Sunday, September 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'You' - Joe Becomes More Determined to Fix Beck's Problems as They Start Dating in 'The Last Nice Guy in New York'

Lifetime's You - Episode 1.02 "The Last Nice Guy in New York"

Beck and Joe have a real date. Joe does everything he can to win Beck over, but she's stuck on her ex, Benji. Benji isn't good for Beck. How far will Joe go to keep Benji out of Beck's equation?

Joe always believes that he is acting in Beck's best interests. The story of these opening episodes is so compelling because there is evidence that that is actually true. He is still horrific and controlling. He's trying to blindly fix her so that she satisfies his sexual desire. He wants to form her into the perfect woman who is actually engaged by him and not people like Benji. He presents himself as an ally. He was her savior literally in the premiere. And now, he encourages her to stand up for herself. He is telling her that the best way to fight back against the professor who wants to sleep with her is to actually be assertive and put him in his place for his abusive behavior. This is still a transformation for Beck. She still feels empowered in that moment. It's because Joe is the only person in the world who truly understands her. Her friends would rather just toss money at the problem instead of trying to help her keep her teaching position and housing. That means so much to her because she needs this program in order to help her writing. She is just taking the advice from a stalker who is so incredibly reckless and destructive in other aspects of his life. He is trying to change her into the better version of herself. Right now, she genuinely believes in that as well because of the advice that he gives her. It's because she listens to him that she continues to see him as the best guy she could possibly be with. That should make the audience equally horrified because of what Joe is willing to do for this life. He goes back-and-forth on whether he is a killer. And yet, there are also plenty of context clues that show that this isn't some agonizing decision for him. He is still going to make the same choice as always. He just wants to continue perceiving himself as this great nice guy who is actually helping women be better. He just also happens to turn his animosity towards those who wish to destroy his ambitions for the world.

Joe's past relationship with Candace is very telling in this regard. So far, the show has only been very elusive with details about what happened between them. It has only been Joe's perspective of the situation. As the narration has demonstrated though, he can't be trusted because he is obsessed with these fantastical imaginations of what these people and his relationship to them are like. He believes in the story that he has told people. He had a good and solid relationship with Candace. She didn't feel the same way because she cheated on him and escaped to a new life in Rome. That's a story that makes him feel good because it creates a convenient escape for why he never has to think about her again. And yet, the audience seeing what he is capable of should immediately set off red flags about this previous relationship. The show is always trying to call out Joe for his abusive behavior as well. He is only on his second date with Beck when he is confronted by one of Candace's friends. She too is surprised by her disappearing to a completely different life in a new country. It's strange that she has cut off contact with her friends from New York. As such, everyone should be worried that Joe actually killed Candace because she either learned what he was capable of or she refused to become the woman that he wanted her to be. But even in this moment, Joe is allowed to keep up his deception with Beck. She creates the excuse to get him out of the situation. That means that she is feeling confident enough about this relationship to protect him from someone who seems like nothing more than a friend of a scorned ex. That's all that Beck should assume. But the audience needs to be more aware of what could be going on.

However, it's also fascinating to see the show trying to come up with an explanation for the way that Joe is. Does he need to have some tragic backstory of abuse to explain why he treats people with these obsessive compulsions? It's probably not that necessary at all. In fact, it may be a lame way to pass the blame onto someone else. It may just be Joe's imagination trying to rationalize the decisions he is making. He believes he can keep Benji locked away in that cage because he is doing right by Paco. His love of reading stemmed from his relationship with the owner of the store. And yet, that was a complex dynamic as well because that owner used to abuse Joe in order to get him to care about literature. That too is a very telling moment. It sets up this mentality that Joe is not inherently guilty for his actions. He had an unfortunate upbringing. But that doesn't make much sense either and shouldn't distract from what he is capable of. He says that he wants to be better than the person who raised him. And yet, he is exactly the same. He is encouraging a love of reading to Paco. But he is also quick to yell when Paco almost discovers Benji in the basement. This is a very precarious web of lies that Joe has created. He has power because he knows how to utilize social media to his advantage. But right now, he is interacting with a child in real life. He believes he can apologize simply by giving him a new book and telling him how to hide it in the bathroom. But even that shows just how dangerous he can be. He chose to steal that copy from Peach because she continues to represent herself as a good friend to Beck when she is anything but that. He's doing it as a way of acting out against those who threaten his plans for this relationship. And again, that's not okay and the audience always has to hold him accountable for doing so.

Joe is holding Benji captive throughout this episode. He didn't kill him right away. He was agonizing over that choice. The show makes the audience think about whether or not he is actually a killer as if him not crossing that line suddenly makes him a good guy. Him being a killer would only further confirm who he actually is. He would just become an even more depraved individual who has no consideration for others. He wants to see Benji through Beck's perspective. Joe sees a man who is toxic to her. He is a pattern that she simply can't break because it's easier to be attracted to him and forgive him of so much. Benji hurt Beck time and time again. He is an addict who believes he's this amazing guy. That's different from Joe. He is resorting to psychological torture to the point that the other person changes without noticing it at all. He is already having an impact on Beck's life. She is living it completely not knowing that Joe has already gotten into her accounts. Even when a phone is password protected, he has an easy time getting in. It's just a negotiation with Benji because he is so desperate to get a fix of his drugs. This is all a back and forth where Benji believes he is being tortured into submission. It's Joe's way of forcing him to take a good hard look at his life as well. It's him trying to help someone get sober and realize that his company is absolutely terrible. And yet, that's not what Joe is striving to do at all. Sure, there is the torture involved with him filling three cups up with Benji's product wondering if Benji truly thinks it's great. That could just be seen as a waste of time. Joe doesn't choose to be away from Benji for over a day. He just completely forgets about him. That's how horrifying he is. He forgets that he is keeping someone prisoner. And then, he is surprised when the cage is suddenly a mess with all of the books torn apart.

But again, all of this revolves around the question of if Joe will kill Benji? Is that something he is capable of? The show gives a definitive answer by the end of the episode. There was a little hesitance to feature this twist at the end of the premiere. As such, Benji survived for another week. But his outcome was just the same. He just doesn't die from a blunt to the head. Instead, he is killed because Joe puts peanut oil in the drink. Benji is so desperate to consume something that he actually enjoys. He prides himself on a very specific diet. Of course, Joe scoffs at the idea of being gluten free and avoiding so many foods because of allergies. And yet, Benji was right to warn him about peanuts. Sure, that was always going to be the way that he was killed. That's a much more prominent and believable allergy. But it's still absolutely serious. It kills him immediately. Of course, that also creates a serious problem for Joe because he now has a dead body to deal with. He can't just store Benji at the bookstore forever. He was very fortunate not to have anyone stumble upon him in the basement during these few days. There was only one close call. That should worry Paco but it probably won't because Joe continues to present himself as the only good thing in his life. Meanwhile, Joe's co-worker doesn't have a clue. He just sees a guy who is very generous while still being able to get an amazing woman. The cage in the basement is sound proof. But it's still not a viable situation longterm for Benji's decaying body. Joe could stage things somewhere to make it seem like it was nothing more than an accidental death. In fact, that wouldn't be surprising because he has proven himself so capable of fooling the world into obeying his commands. It's just going to be so chilling to see how easily he can continue to get away with all of this.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Last Nice Guy in New York" was written by Sera Gamble and directed by Lee Toland Krieger.
  • The direction really accentuates the first kiss between Joe and Beck. She goes in several times and the audience is in Joe's head seeing it coming. She ultimately turns away and makes it seem like they are just really good friends right now. That's infuriating to Joe. And yet, he still ultimately gets that kiss. She is so appreciative of what he has done for her. He continues to present himself as the one person who understands her which is what people always want in a relationship.
  • Peach is the only person who really believes it's suspicious that Joe just happened to be at the train station in order to rescue Beck when she fell onto the tracks. It just seems too convenient. It's because it is. Joe was stalking Beck and made the choice to insert himself into her life again. Peach is very much desperate for Beck's friendship. So, she may not like this new competition who can be just as forceful and deceitful.
  • Peach is absolutely desperate for attention as well. She calls attention to the fact that her parents got divorced every single year. Even though they are several years removed from that event, she is still torn up about it and doesn't want to think about it during the anniversary of when she learned it was happening. That's ridiculous and shows that she is wealthy and entitled. She holds onto these feelings even though they don't really mean anything.
  • The moment that Joe told Paco about how to hide something in his apartment it was clear that Joe was speaking from experience. He knows exactly how to move the tiles in the bathroom in order to keep something out of view. For Paco, it's just an innocent book. For Joe, it's Benji's cell phone. He may still need that depending on what happens next. Or it could also be seen as a damning piece of evidence against him should people grow more concerned.
  • It's a potent visual to see a young Joe get locked in the basement of the bookstore as well. Of course, he survived that ordeal. It also makes it very suspicious that the owner of the bookstore is only seen in flashbacks. Has Joe killed him as well? That could be his first taste of revenge. Joe emerged as a different person from that experience. And now, Benji dies because of his time in that cage.