When You Season 2 dropped on Netflix the day after Christmas, all the good boys and girls were nestled on their couches watching Will Bettlehim nee Joe Goldberg start a new life in Los Angeles.
Some of his season highlights included grinding up a man in a meat grinder (I’ll never look at ground beef the same), getting a job at Anavarin (Nirvana spelled backward), and falling in love with a woman named Love despite swearing off romance following the turmoil he endured from his previous relationship.
At first-glance -- and after binge-ing in almost a full sitting (bathroom and snack breaks were mandatory) -- the series was a thrilling follow-up to Joe’s first murderous escapades in New York City that ended in Beck’s demise and Candace’s return from the dead.
In retrospect, and after the adrenaline of Will/Joe’s antics wore off, I realized the second season didn’t live up to my expectations the way that I had hoped.
My biggest gripe with the season was that it was unbelievable.
The first season engulfed audiences (well, after it hit Netflix since it was not as widely received when it aired on Lifetime, unfortunately), because of how relatable it was.
While many of us likely aren’t being stalked by a sociopath (hopefully and thankfully), there are elements from Joe and Beck’s toxic relationship that we could all connect to.
For starters, plenty of 20-somethings are living a life solely constructed for the ‘gram while simultaneously being a muddle of insecurities and emotions just like Beck.
The rise of online dating also makes us aware of the possibility of going on a date with a serial killer, though it hasn’t stopped us from putting ourselves out there and trying to find a soulmate yet.
We also know a Beck or we’ve all been a Beck, a woman who is too desperate for love and attention and is dating a guy that is all wrong for her.
And, there’s a high probability that we’ve all definitely dated a person who turned out to be someone they’re not.
It’s likely the person wasn’t a psychopath who was way too comfortable with permanently eliminating his problems and obstacles, but you get the idea.
With all that in mind, not much about the first season seemed impractical or unrealistic. In short, Beck got stalked by a guy, she was oblivious, she knew the relationship was toxic, but she kept going back to him, and it ended up with her 10 feet under.
She also didn’t know how to properly close her blinds, but that’s an editorial for a different day.
The point is -- this Beck could exist in real-life, and unfortunately, we know that this Joe, or a version of Joe, exists in real life.
Penn Badgley’s portrayal of Joe was never the problem.
Even in Season 2, he’s played with the same dangerous perfection that you find yourself drawn to him, rooting for him, and relating to him while simultaneously being terrified of his every move.
And despite being slightly more likable and humanized in the second season almost to the point of a stereotypical reformed bad boy a la Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries, there's still a constant tug-and-pull where you think Joe is becoming a better person only for him to remind you that he’s a killer underneath all that charisma and occasional compassion.
Most of the problems with the season stem from the plot, which often becomes contrived and unrealistic to continuously raise the stakes and keep the audience in a state of suspense and fear.
First off, Joe re-built an underground bunker, which probably made you go, “seriously?” How did he get his hands on all that glass? How did he get the design perfectly similar to the one he had in his bookshop? Who knows. And don’t get me started on the lack of security cameras at the storage facility.
Then, Joe steals Will Bettleheim’s identity, which isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
Identity fraud happens all the time, but, in this case, Joe keeps Will a prisoner and relies on him for advice. The real Will isn’t phased by the situation and simply hangs around until fake Will decides to release him. They even keep in touch, which is just absurd.
Candace’s return was an epic cliffhanger for Season 1 that left fans wanting to know how she survived, what she knew, and what revenge she had planned, but Candace’s whole storyline fell flat in Season 2.
Instead of making Joe pay, she popped in-and-out of his life without any concrete plans and could never deliver the gut-punch because of her PTSD.
It would have been more promising had she gone to the police or tried to expose him in some way instead of toying with him for no reason.
Eventually, she got killed by Love, which may have been most unbelievable part of it all.
The revelation that Love was just as crazy, if not crazier than Joe was a twist that few so coming.
That’s because there weren’t any clues suggesting there was something fundamentally wrong with her.
The switch came so abruptly as she went from someone we were concerned about to someone who concerned us.
It almost felt like the writers used the Love twist to justify Will’s actions because, don't worry, there's someone out there that’s worse than him.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a great plot twist and even better payback for Joe as he’s now stuck in relationship hell, but what are the odds that two killer’s teamed up in such a way?
My verdict isn't based in science, but I’m saying the chances are slim.
Will’s struggle to become better and quell his murderous tendencies also doesn't accurately portray what it's like to date someone with obsessive or serial killer tendencies in the same way Season 1 did.
It glosses over his “dark side” because hey, at least he’s trying to get better.
It also doesn’t properly depict unhealthy relationships or warning signs. And worse, it forces you to wonder how much you'd be willing to forgive for love even when it’s completely wrong and dangerous.
And lastly, the fact that Joe didn’t get caught despite so many close-calls is downright ridiculous.
He ground up bodies at Anavarin, and no one noticed; he killed Henderson and then gave his one-of-a-kind headphones to a cop, and no one batted an eyelash, and Ellie took his word about her sister and skipped town, and there were no questions asked.
It’s unlikely that at this point in his journey, no one would have figured it out, suspected him, or connected him to the crimes. And when Forty tried to, Joe simply caught another lucky break.
It’s not uncommon for serial killers to go undetected for years and rack up a high body count (lookin’ at you Ted Bundy), but there’s usually someone (or a whole police force) that's trying to take them down.
Even if Joe still has some more escapades up his sleeve, it would be more believable if someone was on his trail by this point and simply waiting for him to slip up so they could get the necessary proof.
Instead, he keeps getting away with it, which may just be the most unrealistic part of the season.
You Season 1 left you thinking "holy crap, this could happen to me," while YOU Season 2 assured you that "this would never happen."
With YOU Season 3 already in production if we're lucky, Joe, Will, or whatever name he goes by now, will hopefully get what’s coming to him sooner rather than later.
Lizzy Buczak was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in June 2021..