Having kids usually means it’s time for most adults to settle down. A cushy house, a safe neighborhood, no more wild nights out, and certainly no more slashing throats. But as hard as Joe Goldberg and his wife, Love, may try to leave their murderous tendencies in the past, not even a baby boy can force the pair onto the straight and narrow.
As unfortunate as that may be for Joe and Love, it’s a blessing for fans of “You,” as Season 3 of Netflix’s sensual, psychopathic thriller-romance delivers the show’s craziest episodes yet.
With a brand new setting to explore, a wealth of intriguing characters surrounding them, and plenty of neighborhood drama to unfold, the blank canvas that is Season 3 allows for all new mysteries and adventures that will have viewers hooked from start to finish.
When we last saw Joe (Penn Badgley) and Love (Victoria Pedretti), the happy couple seemed headed in the right direction. Following the shocking late-season revelation that Love was just as insane as Joe – with multiple murders to her name, too – the two were suddenly a match made in heaven. With a little one on the way, the serial killers tied the knot and headed to the suburbs for a fresh start, ready to play house and fake it until they can make it. But before the Season 2 credits can even roll, Joe’s obsession finds its next target: the girl next door.
Season 3 picks up a few months down the road, fast-forwarding to the arrival of the baby and to new parents struggling to adjust to life with an infant. The knives and bludgeons are gone, instead replaced by pacifiers and bottles, and Joe and Love’s romance is disappearing just as quickly. What once seemed like a less than ideal, yet bearable, punishment for Joe has rapidly devolved into a loveless nightmare more confining than the literal prison he keeps in his basement. While Love remains more devoted than ever to her husband and newborn, Joe’s wandering eyes can’t stay off his desperate housewife neighbor, Natalie (Michaela McManus), which is bad news when your wife is known to be jealous, impulsive, and, of course, a murderer.
But Joe’s infatuation with Natalie certainly isn’t the only drama in the not-so-sleepy suburb of Madre Linda. Both Joe and Love find themselves with as many new friends as they do new members on their hit lists, all while trying to raise a child and save their marriage. It’s safe to say the two are far from settling down in Season 3.
While Badgley was primarily the only holdover from the show’s first season to its second, this time around he is sharing the spotlight with Pedretti as a fellow returnee. Pedretti – a Netflix star in her own right, with two “Haunting” installments and a season of “You” under her belt – is what makes this season feel as fresh as one of Love’s baked goods. Up until the end of Season 2, everything followed a similar pattern, as Joe’s meticulous planning and detailed internet stalking premeditated any of his strikes, save a few surprises. But as seen by Love’s actions to close last season, she operates in an entirely different manner. There is no planning with her, just emotion, which means her victims – and Joe – are at the mercy of her bloody impulses.
Pedretti’s ability to channel so many emotions at once – from hurt to anger, fear, passion and everything in between – is unmatched on screen, and her performance feels startlingly raw as she becomes more and more unraveled throughout the season. The decision to place such a loose cannon at the heart of the story opens the doors to all sorts of possibilities, and also leads to an entirely new side of Badgley and Joe.
Rather than being the one on the prowl, Season 3 forces Joe to play defense more often than not. Whether he’s protecting others from Love’s wrath or himself, it’s almost as if he’s forced to use his powers for good rather than evil. Albeit, he still manages enough kills of his own, too, so it’s not like he’s that good. Badgley pulls off a truly impressive feat, making his abusive, manipulative character manage to come off as the rational one compared to Love.
Beyond the main duo, Natalie is hardly the only new and noteworthy character this season. The supporting cast as almost entirely made up of fresh faces, with the exception of Love’s mother, Dottie (Saffron Burrows). Tati Gabrielle plays Marianne, a librarian and another potential crush for Joe, while Shalita Grant and Travis Van Winkle appear as the cringe-worthy, Insta-famous local celebrity couple, Sherry and Cary Conrad. Scott Speedman’s Matthew Engler and Dylan Arnold’s Theo Engler round out the supporting cast, as the inquisitive husband rebellious son of next door Natalie.
While each character may be filling a different suburban stereotype, the cast brings the cliches to life in the best way possible. Nonstop eye rolling seems to be the goal, and it’s most definitely the result, which means this cast is spot on.
As great as Season 3 of “You” may be, it does have a few hiccups – namely with the decision making in the season finale. It’s impossible to critique without venturing into spoiler territory, so it will be interesting to gauge fan reaction once the new season is out in the wild. However, the final episode still manages to provide more than enough inspiration for where the show could be headed next in its fourth installment.
Even if the ending may not have been perfect, the journey to get there is filled with plenty of thrills and suspense, making for another binge-worthy season of “You.”
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.