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You Need to Watch You

Yes, you do.

All too real.

That’s the strongest hook of You, the Netflix Original Series that’s been burning up the internet (and very likely your own waking hours, if you’ve been anywhere near the well-earned hype). The show all too effectively captures the contemporary nuances of social media, framing it all within a story of obsession and manipulation.

At the Peninsula Manila this morning, the show’s stars—Penn Badgley and Shay Mitchell—spoke to the press, revealing how they went about playing their roles. And these are not the easiest roles to play.

Badgley’s arresting performance as Joe, a psychopathic stalker who is as charismatic and composed as he is vicious and calculating, is likely what will keep you watching once you start. Fans of Michael C. Hall’s performance as Dexter Morgan from his own eponymous show have a lot to enjoy here, because Joe narrates his goings-on and ruminations with the same calm, methodical monologue. There’s something about the perfect enunciation, the deliberate care with which every syllable is picked and delivered, that takes hold of you and doesn’t let go.

Pro tip: Watch You with headphones.

Second pro tip: Watch You on a large screen.

You’s cinematography is about as seductive as Badgley’s monologue delivery, with depth of field and tilt shift aggressively applied in almost every shot. The result is a living-Instagram visual feast that pulls your eyes here and there constantly, most especially to the faces of the show’s stars. That first moment the camera focuses on Elizabeth Lail’s face, you’re pulled into that same need to be fascinated with Beck, the object of Joe’s unrelenting affection. You see, ostensibly, what the show’s characters see when they look at one another, and it just clicks.

Shay Mitchell is just as compelling whenever she’s in a scene. Her unrelenting “detective eyes” – you’ll understand when you watch, if you haven’t already – and her incisive line delivery act as perfect foils to Joe’s duplicitously constructed persona. There’s a lot we can say about her character, Peach Salinger, but we won’t spoil you. That trifecta of Joe, Beck, and Peach, though: the chemistry is intoxicating.

The entire show, in fact, is intoxicating, and it comes back to how we started: You thrums with a narrative authenticity that makes everything believable. Social media has been used many times before in today’s stories, but rarely to the same nerve-wracking effect. You can imagine things happening exactly the way things are told, because you know that’s how phones work, how Facebook works, how public opinion now works. And that’s what makes both the story, and Joe, eminently watchable: the thought that it could all, reasonably, happen. Badgley says as much when he speaks about his character:

“I think what Joe was doing was, in some way, quite normal. That’s the most scary part. He really isn’t doing anything that’s super high-tech. He’s just… doing this, creeping on people. So what’s the difference between creeping on them in real life? … I think Joe reveals the unsettling logic that a lot of us are following, in the worst way, in social media.”

When you feel the need to come up for air, check out our coverage of Penn Badgley and Shay Mitchell’s visit with the press at the Peninsula Manila, where they talk about what it was like to throw themselves into their roles and be part of the ongoing You phenomenon.

Executive producer: Dante Gagelonia
Director of Photography: Brian Monge
Videographer: Brian Monge
Video Editor: Brian Monge
Text: Dante Gagelonia

Special thanks to Netflix