Seasons 1 & 2 Spoiler Alert
Netflix’s “Anticipating You” found a format that worked and stuck to it. Joe, the protagonist, falls head over heels for a girl. He stalks her, rationalizes stalking her, murders some people, rationalizes murdering them, and goes on some cute dates in the meantime. You reels the audience in by blending the suspense and violence of a true crime stalker story with the heartfelt cliches of a romantic comedy. It’s a cognitively dissonant combination that leaves the watcher both confused and intrigued, but sometimes, You leans too hard on old tricks. Season one and two use almost the exact same formula, the main difference being that Joe killed his first girlfriend, Beck, while the second, Love, survives. Instead of killing off Love, the writers reveal she’s also a murderer, who’s also obsessed with Joe. And pregnant with his baby. And she’s keeping it.
The last episode of season two introduced enough twists that I was sure season three would enter new territory for the series – Joe and Love living in the suburbs, trying to raise a child together. But then, in the last minute of season two’s finale, Joe reveals, in his trademark singsong narration, that he’s now obsessed with a brand new woman – who happens to be him and Love’s next-door neighbor.
At first, I was disappointed by that last reveal. We’ve already had two seasons of Joe Goldberg hacking into phones, stealing underwear, and killing his competitors. I was already excited to watch him attempt family life with a fellow murderer. Why did we need a third season of the same old stalking subplots?
But then I realized, it wouldn’t make sense if Joe’s old urges completely disappeared. By now, his compulsive stalking is a clearly defined aspect of his character. Season two even tried to deconstruct his habit, when Joe acknowledged he had a problem and tried to stop… but then he failed twenty minutes into the first episode, and things continued business as usual.
So while it makes sense that season three should continue to explore his obsession with women, if it’s going to work this time, they’ll need to go somewhere new. We’ve established that Joe was abused, that he has a pattern of violence, and that he struggles with delusions. His compulsions have been explained, but to stay fresh, both the character and the show need to learn some new tricks. I want Joe to make a real change, for better or for worse.
A key part of season three’s execution will be the handling of Joe’s character arc. Will he devote himself to building a better life for his child? Will he slip further into delusion? Will this new woman be a breaking point for him? Or will he return to his old ways without reflection or consequence? As long as the writers steer clear of that last option, I think we’re in for an excellent third season, which you can find on Netflix, starting October 15th.