Thursday, December 26, 2019

REVIEW: 'You' - Joe Moves to Los Angeles Hoping to Create a New Life With a New Obsession in 'A Fresh Start'

Netflix's You - Episode 2.01 "A Fresh Start"

Joe - now "Will" - arrives in his own personal hell on Earth: LA. He's trying to go straight, but the past doesn't always leave well enough alone.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Netflix's You.

"A Fresh Start" was written by Sera Gamble and directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan

The second season of You has relocated in some significant ways. The biggest difference onscreen is a move to Los Angeles from New York. The city was such a key component of the previous story with Beck. As such, it's fascinating to see Joe try to fade away into a new life. It's not all that easy for him. Meanwhile, the show has also become a Netflix production. Sure, the majority of the viewers saw the first season when it debuted on the streaming service last year. It originally aired and was even renewed by Lifetime though. The financials just worked better when factoring in the viability of streaming. That was the outlet where it garnered the most attention. That may confirm that some smaller media brands are buckling under the weight of their daunting competitors. The Netflix bump is real. The move clearly hasn't change the core of the storytelling though. Yes, the story now takes place in Los Angeles. However, the storytelling rhythms are still fundamentally the same. There are still ad breaks for some strange reason. That is odd and unusual. Moreover, this premiere wants the audience to believe that Joe is trying to become a different and perhaps better person. He doesn't want to fall into the same habits he did when he was with Beck. He killed so many people and ruined even more lives in the process. He is stunned to learn that Candace is still alive and wants him to accept that he is a monster who deserves to be in prison. She doesn't want him to come to that fate easily. She wants him to suffer because of everything he put her through. That's her case for revenge. He refuses to make it easy for her as well. He has disappeared to this new life. He is running away from her. That's the motivation behind this move. It doesn't come from a place of self reflection and knowing that he can't become a better person in the same environment that normalized all of this behavior for him. Sure, he hates LA culture and the fame-hungry people who call this place home. However, he wants to create a new sense of identity within himself. A person who doesn't romanticize his interactions with women and then stalk them obsessively online and in real life. He doesn't want to go down that road. He may forever remain powerful because he doesn't come across as a stereotypical depiction of what a creep looks like. Everyone should be wary about starting any kind of friendship or relationship with him. Similarly, the audience should be wary about anyone in this world willing to embrace Joe so completely upfront. This premiere operates under the guise that Joe is resisting these impulses and truly struggling with them. He wants to believe in love. However, that notion has only caused him pain and distress. As such, he has to bottle that feeling up and toss it aside. It will only lead to more bad behavior. He thinks he has a system for letting these impulses out without destroying his new life in the process. Of course, all of this is a fantasy as revealed by the concluding moment. That final twist teases that all of this was forcefully created by Joe so that he could grow closer to Love. The audience could probably pick up on several clues dropped along the way that something more was going on. However, the show actively worked both sides to create the illusion of reality in Joe's new life. At first, this was all perceived as him being forced to choose to fall in "love" again because a woman was constantly showing up and instinctively understanding who he is. And then, the reassurance comes that it's a complete fabrication. None of Joe's interactions are real. He is still that monster from New York. He is in a new city. However, the horrors of his past are still present. He didn't run from New York as quickly as it was originally perceived. Instead, he brought his entire cage with him and has once again imprisoned a man who has done absolutely nothing wrong. So, Joe is still fundamentally the same. The effectiveness of this premiere ultimately comes down to how willing the audience is to embrace that. The world is different. The interactions are different. He still operates from a place of corrosive power that manages to go unchecked even though the threat from Candace will always be present and bound to catch up to him at some point soon.