Television Review: ‘You’ examines toxic relationships

Emily J. Sullivan
Staff Writer

Netflix’s “You” is the ultimate anti-romance thriller that sheds light on toxic relationships in all of their forms.

Based on a novel by Caroline Kepnes, Netflix’s “You” premiered in September 2018 and holds an impressive 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

The suspenseful thriller series focuses on the romance, more fittingly described as the anti-romance, of a college student and aspiring writer Guinevere Beck and mysterious bookstore manager Joe Goldberg. 

When the two meet at Goldberg’s bookstore, an intrigue is sparked and Beck becomes the focus of a chilling obsession that serves as the series’ main storyline. 

Goldberg is handsome, intellectual and chivalrous – illuminating the reality that abusive people and abusive behaviors come in different forms. 

While Beck is considering she may have actually found a decent guy to date in New York City, viewers have a peek into Goldberg’s disturbing and frightening behaviors that have women who have watched the series putting passwords on their phones, closing their curtains and looking over their shoulders. 

What is especially interesting, is the many subplots featuring a slew of toxic relationships, most of which involve Beck in one way or another. 

However, not one character in the show appears to be involved in any kind of healthy relationship. 

The friendships in the show are twisted, the neighbors alternate between making love and raising hell, anything romantic or sexual is plagued with blurred lines and blatant disrespect – it is a mess. 

If “You” teaches us anything, it is that toxicity can be rampant if you don’t set boundaries with the people in your life and see troubling behavior for what it is. 

Beck is not completely to blame, she was born and bred in dysfunction, with a broken family and father who was addicted to drugs. 

Even her very first relationships in life were messy and unhinged, setting the tone for what she could expect and would ultimately tolerate from the people in her future. 

She goes on to find herself with an overbearing and intrusive best friend, the elusive Peach Salinger, who she refuses to stand up to. 

Beck gets into trouble when she agrees to get drinks with her college thesis adviser, the pervy Professor Paul Leahy, and then when she goes to therapy, because God knows she needs it, she can’t resist her lusty therapist, Dr. Nicky. 

She does not seem to be capable of resisting any toxicity because she does not seem to be capable of setting crucial boundaries. 

“You” could very well double as an important public service announcement; unhealthy behaviors can lead you toward unhealthy people and potentially traumatic experiences, and healthy behaviors such as respecting yourself, saying “no” if you are uncomfortable, setting boundaries and ultimately teaching people how to treat you, can lead you toward healthy people and a monumentally better quality of life.

“You” suffered many casualties but is clearly set up for a second season with a cliffhanger ending that closed the first season.

 Maybe everyone will work on themselves after some deep and honest introspection, but that is highly unlikely and would make for far less interesting television. Gear up for a second season, which is scheduled to premier later this year and rumored to be set in the City of Angels rather than the Big Apple this time around.

Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at

Emily J. Sullivan
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