‘You’ Season 2 Co-Creator Sera Gamble on That Very Crazy, Very Bloody Twist Ending and What’s Next
The co-creator of the Netflix phenomenon dishes on its wild second season, that shocker of an ending, and where a third season may take place (Silicon Valley, perhaps?).
You’re probably familiar with the anomalous journey of You, the soapy TV drama that takes you inside the mind of a winsome, woefully pretentious, downright insane serial stalker and murderer of women (and the men who get in his way). Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti’s series debuted on Lifetime in September 2018, received dismal ratings, and then migrated to Netflix, where it became a cultural phenomenon, attracting over 40 million viewers in its first week. That it starred Penn Badgley as the homicidal NYC lurker was a master stroke, positing it as a demented spinoff of his insidious Gossip Girl character.
Though that show’s big series-finale twist remains one of the dumbest in recent memory (it makes no damn sense!), I am pleased to report that the second season of You does not succumb to a similar fate; rather, its ending feels both surprising and genuinely satisfying. “We were hoping that people wouldn’t see it coming,” Gamble tells The Daily Beast.
The second season of You sees Badgley’s Joe Goldberg flee to Los Angeles following the murder of Guinevere Beck (and a host of others), which he pinned on the lascivious Dr. Nicky (John Stamos). A ride-or-die New Yorker, Joe looks down on all the Angelenos and their tea ceremonies, sound baths, and “projects in development.”
“I don’t even think of it as satirizing Los Angeles. We’re obviously having a lot of fun with it, but we’re being pretty accurate about people I know in L.A.,” says a chuckling Gamble. “We got to make a show at the center of this very particular hall of mirrors that’s aspirational, but also full of desperate people—and people unaware of the power of their own privilege.”
Once there, Joe assumes a new identity and zeroes in on another target: Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), an aspiring chef with weird New Age-y parents and a tremendous douchebag of a younger brother in Forty (James Scully), a rich-kid “screenwriter” who calls people “sport.” With Paco gone, he finds himself looking after another lost teen, Ellie (Jenna Ortega), much to the chagrin of her older sister Delilah (Carmela Zumbado), a celebrity reporter possessed of dubious ethics. There’s also Candace (Ambyr Childers), Joe’s ex with a grudge (since he, you know, buried her alive and left her for dead); Henderson (Chris D’Elia), a famed stand-up comedian with a dungeon where he drugs and molests women; and a cop named…David Fincher.
“We try to have this rule where we have fun with but don’t make fun of,” explains Gamble. “Part of the fun is, we like to show the difference between how Joe acts on the outside and what his thoughts are on the inside, and often they’re in very stark contrast, where he’s acting polite and engaging or quiet on the outside and on the inside he’s just tearing you apart. I related to that, because I feel like I have very unflattering thoughts about people all the time. We can’t go around saying our true thoughts all the time, and I think that’s what makes Joe relatable to audiences, is we can hear his uncensored thoughts. The difference is, we might fantasize about something bad happening to someone whereas Joe will actually go and hit them with a brick.”
Like the character of Paco in Season 1, one of the trickiest things to handle in the second go-round was Ellie, a streetwise 15-year-old embodied by ex-Disney star Jenny Ortega, who was 16 during filming. Ellie finds herself preyed on by Henderson, and ends up getting drugged in his apartment—only to be rescued by Joe. Gamble and co. did their best to shield Ortega as best they could.
“The protocols for handling that stuff is changing in the television business, so we’re all operating on a learning curve,” says Gamble. “What’s definitely true is that all the producers of the show want to respect our actors and make sure they’re in a professional environment, and that does mean something different when the actor is a minor. It’s an ongoing conversation through the writing and prep process where we’re combing through every part of the script thinking, ‘Do we need to bring in a double for this person?’ ‘Do we need to limit what we shoot in this scene?’ There’s really no reason to do anything gratuitous with a character like Jenna Ortega’s, so we erred on the side of implying.”
Now to that shocker of a finale. (Warning: Spoilers!)
After Joe finds Delilah’s dead body in his vault, he’s confronted by Candace—only to be saved by Love, who slits Candace’s throat and confesses to not only murdering Delilah but also Forty’s predatory au pair. She says she knows all about Joe’s serial-killing past and accepts him for who he is, which Joe initially finds off-putting. It’s a serious departure from Caroline Kepnes’ Hidden Bodies, upon which the second season is based.
“In the book she does find out everything about Joe and does not reject him as thoroughly as you’d expect. It was a shock to me that she was able to wrap her head around the real Joe as completely as she was able to do in the book, and we just took that to the next level,” says Gamble. “We asked ourselves the question: There’s the perfect woman that Joe thinks he wants, but what is the truth of someone who is compatible with Joe? That person might land in his blind spot.”
“As we were writing and rewriting the season, we wanted it to hold up as you rewatch it. There are many times when Love is looking him in the eye and isn’t lying about herself—he’s just not listening,” she adds.
Oh, and Love is also pregnant with Joe’s baby. The final scene of Season 2 has Joe moving to the suburbs with Love and their child—white picket fence, etc.—only to set his sights on their attractive, book-devouring neighbor sunbathing in her yard. It feels like Joe’s way of rejecting domesticity and yet another example of his rapaciousness.
“I think he isn’t satisfied because he’s not honest with himself about who he is. He’s in denial about his own actions, and justifies them so thoroughly to himself—he believes he’s an exception to the rule,” says Gamble. “So there’s no room in his consciousness to adjust that view of himself in light of Love. And I think fundamentally, he’s someone who will always look outside of himself for safety, insecurity, and love. He’s not going deep inside to really address the stuff that’s damaged and broken; instead, he keeps saying to himself, ‘The next woman will be perfect.’ It’s a vicious cycle that’s not helping him and it’s definitely not helping them, since a lot of them are dead.”
So where is all this going? “He does feel imprisoned by the situation he’s in but we know that Joe is very protective of young people, and certainly that would extend to his child,” explains Gamble. “Frequently when we’re making the show, we talk about what the beats are in a romantic comedy—a romantic comedy where someone’s chopping up bodies—and it’s a truism that those are mostly about the first serious brush with love, but when you cut back into the story later down the line and they’re married and have children, those aren’t usually passionate love stories. They’re more like Marriage Story.”
“There’s a huge difference between, ‘She could be my perfect girlfriend’ and ‘This is the mother of my child, and we live together in a house in the suburbs.’ Those two ideals are incompatible, and I think the wife doesn’t have the same power, in Joe’s mind,” she continues. “So unless he straightens his stuff out on the inside, he’s constantly going to have thoughts about other people.”
While Gamble is still waiting to see if Netflix will green-light a third season, she does reveal that the final suburbia scene was shot in California, and though they “may stay in the same state,” it will be set “miles away from L.A.” and “feel like a different world.”
When I mention that Silicon Valley could be a good setting for Season 3, she laughs. “There are a lot of highly killable people in that scenario!”