When it was originally on: 2018-present
Original Network: Lifetime for Season 1, but moved to Netflix for Season 2 and beyond.
Where you can stream it now: Netflix
Had I seen it before: Nope
What IMDb says: A dangerously charming, intensely obsessive young man goes to extreme measures to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by.
Why I picked it: Lifetime has always been an intriguing player in the world of scripted basic cable television. They gave the world Unreal (which is also on The List!) which I would argue never got the respect it really deserved precisely because it was a Lifetime show. You didn’t seem to take off until it was branded as a Netflix show rather than a Lifetime show. I always love examining if such stigmas around a certain network exist because their programming is actually inferior, or simply because their programming isn’t intended for a white male audience.
There’s also the fact that there really aren’t too many other shows on the list that fall into the psycho thriller/possibly horror realm, and so You should bring an interesting flavor to the project. Also, You recently dropped it’s second season and I’m hoping the hashtag will be popping enough to get me some more views.
What I liked: I liked when Joe told Benji he was a “waste of hair.” It’s true. Benji DOES have great hair but is a total douchebag and therefore wastes it.
On a more serious note, I think the show does a great job of showing how their creepy AF protagonist is still nice enough that no one expects him to be who he is. I would argue one of the main points of this whole show is demonstrating how incredibly sick, twisted people can seem like Prince Charming on the surface, and in that it succeeds.
Sure, we get to see him stalking a woman. We get to hear his gross thoughts about her and his rationalization for the stalking. But we also see him being nice to the neighbor boy. We get to see a proper romcom meet-cute between him and the object of his affection, Beck. We get to see him be a complete and total gentleman when Beck refuses to give her cell phone number to him, only her e-mail address. All of this means that we’re not going to think less of Beck when she inevitably falls for him. It’s not her fault, it’s simply that Joe has done an impeccable job of hiding his more sinister tendencies.
The show also did a great job of making sure that the tense moments were adequately tense. Knowing that this story can shift from cute romantic moments to acts of violence and near death experiences in the blink of an eye is enough to keep you on edge. I can see why that’s a major draw for some people. I never felt like I knew what was coming next, which is rather impressive given that the show is playing with a lot of tropes I’ve seen before numerous times.
What I didn’t like: Okay, we’ll get to the overuse of voiceover in a second, but first we gotta talk about Beck. The show insists Beck is super smart. Joe says it numerous times. Her professor says it. And she reads. books. No tv show makes a point of saying someone reads books unless they are Intelligent with a capital I. And yet Beck literally masturbates next to an open window with no curtain in a first floor apartment. What the fuck? Don’t try to tell me a character is smart unless you’re actually going to write them as smart.
Now, one could argue that this is because Beck “wants to be seen.” This is what Joe tells himself. But I would argue that for this whole show to work, there needs to be a disconnect between Joe’s rationale for shit and actual reality. If Joe’s perception of the world is 100% true, the premise falls apart. Instead, the fascination of this story is supposed to lie in how Joe can convince himself that wildly inaccurate things are true, and we the audience get to see how he made it from point A to point B.
When Joe first tells himself that Beck is constantly seeking attention, he uses her run of the mill white girl Instagram to justify himself. I thought this was supposed to demonstrate Joe’s mental gymnastics rather than anything substantial about Beck’s character. I don’t have any real evidence to believe that Beck is so attention hungry that she would deliberately masturbate next to an open window with no curtains in a first floor apartment. The only other logical conclusion is that she lacks the intelligence that the show wants me to believe she has.
Then there’s the voiceover. I will give them credit for their commitment to it. I have no doubt that the excessive voiceover is a deliberate stylistic choice rather than pure laziness. I would even go so far as to say that some voiceover is straight up necessary for this show to work. But there are still times when the show uses it to tell us things it should have shown us.
For example, we learn that Beck’s father overdosed and Beck is the one who found him. We learn this because Joe tells us. I can’t help but think it would’ve been far more impactful for us to actually see the evidence that Joe stumbles across, and limit the voiceover to a snappy remark from him rather than making it a primary tool for exposition. The excessive voiceover is perhaps the biggest reason I don’t have a ton of enthusiasm to keep watching the series. If you’re going to write this much voiceover into your television show, I might as well just get the audiobook and call it a day.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Look, I can see why this would be some people’s cup of tea. I don’t really think it’s mine. I could maybe see myself watching/laughing at it with a friend but Episode 2 is not a priority when it comes to my solo streaming time.