You challenges what can be acceptable and set aside when it comes to finding and maintaining love in the internet age.
|Creator||Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble|
|Benji||Lou Taylor Pucci|
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Joe presents himself as a good guy. He looks out for his young neighbor Paco, even hangs out with the kid. He runs a bookstore he inherited from his adopted dad and steadily employs a man named Ethan there. He doesn’t bother anyone, keeps to himself mostly, and seems safe. The kind of guy you could fall for and not have a care in the world. You know, the guy who you’ve been told in every story is perfect.
Problem is, guys get indoctrinated too. What is stalking and hacking your accounts but caring about your safety? Would you call hurting the toxic people in your life controlling? How about being insecure? Doesn’t that just mean they know what they have and are afraid of losing it? Can you really have love without just a bit of jealousy?
As we watch Joe fall in love with Beck, and she falls in love with him, the show challenges you to take note of Joe’s actions. Question if you can really justify them. Ask you if, just because he is nice to this kid, had a hard life, was cheated on, does that excuse his actions? Taking note of all that, and a bad childhood to boot, does that mean he isn’t as bad of a person? Can’t you just seem him as damaged and needing love?
Basically, it pushes Joe to make you question every male love interest you grew up on. Ultimately leaving you to wonder, when it comes to Joe, taking not he is using the same examples you were given to form what love is, is he toxic or was it the examples you both were given? Was what you saw truly love or a tale twisted just enough for you to forget all the little things that, in actuality, are abuse? That is the story of You.
The Horror Element
When you really think about it, dating in the modern age is horrifying. Not because there is swiping and this vibe everyone is more in love with profiles than actual people. More so the fact someone can find that profile, which is linked to another, and potentially have access to your entire life. They can know where you are, where you’ve been, who are your friends, where you work, what town you live in, your hobbies, and that is just on one website. Someone can have access to your entire life just by you leaving your profile public, you adding a stranger, or your friend not having a private profile.
This is something we see Joe take a massive amount of advantage of. Also, he takes advantage of how laissez faire Beck generally is. Be it by being intoxicated and walking by herself. Not securing her phone, her home, and not erring on the side of caution. Thus leaving her vulnerable in a multitude of ways. All of which pushes the need to question, man or woman, must you always be on your guard? Are they really no nice, and normal, people out there?
But then, so comes the additional layer of fear Joe brings by originally presenting himself as normal, kind, everything you’ve been told you want and, as you mature, look for. He has a job, a car, his own place, his relationship with this kid, Paco, makes him seem sweet. Also, on top of having a job, he runs the place so he is a business owner. One who seemingly on a whim, can leave work and do whatever. There is a massive amount of appeal to that. Making it so when Beck uncovers Joe’s insecurities, and how he interprets what is and isn’t appropriate, so comes the need to not just hold him accountable, but question why she thought he was a good guy.
Leaving you with the scariest thing of all: Realizing that you, just because you had hope, gave a stranger faith, wanted to believe, have put yourself in a dangerous position. One which, if you survive, now there is a need to be cautious in any and all interactions. Just so you don’t experience the trauma all over again and possibly not be as lucky the next go around.
For despite there being this idea that kindness tames a monster, a kiss changes everything, all it may really lead to, in the best case scenario, is that person more actively concealing their true nature.
How It Criticizes Romance Movie Plots
We live in an age which is hyper-aware of how from classic Disney movies to films like Twilight, boys have been shown inappropriate ways to handle their feelings. Which, for a lot of people, it may seem overblown. However, then you get someone like Joe. A guy who seems well versed in breaking and entering and thinks hiding in a shower, to avoid getting caught, is just part of the plot to romance. Something that can perhaps be laughed about later on. Thus adding to the whole horror element of the show. Especially since it seems he has normalized and found ways to justify his behavior, perhaps based on things he’s seen and read.
Paco and Joe’s relationship
Which makes Joe and Paco’s so complicated. On one hand, Paco helps flesh out Joe by giving us an idea of his childhood. Also, Paco is the key to Joe, and Badgley, showing us that he isn’t a complete creep. More so, he is the type you want to feel bad for, since he clearly had a messed up childhood, yet it is hard to say whether that is an excuse or giving you a full picture. That is, should Joe be held accountable, unequivocally, and him showing kindness to Paco not be seen as him being redeemable? Or rather, should we take note of Joe’s age, the fact he seems to have some intelligence, and make this whole Paco thing just him being calculated? You know, add onto reasons he should be seen as desirable?
But, before we move on, I gotta note, because of Luca Padovan’s performance, Paco isn’t just some means of humanizing Joe. He isn’t just this lovable accessory but a kid you have actual feelings for. Someone who, if this show shifted perspectives for an episode, you wouldn’t mind seeing his view of Joe, his mom’s situation, and even spending time at the bookshop. Not to imply Padovan is at the point he could be the lead, but you definitely see something there.
Like many, all I know of Shay Mitchell is Pretty Little Liars. Which was a young adult novel adaptation and from the ABC Family days. That’s noted because I feel like it didn’t really make her being on this show a selling point. Not that I didn’t enjoy Pretty Little Liars, the early seasons anyway, but like with Shailene Woodley on The Secret Life of an American Teenager, it gave you the impression that, at best, the show was nothing more than a steady paycheck. However, Mitchell proves herself to be quite a talent as Peach.
How? Well, as Beck’s best friend, someone who hates Joe, it is with every shady quip, eye roll, and manipulation of Beck that you feel the need to take note of her. In fact, I’d argue her part in this show is what helps keep it on track. Also, it makes it so you can suspend disbelief for she is out there just enough to bring the idea this is fiction.
Yet, as she gets in Joe’s way a bit too much, she also acts as a trigger to remind you this could very much be real. It is because of Peach we are smacked into our senses and unable to excuse Joe’s actions. Because of Peach, the show transitions to you simply being someone watching a young man behave badly and wondering when, and where, will he get caught. For Peach is there to remind you that just because Joe has his charm, is nice to this kid, sweet on Beck, there is something wrong with him. Something you may try to romanticize but in doing so, you enable people like him, normalize them, and ultimately are part of the problem.
All This For Beck?
In my mind, there is nothing remarkable enough about Beck to warrant both the attention of Joe and Peach. Granted, it could all be because of personal preference. It’s just there is no major aspect of Beck which, for someone like Joe who, I forgot to add, is still reeling from being cheated on, makes her seem like the one. As Benji notes, and Joe sees until he puts his rose-colored glasses back on, Beck doesn’t really bring all that much to the table. Well, outside be availability. Which for her could mean rushing to Peach when called upon or, depending on how you look at it, not taking a huge amount of effort to sleep with.
Which, don’t get me wrong, we’re sex positive. Thing is, Joe is not the kind of guy who seemingly sleeps with a lot of people and enjoys casual relationships. I mean, the man’s best friend can either be seen as a kid who isn’t even a teenager yet or an employee who might be his best friend since, well there isn’t competition. So for him to like someone like Beck, who has some of the worse qualities of his ex, Candace, didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Unless the idea is, despite how he was hurt in the past by someone similar, we are supposed to admire his faith in love. No matter how foolish it might sometimes seem.
On The Fence
Candace is going to be a strong focus of the second season. In many ways, this is a good thing. For one, she is far more interesting than Beck in every which way possible. Also, there is a certain air of mystery surrounding this character. Is she dead or alive, if she is alive, where has she been? Considering Joe saw her walkabout when he hit his head, her brother being dead, and all else that is revealed, is the person we see at the end of the season real? That is, especially considering what Joe does in the final episode?
If not, that could be unfortunate and maybe annoying. Mainly because of the next topic.
The Various Investigations
While Joe was smart about what he did early on, the further along we get into the series, the more he slips and eventually people start to notice. Problem is, how will this show deal with the transition from Joe being this protagonist trying to fall in love, and going about it the wrong way, to someone trying to avoid the law? Maybe even his conscious being played by Candace or one of the characters he killed?
But, perhaps the biggest thing to worry about is can the show keep things interesting? After everything that happened in season one, where can it go from here and will shifting gears make things feel new or Lifetime milking this show for all it is worth?
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
The main reason this is labeled mixed is because, once Joe gets rid of a certain character, the show goes on a different track. Joe is no longer this hopeless, crazy, romantic but now a guy who we are watching and waiting to see slip up. Someone who has long lost his ability of being a bit weird, but meaning well. So what is there left for us? What is there left for Joe? Can waiting for him to be caught, despite all he has done, be interesting? Will Candace prove herself able to fill the room and make up for the many characters we lost by the season finale?
That is why this is being labeled to stick around. You definitely is a show which has many things going for it. The problem is, as the first season hits its midway point, so comes the question if it should have been a limited series. For that is the big issue with book adaptations nowadays. Feeling that it would have been better to just be 13 or so episodes and ending vs. stretching out the book(s) and then the writers venturing off on their own.
Something I can’t say is being done with this book, since I didn’t read the source material, but I am a bit antsy. Maybe in an unwarranted way but it’s not like Lifetime is known for being the best network out there. So fears of them ruining a good thing seem understandable.