Why We Hate to Love Joe Goldberg from You

Warning: major spoilers ahead. From someone who hates watching true crime or anything even remotely close to really happening in the world, the show, You, has actually quickly become one of my favorites to binge. Much like Ted Bundy (and Zac Efron’s brilliant portrayal of him in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”), there is something viewers flock to in these characters.

Let’s back up. Originally written as a book by Caroline Kepnes, an IMDb site sums up You as “A dangerously charming, intensely obsessive young man goes to extreme measures to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by.”

Notice the crucial word: charming.

Joe Goldberg (played by Penn Badgley), an attractive book store clerk sees a woman, Beck (played by Elizabeth Lail), in his bookstore. Beck is an aspiring writer, MFA grad student, and an overall cute, bubbly blonde. She hangs with catty friends, dates scumbags, and pours her energy into a passion that may or may not pay off.

A little too relatable, right?

When Joe sees Beck, he instantly falls in love and we hear his inner monologue starting to obsess over her. Of course, Joe acts like the perfect gentleman to her face and is convinced that the obsessive side of him is somehow protecting her. We get to focus on his twisted mind as a narrator that completely goes against his actions.

Hence why we fall in love with the man he portrays.

However, behind closed doors, Beck fails to see the man he really is. The real Joe steals her phone, hoards her clothes, stalks her every move… He sees the negative people she hangs out with and takes it into his own hands to protect her.

Enter the infamous glass box.

Joe keeps a glass box in the soundproof basement of the bookstore he worked at since he was young. His old guardian, Mr. Mooney, kept rare books in there where they were maintained with the right temperature, light settings, and moisture. We find out later in the series that Joe was often locked in the box, himself, as a punishment from Mr. Mooney. So, when Joe grew up and started his life as a true psychopath, he used that box, himself.

Insert murder #1.

Joe kidnaps Benji and locks him in the box. Benji goes crazy as Joe unveils the fact that Benji once killed someone in college for a frat hazing ceremony. This is the first time we can get a glimpse of near-validation for Joe’s actions – he’s protecting the woman he already fell in love with from a murderer.

Ironic? Incredibly.

Benji freaks, Joe kills, burns the body, skillfully phases Benji out of everyone’s life via his stolen phone, and no one thinks of him again. Beck is glad that Benji is finally out of her life, and Joe sees his killing as a positive thing because it’s one less thing in the way of their “relationship” – the one that hasn’t even begun yet.

Enter Peach Salinger: obstacle #2.

Peach, played expertly by Shay Mitchell, is a rich, snobby friend of Beck’s who is secretly in love with her. She stores hundreds of pictures of Beck on her laptop, watches her bathe, drags her in with fake suicide attempts and threats of ruining Beck’s life, offers her a place to live in Paris… She has Beck at her beck and call (pun totally intended) with abusive, codependent tendencies.

Insert murder #2.

Long story short, Peach and Joe have it out, Joe kills her, and blames it on a suicide… Another toxic thing out of Beck’s life that got in the way of Joe and her. After Peach’s death, Beck starts to see a therapist who convinces Beck to break up with Joe. When she does, Joe takes it well, meaning he doesn’t kill anyone else (right away). Joe and Beck get back together, Beck cheats on Joe with her therapist… Yet another reason why we take pity on Joe.

Insert murder #3.

Joe lives next to a woman and her young son, Paco. The woman is in a very abusive, toxic relationship with someone who beats her and the son. The son takes refuge in Joe – the Joe who does good things and healthily protects people he loves. In the end, Paco helps Joe murder the abuser and they both swear each other to secrecy. Again, we see that Joe will do anything to protect the little kid we’ve all grown to love.

Insert murder #4.

So, what happens to Beck in the end? There’s no white horse that carries her off into the sunset. What changed it all? Beck finds a box of things that Joe has hoarded: her clothes, phone, Benji’s teeth that Joe kept… And, naturally, she tries to bolt. However, Joe has other ideas.

Yes, he killed the love of his life.

Beck ends up in the glass box and ultimately dies by Joe’s hand. He expertly pins all of it on her therapist and even publishes all of Beck’s old writing which, in turn, made her famous. Unfortunately, she wasn’t alive to see her success, after all.

That’s so much just for one season, let alone 10 episodes.

What I haven’t covered are the other numerous plots that happen within the rest of the show. So, back to my original point: we have grown to love and even “justify” the reasoning behind his actions. Protecting the ones you love? Taking care of people during abuse? Showing that you care through little, thoughtful things? That’s enough to make viewers forget how twisted Joe is.

Want to fall tragically in love with Joe, yourself? Check out both seasons on Netflix with the third premiering in November 2021.

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About The Author

Emmie Pombo is a latte and tattoo-loving Tennessean who specializes in mental health and beauty writing. She holds a degree in Journalism and a certification in Makeup Artistry and Airbrushing. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.