the young neighbor boy (laughter) who is, like, in college or, like, failing...

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...Out of college. But despite that, she's very much on board with Joe in a way. And so that, I guess, gets a little squicky just because it does have, like, the woman being the sort of nagging wife, like, oh, I - take my wife, please...

HOLMES: Right, right.

HARRIS: ...You know, those sort of things. But again, Joe is a despicable character. And again, it just brings me back to, OK, what are we doing here? Like, what is the rest of the arc of this character? Because are we just going to keep seeing him get out of these very - he comes close to dying a few times and doesn't (laughter).

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: So it's like, OK, when is Frankenstein going to be felled? And clearly...

HOLMES: Yes.

HARRIS: ...It's not anytime soon because it's just been renewed for Season 4. So...

HOLMES: Yeah. There's an episode that involves Sherry and Cary, who revealed to Joe and Love that they are polyamorous, or they...

HARRIS: Yes.

HOLMES: ...Swing or whatever you want to call it with other couples, and they're interested in perhaps spending an evening with Joe and Love. And it turns into this kind of world's most awkward dinner party where, like, it's not hot to Joe. It's a little bit hot to Love, maybe with regard to Sherry, but mostly what I took away from that episode was this sense of really that the comedy of Joe being, like, stuck at the weirdest - like, what he feels like is the weirdest and most awkward night of swinging ever.

HARRIS: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "YOU")

SHALITA GRANT: (As Sherry) If you ever get overwhelmed, just look at your partner. Connect. At the end of the day, that's who you're here for.

TRAVIS VAN WINKLE: (As Cary) And if you feel too overwhelmed, just use the safe word - hakuna matata.

BADGLEY: (As Joe) Disney should sue these people.

HOLMES: And comedy is such a powerful weapon to put you in somebody's corner. Like, the minute that you have a character who is like, oh, my God, can you believe these people? - you know?

HARRIS: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...Which is sort of the mode that Joe is in for most of that episode. Even as it turns really dark, I felt like that episode was, via comedy, sort of putting you in Joe's corner. And it made me uncomfortable 'cause this was kind of why I decided to jump in and watch this season. I knew enough about what had happened. I was curious about exactly what you're saying. Like, where do you go with this now, especially considering that Penn Badgley has even had to come out and talk about like, look; nobody should be attracted to Joe straightforwardly, you know?

HARRIS: Yeah.

HOLMES: Like, nobody should be, like, hot for Joe. That's not healthy. And so does surrounding him with someone who's maybe not more violent than he is - equally violent as he is, but not as charming as he is - does that mess with the dynamic of what the show is?

HARRIS: Yeah. I'm glad you pointed out the Sherry and Cary dynamic because, you know, one, I think it kind of falls into this stereotype about how poly people and people who are open in that they're, like, just naturally silly (laughter) in a way that, like...

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: ...Kind of rubs me wrong. It was like - it was super comedic. And even the fact that Sherry - one of her quirks is that she's, like, really loud while having sex. And so like...

HOLMES: Yes.

HARRIS: ...They, of course, play that up for major laughs. So putting Joe up against those people in a way in which you said it puts you in Joe's corner, this is something that actually happens throughout Seasons 1 and 2 because Joe does encounter plenty of, like, abhorrent...

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...People. Every once in a while, he will say something that's like a critique of someone else, and I'm like, yeah, you're not wrong (laughter). And that's the way...

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: ...In which the show walks this very fine line between putting you on his side and also finding him repulsive.

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: Putting him in this Bay Area scenario, this sort of Pleasantville that is actually not pleasant at all, takes that to an even higher extreme than it has in the previous seasons. And I think that's sort of where the disconnect is for me. Although I will say, even with all of that, I still think that some of the critiques and the sort of jokes, the, like, throwaway jokes, about sort of - whether it's influencers or just these weird diets and fads and all these other things, I think those were actually kind of the things that worked for me the most (laughter).

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: Because I think sometimes it can be really smart and sharp just for, like, a beat or two in that sense. And so I think as a sort of critique of that and, like, millennials in a way, in the same way that something like "Search Party" is - which I also have to say, Shalita Grant is great here as Sherry - was also Dory's attorney in "Search Party," and I loved that performance. And I think she's doing really great stuff here.

HOLMES: Yeah.

HARRIS: And I'm curious what you think about - by the end of the season because what's interesting is that the show definitely sets Sherry and Cary up as jokes and sort of caricatures in a way.

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: But then by the end, it softens them and actually shows a different side of them, especially Sherry's relationship with Love.

HOLMES: For sure.

HARRIS: The way in which they interrogate briefly, like, how Sherry views their relationship and how Love views their relationship, their friendship, I thought was really, really interesting.

HOLMES: Yeah. Yeah, you know, I think I would probably be more into this show if it were a little bit shorter seasons, like if it were more, like, a six-episode season because I did feel that, eventually, I was kind of just watching it with the grim sense of like, who's going to get killed, right?

HARRIS: Right.

HOLMES: I didn't feel as engaged with it from a character perspective. And I was kind of like - the super grizzliest parts, I would kind of skip over a little bit 'cause I felt like I was just kind of marking time until I found out, like, are they going to kill Sherry and Cary, who are in the cage? Are they going to kill Scott Speedman? Are they going to kill this kid who lives next door? And they actually didn't murder as many people as I expected, I have to say.

HARRIS: (Laughter).

HOLMES: Like, most of those people lived.

HARRIS: Yeah.

HOLMES: So I don't think it's a bad show, and I was glad that I took, you know, the time to watch a season of it 'cause I do get what the appeal of it is, partly because it really does put you in that complicated position of, like, he is written to be funny and sometimes right and sometimes smart, and he's surrounded by idiots, just like he always says he is, and yet he's a big old murderer.

HARRIS: (Laughter).

HOLMES: As you mentioned, this show has been renewed for a fourth season. He killed Love at the end of this season. Now, in fairness to Joe - my favorite phrase - in fairness to Joe, she tried to kill him also. So now he's on his own again.

HARRIS: In Paris, I guess.

HOLMES: What is there left to explore in a fourth season, do you think?

HARRIS: I kept thinking about this. I don't know (laughter). I wish I had an answer. I mean, so we know that Marienne is still - she's fine. Like, Marienne...

HOLMES: Yes.

HARRIS: ...Seemed to be the one person who, like, was able to break down Love's walls. And Love was on the brink of killing her but then didn't. And I got to say, the reason that she didn't, which is largely in part because Marienne's daughter walks in, and she's like, oh, I can't let that beautiful child not have a mother - I was like, ugh, God, OK (laughter). Love is a serial killer. Is that really the thing? Is motherhood so powerful that - I don't know.

HOLMES: No.

HARRIS: Anyway, I guess my thing is like, OK, can this show ever give him the reckoning that he needs or at least that we want?

HOLMES: Right.

HARRIS: And I don't know what that would look like. I guess it could be if he were, you know, finally found guilty and then had to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But, like, I don't know.

HOLMES: Yeah. And the trick is - at this point, like, if they were to start showing you, like, a police officer who was, like, circling Joe, I would not be spending the whole season being like, ooh, this is a great, like, back-and-forth between this guy and Joe; I would be thinking, does Joe kill Police Officer? Yes or no?

HARRIS: Right.

HOLMES: And that would be kind of how the season would be defined for me. And it's like, there's now only one thing that I really would ever ask myself about Joe, which is, does he kill this person or not?

HARRIS: Yeah. I'm imagining that Joe has a police officer going after - or a detective of some sort going after him, and it's a woman, and he becomes obsessed with her, and she also becomes obsessed with him because maybe she doesn't know that she's tracking him, but she's looking for something. And it turns into, like, a "Killing Eve" situation where there's, like, a cat-and-mouse game. And I don't know. Maybe that could be interesting.

HOLMES: Maybe so.

HARRIS: I don't know how the dynamics of that would work. But yes, just throwing that out there.

HOLMES: We will see how it goes when it eventually comes out, and we'll see who's in a cage this time.

We do want to know what you think about "You." Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter at @pchh. That brings us to the end of our show. Thank you so much, Aisha, for helping me, the newbie, get into the world of this show.

HARRIS: Thank you. I don't think we were - hopefully, we weren't too fair to Joe today. We'll see.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: I don't think we were. I don't think we were. And of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. We will see you all tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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