On paper, a character in a show who’s a stalker that purposely deceives a woman to date her doesn’t seem that desirable. In fact, he would seem like someone you’d want to run far, far away from. However, the way Penn Badgley plays Joe Goldberg in You is highly desirable to many. And even though he seemed to find his match in Season 2 with his calculated efforts in Los Angeles, Joe will actually never find love that satisfies him. [Spoilers ahead for You Season 2].
Joe Goldberg thought he found his soulmate in Love Quinn
After Season 1, Joe fled to LA to escape his thought-to-be-dead ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers). Beck’s dead and Joe promises himself that he’s not going to search for love. However, Love finds him. Love Quinn, that is.
Played by Victoria Pedretti, Love is the daughter of a very wealthy family and has an eccentric brother named Forty. Joe, despite his explosive situation in New York City, falls into his old ways of stalking Love and creating this ideal version of her in his head.
What’s different here is that Love is so unlike Beck. She’s not as predictable, she’s much more private online, and she actually pursues Joe back. Of course, viewers find out in the end that she had similar tactics to Joe. She hired a private investigator to look into him, found out about Beck, and still wanted to be with him. So much so, that she kills Candace and Delilah to help them have a clean life together.
Before that twist, in the end, Joe was convinced that Love was his soulmate. He realized that he hadn’t actually felt love like this before and that this might be it for him. However, after he finds out Love killed Delilah and has a small history of doing so, Joe is disgusted. He didn’t know Love fully, but also didn’t accept her murderous side, even though he has one as well.
But Love Quinn isn’t the girl of his dreams; she’s the girl he made up in his head
Even though Love Quinn is authentically herself through the show, it’s the killing that poisons Joe’s idea of Love. She is capable of killing and Joe isn’t attracted to this version of her. She shattered this pristine image he had of Love in his head, similarly to how Beck wasn’t the woman he thought up either. Once he was actually in a relationship with Beck, he realized this, which ultimately led to him killing her.
Even though Joe doesn’t kill Love because she’s pregnant with their baby, it’s clear that no matter how hard he tries for them, he really won’t be satisfied. He’s in his own version of a glass box now, in domestic suburbia. When the next shiny thing comes across his path — in this instance, the woman next door — he starts his shtick all over again.
Essentially, the woman of his dreams — aka whoever he conjures in his head at the moment — will never exist because she’ll never be real.
Joe will never be satisfied because he’ll always be chasing this ideal version of love that doesn’t exist
We learn a lot more about Joe’s past in Season 2 which really opens viewers’ eyes to why he is the way he is. His mom was very distracted and didn’t take care of him the way she should have. This was all on top of Joe having a very abusive father who was cruel to his mother. Joe only wanted his mom’s love, yet she sent him away after he shot his dad. It was a lot for a kid to process and know right from wrong in that situation, and it just leads him to chase love for the rest of his life.
But, because Joe doesn’t actually know what real love looks like, and has this inflated idea of it in his head, he can never attain it. The way he reacted to Love Quinn proved that further.
In an interview with Vogue on Dec. 26, 2019, Badgley shared he was frustrated with Joe rejecting Love because she’s a killer. However, he saw “the logic” quickly after his initial reaction.
“It makes sense because the thing a killer needs is not [to fall in love with] another killer. A killer can’t be redeemed in that particular way,” Badgley explained. “You can’t just hope that they’re going to be with somebody without changing.”
And Badgley hit the nail on the head too: “Joe is never going to be happy—because he’s a murderer!”
Essentially, the ending — where Joe’s eyes wander to the woman next door — was very predictable for Badgley as well. Joe will “keep You-ing” until someone puts an end to him. At his core, Joe won’t evolve. He can’t.