The untold truth of Netflix's You

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely heard about You — Netflix's psychological thriller series starring Penn Badgley as a charming, manipulative murderer. And if you've already watched You, you've likely been considering how you could feasibly live under a rock without getting fired. 

Unlike the wealth of true crime documentaries Netflix has been rolling out recently, You is fictional. However, the fear you'll experience after binge-watching the first season feels real enough to make you want to delete all of your social media accounts and never talk to another stranger again — especially in a bookstore. With a cliffhanger ending to Season 1 and news of a second season in the works, fans are dying (no pun intended) to find out what's next for The Actual Worst Boyfriend Ever, Joe Goldberg. However, there's a lot more to the first season to be discovered behind-the-scenes. Here's the untold truth of Netflix's You

Penn Badgley doesn't get Joe's appeal

As problematic as Joe Goldberg — the seemingly charming and charismatic bookstore clerk — is, the creepy character gained a surprising amount of fans once You premiered on Netflix in December 2018. The sheer amount of Joe fans is surprising because, simply put, Joe is an obsessive and controlling stalker-turned-cold-blooded-murderer. Those traits are certainly nothing to romanticize, but that hasn't stopped certain fans of the show from siding with Joe, while also criticizing the object of his attention, Beck, for failing to realize how great he is. Uhh, what?!

Penn Badgley may play Joe on TV, but he definitely is not a Team Joe kind of guy in real life. The actor even took to Twitter (via Teen Vogue) to dissuade fans from celebrating his creepy character. Responding to one fan who tweeted "[Penn Badgley] is breaking my heart once again as Joe. What is it about him?" Badgley responded, "A: He is a murderer." And that's all [s]he wrote, folks!

Netflix saved the show

If you watched You on Netflix and found yourself thinking the whole thing was playing out like some sort of made-for-TV Lifetime drama, then give yourself a pat on the back because your instincts are spot-on. Before the show was catapulted to fame on the streaming service in December 2018, its first season had a rather underwhelming run on the television network known for its over-the-top (and totally addicting) original thrillers. But despite You having all the ingredients usually required to make a Lifetime hit, the show's ratings fell flat — and the network announced in December 2018 that You was no longer a part of its family. 

However, one network's trash is apparently a certain streaming service's treasure. Shortly after Lifetime announced the end of You on its network, Netflix swooped in to save it — premiering the drama on its platform the day after Christmas. Producer Greg Berlanti told The New York Times, "[You] went from being one of the least-watched shows I've ever worked on and been most proud of [...] to being the most-watched show I've ever worked on in 20-something years of being in the business."

This is why Beck looks so familiar

You boasts quite an impressive cast, with a few faces you likely immediately recognized from wildly popular shows — such as Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl and Shay Mitchell of Pretty Little Liars fame. In addition to its A-lister cast, You introduced to viewers a wealth of lesser-known — but crazy talented — actors. Among these rising stars is Elizabeth Lail, the woman behind the ill-fated Guinevere Beck. 

But even if you couldn't place her face, there's a good chance Lail looked familiar to you — especially if you consider yourself a fan of all things Disney. In 2014, the actress was picked from virtual obscurity to star in ABC's Once Upon a Time as Frozen's Princess Anna. Considering Princess Anna is one of the most popular Disney princesses in the history of, well, Disney princesses, it's safe to say that scoring the royal role was Lail's big break. 

The book is way different

It may not surprise you to learn that You is based on a best-selling novel of the same name. There's certainly no shortage of movies and TV shows based on books, and Caroline Kepnes' novel You contained a story perfectly poised to be adapted for the screen. And while both the book and the show are delightfully thrilling and equally addicting, there are some key differences in the stories being told. 

As Bustle points out, Beck has a much stronger voice in the book. While the show depicts Beck as oblivious to Joe's stalking, the book reveals that Beck was actually aware of it. For example, in the book, Beck knew Joe followed her to that poetry reading — and she even found it flattering. 

Other differences include the addition of Paco and Annika's characters in the show, the method Joe uses to kill Peach, and the question of whether or not Candace (Joe's ex-girlfriend) is alive or not. In the book, there's no question Candace is dead — but the show's first season ended with her showing up at Joe's bookstore. Talk about a cliffhanger!

Some critics aren't happy

You might have surged in popularity and gained hoards of new fans when it made the switch from Lifetime to Netflix, but not everyone is happy about the show's presence in the current zeitgeist. In fact, many critics have called out the show for being problematic in the way it depicts Joe as being more charming, clever, and intelligent than he is creepy, manipulative, and dangerous — as well as the way in which it depicts Beck as simply a plot device to push Joe's story forward.

As Vulture notes, You gets caught in the trap of telling the story completely though Joe's point of view — a point of view which completely fails to see Beck as anything more than a supporting character in Joe's story. In a review of the show's season finale, Vulture wrote that You is a "story that gives a violent male character a full, complicated history while never revealing more about its female character beyond what said male character can discern and/or chooses to project on her." And after viewing the show in its entirety, that's a hard point to argue.

Millie Bobby Brown was pro-Joe... and people were concerned

There's no question that You is one of the hottest shows in Netflix. The psychological thriller is so popular, in fact, that it's caught the attention of the star of another hit Netflix show. Millie Bobby Brown, the young actress who portrays Eleven on Netflix's Stranger Things, took to Instagram in January 2019 to join in on the virtual water cooler conversation surrounding the show. 

According to Entertainment Tonight, Brown posted a video to her Instagram story, saying, "So I just started that new show You. [Joe's] not creepy. He's in love with [Beck], and it's okay." The star continued, "So I'm obsessed with it, I'm binge-watching it, absolute banger, Netflix."

Fans were quick to respond to Brown by pointing out that Joe's extremely problematic and dangerous behavior shouldn't be mistaken for love or affection. Thankfully, it seems that the star developed a better understanding once finishing the show. Brown later took to Instagram to clarify her comments, saying, "I guess I gathered an analysis too quickly. I watched episode 10, [and he's] most definitely is a stalker. My bad if I upset anyone."

Is Joe based on a real person?

It's only natural to wonder if You is a terrifying story based in reality — or, more specifically, if Joe is a terrifying character based on a real person.

Caroline Kepnes answered this question in a piece she wrote for the website, What Is This Book Aboutrevealing that there are three ways for her to respond when people ask about the inspiration behind Joe. The author wrote that part of Joe — the book and music-loving part — is based on her father, a connoisseur of books and music who died in 2012. Another inspiration for the character, Kepnes writes, is "the price we pay" for social media. 

Revealing the third inspiration for Joe, Kepnes continues, "And in the end, there is the simple, overwhelming truth of what I always set out to do when I write. To activate empathy, in both of us, you and me, and that doesn't mean that you love Joe or hate Joe, it only means that you're experiencing life from his perspective."

"I didn't choose the role because it was another character that was kissing a girl."

Despite all the talk surrounding Joe, Penn Badgley's bookish stalker isn't the only engrossing character You has to offer. Shay Mitchell joined the first season's cast to portray Beck's best friend, Peach, a complicated character who, like Joe, has ulterior motives when it comes to Beck — though Peach doesn't resort to violence to get her way. 

When we first meet Peach, we're led to believe that she's nothing more than a concerned best friend. However, as the show progresses, it's revealed that Peach is actually in love with Beck — and doing everything in her power to cut Joe out of the picture. Playing Peach marked Mitchell's second LGBTQ identifying role (her first was on Pretty Little Liars), but the actress told Refinery 29 that her characters' sexual orientations are only part of who they are, and don't play a part in her choosing certain roles. Mitchell said, "I didn't choose the role because it was another character that was kissing a girl. With this [project], it was really just the character that I was enjoying getting to play, regardless of who she was making out with. That was not even a thought."

The show was developed for Showtime

As covered in this article, You originally premiered on Lifetime in 2018 to less-than-ideal ratings, only to be scooped up by Netflix and catapulted to mega-popularity. However, a lesser-known fact about the psychological thriller is that the series was originally developed for Showtime. Yes, that Showtime — the network responsible for shows like Homeland, Dexter, Penny Dreadful, and SMILF. Considering the action-packed and risqué nature of these hit shows, it's not crazy to wonder how different You would have been if it had premiered on its intended network.

But according to showrunner Sera Gamble, the show isn't all that different than it would have been on Showtime. In an interview with Collider, Gamble revealed that the show simply worked better with the powers-that-be at Lifetime, saying, "We wrote a draft for [Showtime], and it just became clear that we didn't have the exact same vision for the direction of the show, but that happens frequently. …And writing this for Lifetime has not been terribly different. I like to be pushed and asked questions. And the questions that Lifetime was asking were really interesting."

Are romantic comedies to blame?

As horrifying as Joe Goldberg's behavior is, some fans of You still continue to defend his antics and label Beck as undeserving of his affection — but why? Well, as Joe himself points out in the show, obsessive, stalker-like behavior has been portrayed onscreen and passed off as love for as long as romantic comedies have been around. Julia Lippman, a University of Michigan professor, told The Huffington Post, "Men are socialized to be persistent and women are socialized to be flattered by it. [Women are] taught that we should want this from men. That it means we're desirable. And who doesn't want to be desirable?"

Even Sera Gamble, You's showrunner, seems to have a difficult time discerning romance from Joe's toxicity. In an interview with Collider, Gamble revealed that she found herself sometimes rooting for Joe and Beck to end up together (even though she was well-aware of the relationship's grisly ending), saying, "I can't help it because I love a romance." Oof.

Elizabeth Lail wanted a different ending

If you weren't satisfied with the way season one ended, don't worry — you're far from alone. Plenty of folks wanted a different ending for Beck, including Elizabeth Lail.

As a quick refresher, Season 1 of You ended with Beck realizing the extent of Joe's stalking and crimes just before he captures and locks her in his creepy glass box at the bottom of the bookstore. After suffering mental and emotional torture for days, Beck musters up the energy to make a run for it — but, alas, Joe catches and kills her before she's able to escape. 

In an interview with Radio Times, Lail revealed that, even though she'd read Caroline Kepnes' novel, she was rooting for an alternate ending in which Beck survives. Lail said of the ending, "The unfortunate thing is, the woman doesn't win in the end… and I'm so sick and tired of that." However disappointed she was about her character's fate, Lail did admit that she felt the unfortunate ending to be "much closer to the truth," given Joe's advantage. But hey, a gal can dream. 

This is what you can expect in Season 2

After the rollercoaster of emotions that was the first season of You, it's easy to wonder how the show's going to top itself — and who's going to be along for the ride? After all, several of the the first season's characters were killed at the hands of our deeply troubled antihero, Joe — including the object of his dangerous affections, Beck. 

However, it seems Joe will find a new lady love in Season 2. On January 30th, 2019, it was announced that Victoria Pedretti (from Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House), would be joining the cast as Season 2's female lead. According to Entertainment Weekly, Pedretti will be portraying Love Quinn, a produce manager and aspiring chef who is "tending to a deep grief" and senses a shared knowledge of "profound, life-changing loss" when she meets Joe Goldberg after his move from New York to Los Angeles. Will Pedretti be the one to finally take the bad guy down? There's only one way to find out.