Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details from the series premiere of YOU.
Joe Goldberg will do anything for love, and he proved that in the series premiere of YOU on Lifetime. In the show’s opening hour, Joe (played by Penn Badgley), a bookstore worker in New York City, met and quickly became infatuated with a young woman named Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Over the course of the episode, Joe went from looking through Beck’s social media accounts to stealing her phone to knocking out Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci), Beck’s boyfriend of sorts, and locking him in the bookstore’s soundproof basement. As far as crushes go, Joe went from sweet to scary in 60 minutes.
For those who read the 2014 Caroline Kepnes book on which the show is based, it might be a bit surprising that Joe is showing this side of himself so early in the series. But showrunner Sera Gamble says they felt it was necessary to move up the introduction of Joe’s darker side when adapting the book to the screen. “Something that was important to [executive producer] Greg [Berlanti] and me from the beginning was that we really needed you to know who Joe was by the end of the first episode,” Gamble says. “We didn’t believe that you could get a complete picture of Joe Goldberg by only seeing him as the thoughtful bookstore guy, or even only seeing him as a guy who might break into her apartment. We knew that it was quite necessary to present him as someone who was capable of that kind of violence.”
And yet, Joe didn’t kill Benji. Rather, the final moments of the episode revealed that Benji is still breathing. “I feel like that’s really the moment when you understand who Joe Goldberg is and who he has been since the first frame of the pilot,” Gamble says.
That twist will also lead to more screen time for Benji, as Joe now has to figure out what his next move should be. “Lou Taylor Pucci gets to have such a tour-de-force performance, where he basically experiences the entire spectrum of human emotion while he is in that cage,” Gamble says of the actor. “[Benji] is deceptively slight and douchey when you first meet him, but this experience grinds Benji down to his component parts. We knew we needed an actor who was capable of really intense and serious character work.”
YOU airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime.