Life & Culture

TV review: YOU - 'How can anyone bear the annoying voiceover for more than two minutes?'

This Netflix series' success is baffling, says Josh Howie


You. Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg in episode 402 of You. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix | ★✩✩✩✩

Have you ever wondered what it’s like inside the mind of a killer? Have you ever wondered what it’s like inside the mind of an incredibly annoying, utterly humourless killer, who most terrifying of all is so mentally unwell they actually think they’re funny? Well there’s obviously a lot of a demand out there for exactly this, enough to herald yet another season of You. And by shooting straight to the top of the Netflix charts, most likely a fifth season’s on the way at some point as well.

So this review is a warning. You might be flicking through the Netflix menu, note the show’s popularity, be curious as to what all the fuss is about. A quick glance at the synopsis tells you the main character’s called Joe Goldberg. “Ooh he sounds Jewish.” And in the books on which this series is based, he is indeed a patrilineal Jew, just like the author Caroline Kepnes. A bit more research, you’re very thorough, may even point you to the fact that showrunner Sera Gamble is also Jewish. Which is surely enough to cinch it, what with you being the supportive community-minded kind of person who reads the JC.

I beg you, don’t do it. It’s not the jumping in on season four that’ll leave you baffled, being somewhat of a fresh start for a character who keeps on getting obsessed with various women, stalking them online, before unfortunately having to resort to murder. It’s not the almost comical American-eyed misrepresentation of London home and university life in his new abode. It’s not even the cringe-worthy postmodern take on a who-done-it, with the suspects drawn from a privileged group of repulsive one-dimensional caricatures that put Glass Onion to shame. No, what will bemuse, confuse, then ultimately flummox you, is how anyone sane can stand the annoying voice-over for longer than two minutes.

Openly influenced by the sometimes very good Dexter, this has the twist of a rom-com bent. The voice-over in Dexter was meant to bring you into the killer’s world, even make you sympathise with his actions. But here it has you rooting for one of Joe’s victims to get the upper hand solely to bring a blessed end to the relentless bore-inducing, gravel-voiced Batman-with-a-cold commentary.

This is how terrible the voice-over is: one of my best friends, I won’t say who for fear of tainting them with these words, heavily features in this season, some might even say it was their big break. So I wanted to at least bring some positivity to bear. For he, or she, are actually great in it.

But the thought of internal comeback lines like “I wish” after someone obnoxiously intones that all Americans have guns, delivered with such relish, like it was Dorothy Parker at the peak of her powers, nearly had me cancelling my Netflix — by no longer using my friend’s password.

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