So Really, Who’s Worse? Love Quinn or Joe Goldberg from Netflix’s ‘You’
*Warning: Major spoilers ahead*
Season three of You premiered earlier this month, and like any self-respecting millennial, I binged all ten episodes in the span of two days. The latest season picks up where our two favorite murderers left off, as Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) and Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) attempt a life of normalcy with their new son in the fictional town of Madre Linda, California.
As the story unfolds, there’s a lot that goes down (involving an ax, a rolling pin and a fire extinguisher), but by the final episode, I was wholeheartedly rooting for Love Quinn to die (and secretly hoping Joe would make it out alive). Why? Because I'm convinced that Love is, in fact, way way worse than Joe.
I stand by my statement that Love is the absolute worst, but when I audibly cheered as she finally kicks the bucket, I couldn’t help but wonder what it is about her character that fills me with so much dislike. Yes, she's impulsive, needy and a complete and total hypocrite, but Joe tags along as the Clyde to her Bonnie. He has his fair share of creepy and abhorrent wrongdoings this season, so why does he get a bye when Love is left nailed to the cross?
For me, it comes down to Love’s complete lack of empathy and inability to take responsibility for her actions. With each new act of violence, she becomes more and more detached, and like a whiny teenager, absolutely nothing is her fault. As a viewer, her jealousy and hypocrisy make it easy to hate her, but her violent impulsivity leaves you absolutely terrified. On one hand, you feel for her, having grown up in a home with absent parents and a codependent twin brother, forced to take on the role of caregiver at a young age. But her desire to be loved and accepted often clouds her judgment and her emotions swiftly take over.
Love often acts out in a fit of rage (“crimes of passion” one might call them, though for her they occur on a weekly basis). She’s not responsible for her own actions, and she shows zero signs of guilt or remorse for the people she’s hurt. “You made me kill Natalie!” Love screams during one of her infamous fights with Joe. “You made me feel like you really saw me, like you were perfectly happy. You made me feel like I needed to protect you.” You, you, you. It’s all your fault.
And remember when she whacks Gil over the head when she finds out he's an anti-vaxxer? Poor Sherry and Cary are simply unlucky, in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Theo, the 19-year-old boy next door who is head-over-heels in love with her? He deserves better than a fire extinguisher to the face. Even the people Love cares about are bulldozed down (or locked in a giant box) the moment they get in her way.
Her outburst against Theo was the last straw for me. “She needs to die,” I told my husband as we cued up the final episode.
Now, before you @ me, I’m fully aware of Joe’s less than stellar track record. Murderer, adulterer, obsessive stalker, check, check, check. But what ultimately sets him apart from his wife is his newfound self-awareness. By season three, Joe is making small steps toward empathy, especially with his son Henry. With this new responsibility, he’s trying to be a better person and ignore the demons of his past. It’s the first time we see him openly acknowledging his faults—his failing marriage being one of them. He knows he’s dealing with past traumas, and he’s aware of his abandonment and mother issues. He sees his flaws and tries to correct them. And unlike Love, he’s able to control his impulses—up to a point.
Yes, he’s still stalker-level obsessed with Marianne, and yes, he ultimately stabs her abusive ex Ryan to death. But to Joe, Ryan has it coming. He's hurting someone Joe loves and therefore has to be dealt with. That doesn’t make it OK (or legal), but as someone on the outside looking in, it does help make Joe the more palatable character.
Joe is not a good guy, that's obvious, but there's still some small piece of him that wants to be.
Love, on the other hand, is erratic and unpredictable. With her, it’s kill or be killed.
Maybe it’s our inherent need to label people (good, bad, villain, victim), but I’m convinced the writers of You wanted me to hate her character in the end. In the final episode, we learn Love never truly trusted Joe, preparing for his demise well in advance by planting Wolfsbane, a poisonous plant, in the garden of their perfectly manicured suburban backyard. It’s the same natural paralyzer she used to accidentally kill her first husband (whoops), but just as Joe’s fate seems sealed, he pulls the ultimate switcheroo and murders her right back. *Cue me jumping off the couch cheering.*
Love’s final words are both sad and haunting. “We’re perfect for each other,” she says seconds before dying. That’s when I realized she might actually still love him. She had a butcher’s knife to his throat, but she still loved him…
The jury’s out on whether Love Quinn is a narcissistic psychopath or just plain evil, but the simple question of who in this unsavory pairing is worse is abundantly clear to me. It was nice knowing you, Love…
Stay up-to-date on every entertainment story by subscribing here.