You S3 asks: who’s worse, influencers or murderers?

A season so intense that Penn Badgley’s cheekbones aren’t even in the top 10 reasons to watch.

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Hello, I’m Jared Richards, editor of Netflix Pause. As a teenager, I was fascinated by the psyches of serial killers. I — like every teenage boy — was quirky like that, lapping up the tortured and torturing men at the centre of American Psycho, Dexter, and Se7en

As an adult, it takes a bit more than a blood-splattered chiseled jaw and moody voiceover to get me to watch a drama about a serial killer. It also takes Penn Badgley, who has really found his perfect role in You as killer Joe, a romantic so obsessive he’ll do anything for love — and yes, he will do that (murder). 

But Season 3 reminded me there’s much more to You than ‘FKA Dan Humphrey’. The show’s self-aware approach to a well-worn archetype is so much fun. Where most brooding and bloody thrillers take themselves super seriously, You is always winking as it makes you wince.

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If I was to sum You S3 up, I’d say: ‘Desperate Housewives meets Search Party meets Hannibal’. If that doesn’t appeal to you, I literally don’t know what you want!!!

When we left Joe and his twisted murderer wife Love (Victoria Pedretti) in S2 (Vulture’s short recap is a nice refresher), they’d moved to the Los Angeles suburbs to escape their old, murderous lives and start anew. To absolutely no one’s surprise (except Joe and Love’s) this does not work, and before long, they’re back to burying bodies and covering their tracks. There is one tiny difference this time though: Henry, their newborn son.

Parenting changes a person, and serial killers are no exceptions. Joe loves Henry, but isn’t the most natural dad — murderous impulses aside, who reads The Great Gatsby to a newborn?

But he’s trying to play the part and fit into their new white-picket fence neighbourhood filled with seductive housewives, insufferable tech bros, and mum-influencers. This proves difficult: flirtatious next-door neighbour Natalie (Michaela McManus) is too tempting, and Love’s jealousy flares her murderous instincts. But she has bigger fish to fry, thanks to local Insta-celeb Sherry (Shalita Grant), who gatekeeps and girlbosses (AKA bullies) her.

Sherry might be my favourite part of You S3. It’s very easy to turn influencers into one-dimensional characters (probably because, in part, they do that themselves to create a streamlined, immediately recognisable ‘brand’) and most shows in 2021 treat them as easy punchlines. There’s nothing more cringe than a show referencing influencers as if the word itself is enough of a joke (hello, laugh-track sitcoms): in 2021, surely we can move onto more specific disses about what remains a fascinating, bizarre economy. And yes, there are some low-hanging cracks about keto diets, but Sherry offers a clever mirroring of Joe and Love’s need to keep up appearances. Plus, Grant is such a comedic talent, which anyone who saw her as an out-of-her-depth lawyer in Search Party S3 knows. 

Like Joe and Love, Sherry is fundamentally a bad person — but where Joe is trying to change, she’s happy to just appear good, rather than actually be it. Sure, Joe and Love may bury a body while their baby looks on, but Sherry turns Natalie’s disappearance into a branding exercise, becoming the face of a #BringHerHome campaign for someone she didn’t even like. What’s more evil than that? 

You is a darkly funny show: I’m often surprised to find myself laughing at a murder, while hatred is reserved for those who refuse to eat a calorie-loaded scone lest it ruin their yummy mummy aesthetic. Everything is warped, no one is a hero or villain, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out why this show is such a hit.

You S3 is streaming tonight from 6pm AEDT.

Watch these too:

  • Clickbait, a twist-filled miniseries about a kidnapped man who appears in a viral video with a message: if it reaches five million views, he’ll die. Filmed in Australia, the thriller features plenty of ‘home-grown talent, including Adrian Grenier, Timomatic (!!!) and Ian Meadows (Underbelly, Rake).

  • How To Get Away With Murder, a legal thriller starring Viola Davis and created by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Bridgerton). Davis plays a law professor who finds herself within a murder coverup by a group of her students and interns. Juicy, sexy, and filled with acting!!!

  • Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile, where Zac Efron takes on the role of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. It’s everything the title — taken from a judge’s statements while sentencing Bundy to death — suggests, with Efron proving his dramatic chops.

  • Dirty John, a true crime anthology based off the hit podcast of the same name. Season 1 stars Eric Bana, Connie Britton (The White Lotus), and Julia Garner; Season 2 stars Amanda Peet and Christian Slater.

  • In The Cut, New Zealand director Jane Campion’s (The Piano, upcoming film The Power of The Dog) underrated thriller starring Mark Ruffalo, Kevin Bacon, Meg Ryan, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Inventive, unconventional and, like You, features a tonne of literary references.

The internet can’t stop talking about:

  • Squid Game, still! It’s officially Netflix’s biggest debut ever, reaching 111-million viewers worldwide. If you’re one of the five people who haven’t seen it, there’s time to catch up: if you’re after more, the cast got together to react to the show in this very cute, funny video.

  • Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly’s joint interview for GQ. Their relationship gives ‘Hot Topic co-workers who fall in crazy, messed up love and bond over how much they hate this small town’ vibes, and most of the interview is dedicated to how much they get each other. Every quote is as wild as the last, but “I am weed”, the first thing MGK said to Fox, has become a meme

  • The first image of Timothée Chalamet as Willy Wonka in an upcoming prequel musical called Wonka. Nobody is quite sure of how they feel about it, save for one person: Art Doherty, the 21-year-old Londoner who happened to walk past filming and was the first to post a shot of Timmy as Wonka. Vulture chatted to Doherty about it, who said it was “so nice to see [Chalamet] skipping around with his little cane and his hat”. I wish I was there.

  • Red flags, as people tweet out what makes them instantly suss on a person. For the record, “steak well done” instantly makes me question who and what someone is.

  • Margaret Qualley’s performance in Maid. Her Vanity Fair interview goes a long way to explaining why she’s so affecting as single mother Alex: Qualley spent most of her time off-set with Ryle who plays her three-year-old daughter in the show. 

Finally, in this essay I will argue that Squid Game’s Seong Gi-hun’s favourite Rihanna album is LOUD (2010). Evidence A:

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Jared Richards is a critic living on Gadigal Land who has written for The Guardian, The Monthly, Junkee and more. He tweets at @jrdjms
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