Warning: Major spoilers ahead for season 2 of You.
In Netflix’s psychological romance thriller You, Victoria Pedretti plays Love Quinn, a young woman in Los Angeles still grieving the death of her husband when she meets murderous boyfriend Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), who is now going by the name Will Bettelheim. But Victoria first auditioned for a very different You character: Season 1’s Guinevere Beck (played by Elizabeth Lail).
Beck and Love are a world apart, but it’s difficult not to compare them, since Joe spends basically the entire second season doing just that. “I think Beck carried a lot of insecurities that made her very easily manipulated,” Victoria tells Teen Vogue. “Love is written as a character who is not easily moved, and [who is] very strong in her beliefs. So, there's a lot of contrast right there. It wasn't going to be the same season. It wasn't going to be the same thing because this person that he's fixated on is very, very different.”
If you haven’t read Caroline Kepnes’s original books, you’d be forgiven for thinking season 2 was going to go down just like season 1. A pretty, vulnerable love interest. A carefully plotted meet-cute. A honeymoon phase, a realization of bad behavior, and a violent end. Season 2 does cover those plot points — but it twists them into something new, something more complicated.
At the center of that twist is Victoria’s Love, so it’s not such a bad thing that she didn’t end up with the role of Beck. Plus, 24-year-old Victoria got to play another dynamic character for her debut professional acting role: Nell Crane in the hit horror anthology, The Haunting of Hill House, a part she won just a few months after graduating from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 2017. When she spoke to Teen Vogue about You season 2, she was already filming the second installment, The Haunting of Bly Manor, which will air later in 2020.
In comparison to the Haunting series, You’s brand of terror is subtler. Often, You’s best trick is letting viewers lapse into comfortable acceptance of Joe Goldberg’s frequent internal monologues. We see the world how Joe does, and he typically fails to see women as actual people, instead preferring to see them as broken, or traumatized, or in need of saving and monitoring and stalking and kidnapping and—yeah, doesn’t seem so romantic anymore, does it?
Love Quinn disrupts that worldview by turning out to be much different than the kind, if enigmatic and sad, woman she appears to be when Joe first meets her at the grocery store. Over the course of the season, she delicately reminds audiences they probably didn’t know Beck all that well either.
The main tension of season 2 involves the return of Joe’s ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers), who tried to break up with him years ago and was instead dragged out to the woods for an altercation that ended with Joe giving her a head injury and burying her alive in the dirt. Candace survives, and after some time, she returns to New York to confront Joe for his crimes: she’s connected the dots about what happened to Beck.
Season 2 is Candace’s revenge arc; she’s stalking Joe this time, determined to wreck the sham life he’s built for himself in L.A. But ultimately, she puts her faith in the idea that women protect other women. She warns Love about Joe’s past, tells her about Beck, and eventually confronts them both in the storage center where Joe does his murdering. Major spoiler ahead: the scene ends with Candace’s murder. However, it’s not Joe who is to blame; it’s Love. (The character, not the abstract idea that Joe often uses to justify his violent behavior.) And Candace isn’t the only woman Love has killed.
Victoria has some thoughts about her character’s big twist ending. “I mean, it's a really extreme thing to do, right? To kill somebody. I don't think most people have that experience, to say the least,” Victoria says. “But I think that it's pretty easy to put a huge magnifying glass on all of her features that she was already presenting. Her fierceness, her protectiveness, her dedication to the people that she loves. I think it's not so hard to rationalize.”
In other words, the signs were all there and Joe refused to see them; once again, he is unable to see outside of an ideal of a woman that he has created. In a masterful flashback montage near the end of the season, Love tells her side of their love story — how she knew Joe was following her, how she played him during their breakup, how she read Beck’s book while sitting in Joe’s cage, looking more at home than any of its prior tenants. “I realized [Beck] was unspecial and mediocre,” Love monologues. “She didn't deserve you. And then I found the real you, Joe. You were even smarter and more passionate and more devoted than I'd known… you did some terrible things, but that's what sensitive people do when they're in a bad relationship. I tried to coax the real you out. If you could trust me, show me your heart even the darkest parts, then we'd be starting our future on the right foot.”
Joe tries to take credit for her apparent personality shift: “I think I broke you,” he says bleakly, clearly regretful. But Love disagrees, "You didn't break me, you opened your heart to me. We're soulmates, Joe.” His response is revulsion and disbelief. The appeal of Love is lost, even though maybe he should be grateful to have found someone as messed up as he is. Instead, he can’t deal.
“A lot can be said about the way in which Joe responds,” Victoria says. “His response to this kind of behavior is, ‘who the f*ck is this person? They're crazy.’ And yet we as an audience have watched this person and supposedly have continued to stay engaged and care about this protagonist that we've been given, who's continuously killing people all the time. I think it speaks a lot... to the way men and women are treated differently and seen differently.”
Those differences have plagued the show’s reception online since it left Lifetime for Netflix last year. Penn Badgley has already addressed people’s worrying tendency to romanticize Joe, a tendency Victoria isn’t a fan of, even though she understands why it happens.
“The Internet is a really weird, gross place. I mean, I've already noticed people picking apart the way I look, and placing it against Beck, as if that's why I do this or what the show's about at all,” Victoria says. “People are going to say dumb sh*t. I don't truly believe that people want to sleep with a serial killer. It's just that Penn Badgley is not actually a serial killer, he's a sweet man.”
But the response also reflects what makes the show so unnervingly interesting: it provokes reactions that viewers are uncomfortable with in themselves. It hits pressure points we may not have even known were there, like comparing Beck and Love or Love and Candace to each other in relative levels of victimhood, or like seeing them through Joe’s eyes instead of their own.
You doesn’t always have an easy moral, as evidenced by Love’s own propensity toward violence as a way of problem-solving. Even Victoria doesn’t want viewers to “look for any guidance” in the world she’s helped create. (Except: “Don’t pursue serial killers. And also nobody has sex the first time and comes simultaneously in five seconds. So, don't base your ideas about what sex will be like from television. I'll just throw that out there, Teen Vogue.”)
However, she does offer up an interpretation for how to process what Joe and Love do in season 2, and how it affects the season 1 narrative around sh*tty men.
“The amount of tolerance we have for Joe's less than ideal behavior is so high because our expectations for men are extremely low, which is probably a good way to stay not constantly angry in the world,” she says. “But it's still not fair, right? We don't live in a fair world, and I think that is what all of this is meant to emphasize.”
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue