Love from “You”: Villian or Victim?

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*This article contains spoilers for the third season of “You.”*

Getting past the gore and death involved in the hit series “You” is challenging enough. However, beyond the pastry shop and basement cage, there is a whole other complexity that lies in the plot of everyone’s new binge.

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Season Three in a Nutshell

The season starts out as Love Quinn, played by Victoria Pedretti, and Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, move into a quiet, urban neighborhood to settle down and learn to become parents to their son, Henry.

As per Love’s previous role in the second season, she has a different reaction to jealousy than the average person. Within the first episode, she kills her neighbor Natalie after suspecting she was involved with Joe. This sparks an entire season filled with jealousy, marital therapy, murder and the question of how far one might go for love.

Not only did this season provide more murder and insane plot twists, but it also had underlying themes about toxic relationships, post-partum depression, gaslighting, therapy and much more.

Toxic Relationship Structure

It’s no shock that the relationship Love and Joe have isn’t ideal or perfect. Most of the time, they are fighting, committing acts of infidelity or questioning the validity of the “love” they have.

Both of them struggle severely with childhood trauma that shapes their perception of fault and love. Love carries a strong burden with the idea that she was responsible for the death of her brother Forty in the previous season. In the middle of a drunken haze, she sees Forty and shows the audience that she truly believes that she is at fault for the downfall of her relationship with Joe.


Building upon the idea of fault, the concept of gaslighting is quite evident in this season when it comes to Joe. He tells her constant lies relating to his loyalty to her and their son and oftentimes falsely confirms their love when in reality, he has found a new woman to obsess over.

She feels it’s her duty to fix the problems that Joe has created within their marriage in any way possible. However, in the end, she has a realization that the person who is making her feel so crazy is actually Joe. Jealousy is not the emotion at fault, it’s deception and betrayal.

Amelia Patton, a sophomore studying psychology, believes that the deception on Joe’s part impacted Love’s behavior.

“In fact, I think that if Joe wasn’t the way he was then she wouldn’t have become the way she was. She’s a girl, and she — like every other girl in the world — can sense when something is off, which she did multiple times because of Joe’s lies and sneakiness with Natalie and Marianne,” Patton says. “Given that I’ve had the same hunches in my life and I’ve felt the same way that I was so angry I could kill someone, I don’t believe she’s that bad of a person.”

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While she lies on the floor dying in front of Joe, Love swears him to a life without love. This is symbolic because it shows that while Joe has “loved” many women, what he has had thus far hasn’t been love. It’s been passion and obsession. Without Love and their son, Joe will continue to live a life without love.

In the end, the audience sees the character development and self-realization from Love, but never from Joe.

Patriarchal Viewpoint

The show is also almost fully filmed with the narration and perspective of Joe. This adds to the one-sided prospect of Love and doesn’t get into the deeper meaning behind her role in the relationship or her trauma. By only providing explanation, perspective and reasoning from Joe, it tilts the audience to feel sympathetic for him, when in reality, viewers like Patton found themselves feeling more compassion for Love.

“I feel if the show was reversed and we had seen this season in her POV like how we’ve been seeing it in Joe’s POV and him being the narrator, then Joe would have been the villain and her actions would have been justified, simply because we would have been relating to her and not him,” Patton says.

The Future of “You” Without Love

Many viewers will miss the crazy yet endearing character that Love became. The show has confirmed another season in the works and based on the ending of this season, “You” viewers will presumably be taken overseas to continue the bloody journey of Joe’s path to “true love.”

What is your verdict on Love? Let us know by tweeting us, @VALLEYmag, on Twitter.

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