In her 5 Bloody Knife review, Dylyn C.S. calls the third season of YOU an exploration of rebirths and epiphanies. There are many emotional renaissances portrayed throughout the season, including various second-comings of season two’s ill-fated Forty Quinn.
Given this scare-tacular month of tricks and treats, Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley) return to Netflix couldn’t have come at a more fitting time. Season three of YOU dropped October 15, 2021, disgracing our screens with the now unhappily married Quinn-Goldbergs. Dripping with even more blood and paranoia than the previous seasons, the third installment of my favorite show stole my heart once again—then ripped it clean out of my chest. I’ve never seen the show like this before. Beware, this review will contain spoilers!
While the new chapter of YOU employs many of its established themes—namely lust, death, surveillance, and false promises—it also takes a deeper dive into the series’ frequent notions of rebirth. After leaving a trail of destruction behind them, new parents Joe and Love (Victoria Pedretti) decide to ditch Los Angeles for family-friendly suburbia. Herein comes the infamous community of Madre Linda. Perfectly-manicured and sparkly clean, this Stepfordian community seems the perfect place to restore their integrity while raising their growing son Henry. Soon however, they find that neat lawns and posh houses can’t suppress one’s true nature and when old wounds reopen, Madre Linda pays the price. After all, perfection only exists in books and daydreams.
Right from the get-go, it’s clear that cookie-cutter living does not provide the fresh start the two had hoped for. Not even five minutes in and Joe and Love are already quarreling, their grimaces filling the air with dread and the familiar threat of violence. Joe is struggling to connect with his son, Love is irritated with Joe, and the neighbors are driving them both up a wall. What’s yet worse for the Goldberg-Quinns, Madre Linda is teeming with security cameras, fueling the couple’s anxiety, feeding the neighborhood's gossip, and making it a hell of a lot harder for them to dispose of their enemies.
Meanwhile, tension and claustrophobia build further when Joe and his mother-in-law Dottie (Saffron Burrows)—another resident of Madre Linda—continually bump heads. Much to Joe’s dismay, she keeps referring to Henry by his middle name: Forty. Aptly named for Love’s tragically-lost twin brother Forty Quinn (James Scully), who was my favorite character in season two. Baby Henry/Forty serves as a constant reminder to the family of past mistakes and present aches, ultimately bringing “Glamma” Dottie to her breaking point. Additionally perceived by Dottie as the reincarnation of her late son, the baby also represents one of many emotional renaissances portrayed throughout the season, including one of the various second-comings of Forty Quinn.
For other YOU fans who miss dear Forty, this season is for you. Along with baby Henry, another iteration of the character comes in the form of new neighbor boy Theo Engler (Dylan Arnold), a college kid desperately enamored with Love. Not only are his mannerisms and appearance reminiscent of Forty, his dynamic and connection with Love share similarities to Forty’s place under his sister’s protective wing. I guess it’s no wonder Theo’s my new favorite character. Young and often driven reckless by emotions, Theo seems a truer reincarnation of Forty than even baby Henry Forty himself. Moreover, actor Dylan Arnold’s appearances in both You and Halloween Kills (2021)—which were coincidentally released on the same day—solidify his place in my heart as one of my favorite actors and very likely the next big name in horror. In a more exact iteration of the late Forty, however, James Scully actually reprised his role this season in one of the most touching cameos I’ve ever seen on television.
As the season progresses, we’re introduced to a slew of other exciting new characters, often carrying with them their own rebirths and epiphanies. One of the first we meet is the shockingly short-lived real estate agent and step-mom of Theo, Natalie Engler (Michaela McManus). Faintly glimpsed at the end of season two, I was surprised she had such a small role in the show. Joe’s not-so-neighborly affair with this mystery woman was far shorter than I’d expected, especially after her character’s massive build-up.
However little screen-time she has, though, Natalie is an important character in the show. Her life sadly comes to an end after showing Love her soon-to-be bakery space. Having discovered Joe’s perverse new obsession with her, Love axes Natalie right in the head, sealing her fate after signing her lease. Later, Love caustically names her new bakery, “A Fresh Tart,” which is likely a dig at Joe’s indiscretions and a simultaneous nod to the couple’s attempt at new beginnings. Disturbingly enough, however, A Fresh Tart also serves as the new home for Joe’s notorious glass cage, speaking volumes about the intentions the couple truly brought with them to Madre Linda.
Another new character was Love’s nemesis-turned-bestie-turned-nemesis again, Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant). First portrayed as one of the neighborhood bullies, this mommy influencer was one of the most interesting characters of the season. In fact, part of what I loved so much about season three was its slight departure from the Joe-centric narrative. This season’s welcome redirection of focus was a delight to see as it created a sort of meta-rebirth of its own with regards to the series. I loved getting deeper insights into the women of the show, especially with regards to Sherry Conrad, Love, and librarian Marienne Bellamy (Tati Gabrielle), the eventual new apple of Joe’s wandering eye.
Having seen Gabrielle previously as Prudence on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I was blown away once again by how brilliant her performance was and how she captured my attention anytime she was on screen. Truly, while I loved this new season, I wanted more perspectives from these women. I was still glad, however, to see Joe’s violent pedestals finally taking up less space. I hope to see even more of that on the recently-picked up fourth season.
Ultimately, I’m just as in love with this show as I ever was, and this season left me sobbing inconsolably. While season three amps up the intrigue and the heartbreak, it also delivers more horror than ever, which as a genre-fan, I deeply appreciate. With its pacing as quick as a guilty pulse, the season zooms by with no moment to breathe. This isn’t a criticism but rather a testament to how effectively this show can rattle one’s soul. The incredible cast of new and old players and its decadent score by the always-wonderful Blake Neely also brought me intense joy. My only selfish hope is that I don’t have to wait another (nearly) two years for season four.
Season three of YOU is now streaming on Netflix.