How “You” Has Thrilled its way to a second season

by Jasleen Munsalud

The psychological thriller “You” has become one of the biggest television series on Netflix since its release last December.

Netflix viewers have been raving about the show’s intensity and drama alongside other original Netflix dramas such as “Bird Box” and “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.”  “You” currently holds a 92 percent rating and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. On Jan. 17, the Twitter account @seewhatsnext, which is run by Netflix, revealed that the show is about to reach 40 million streams within its first month of being on the service. The fact that Netflix even released their viewing numbers is incredible enough; they have rarely disclosed their viewership to the public since beginning to produce original series in 2013. Many people are struck with disbelief at the numbers, not because they think “You” is unworthy of its popularity, but because the show has been around a lot longer than most realize.

The first season of “You” debuted on Lifetime last September, but the show only boasted about 650,000 viewers for each of its ten episodes, according to the New York Times. That is nowhere close to the number of people who watch it today on Netflix. The show’s producer, Greg Berlanti, even admitted in an interview that “barely anybody watched” the show. This lack of viewership led Lifetime to cancel “You” before its second season in early December.

Why has the show suddenly become so popular on Netflix after failing on Lifetime? The answer is clear: more and more people, especially younger audiences, are tuning into Netflix rather than their televisions. Netflix is arguably replacing television itself.

Getting more exposure on Netflix is not the only reason the show has become so popular. “You” has a unique storyline (based on the popular book of the same name by Caroline Kepnes) that successfully reeled people in with its thrilling twists and immoral main character. Starring Penn Badgley as a young bookstore manager named Joe Goldberg, the show covers themes of madness, love and obsession, while also showing the dangerous lack of privacy many people experience in today’s social media age.

The show follows Joe as he quickly develops an obsession with an aspiring writer and NYU grad student Guinevere Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail. Joe meets Beck as she looks for a book to purchase at Mooney’s, the bookstore where Joe works. As soon as he gets home from work, he searches through all of Beck’s social media, going so far as tracking down her residence and breaking into it when she isn’t home. Before the first episode ends, he is able to figure out where she is and watch her from a distance. He even gets a hold of her phone, giving him the power to read through every text message she sends and receives.

As “You” progresses, the audience watches Joe’s downward spiral as he devolves into an obsessive stalker and murderer. He makes some questionable and highly illegal decisions in order to be with Beck. From the first episode, it is easy to tell that the show has an unreliable narrator. Obviously, Joe is not your average romantic lead. The audience gets to see inside Joe’s mind, so that they can understand why he does what he does, and maybe even sympathize with him. Despite his stalker tendencies, Joe’s character is redeemed at certain points in the story, showing that he’s not a complete villain. However, the fact that the audience finds themselves rooting for Joe and Beck to be together begs the question, “Why do I want this horrible character to get the girl of his dreams?” Whether you actually believe that love can fix people, or it’s just in human nature to root for the love story, the fact is that much of the audience finds it hard not to forgive Joe.

The show was definitely meant to binge, being the television series equivalent of a page-turner, and people who have already finished the season will not have to wait much longer for answers after the season finale cliffhanger; Netflix has renewed “You” for a second season. A release date has not been announced, but production for the show is already underway.