Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first and second season of the Netflix original series YOU.
The new season of Netflix’s You was jam-packed with new characters, shocking twists and even the occasional ghost. Picking up right where Season 1 ended, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) goes on the run after being confronted by his ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers), who he long assumed was dead. You know, because he tried to kill her. Once Candace reveals she knows what Joe did to his other ex Beck (Elizabeth Lail), Joe flees to L.A.
Here, he assumes a new name and quickly finds love. No, literally. Aspiring chef Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) becomes the new object of his obsession as Joe gives into some old habits. Between Love and constantly looking over his shoulder, Joe has his hands quite full. Of course, he soon discovers that starting fresh is hard to do when your past is so close behind.
And what’s a good series without an Easter Egg here and there? Not a very creative one. With Joe being the bibliophile that he is, it’s no surprise that the biggest Easter Eggs are found in the handful of books that are scattered throughout this season of You.
With books playing such a crucial role this time around, I thought it would be fun to explore their significance. Some may be callbacks to season one, foreshadowing or a breeding ground for theories regarding a potential third season.
“What do you say, Old Sport?”
When entering a relationship it’s important to remember that everybody’s got some kind of baggage. In the case of Love Quinn her baggage comes in the form of her twin brother, Forty (James Scully). One of Forty’s many quirks includes calling Joe “Old Sport.” Not only is this a reference to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald but it’s also a subtle give away to Forty’s eventual death in the finale.
In the novel Gatsby is killed by a man named George Wilson. Wilson believes Gatsby is responsible for the fatal hit and run of his wife, Myrtle. Thus, he inflicts some vigilante justice by killing Gatsby with a gunshot to the back. However, Myrtle’s actual killer was Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy although she never admits to it.
Forty’s death mimics this when he confronts Joe in the Quinn family grocery store. Gun in hand, Forty reveals he knows all about Joe’s past and declares he’s going to do whatever it takes to protect his sister. Before he gets the chance to use the gun a cop enters the scene and shoots Forty in the back. Eventually things go smoothly for Joe. All the deaths that take place in Season two are blamed on poor Forty.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
In the very first episode Joe uses his knowledge of the Russian classic to score himself a job at a local book shop/grocery store. Both Dostoevsky’s masterpiece and You’s second season share similar themes; both stories follow a young man who is plagued with guilt, regret and utter paranoia after commuting a murder. Or, in Joe’s case, several.
The novel makes a comeback in a later episode when Joe quotes it during one of his monologues, “Dostoevsky wrote, ‘If a man has a conscience, he will suffer for his mistake, that will be his punishment as well as his prison.'” Which is super ironic because at this point everyone is aware that Joe has no conscience. Everything is always somehow twisted and justified in a positive light. Even murder. Plus, no one receives punishment. But hey! There’s always season three, am I right?
In order to fit in with his new Angeleno friends Joe does the unthinkable: he joins social media. Of course it’s under his new alias Will Bettelheim. He gets some guidance from his tech savvy teen neighbor Ellie Alves (Jenna Ortega) who shows him how to do the internet without looking like a try-hard loser. Joe decides to dedicate his Instagram page to his favorite books. His first post includes three novels which feature both colorful covers and some pretty grim futures.
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye takes place in California which has been transfigured into a phantasmagoric landscape thanks to a terrible drought.
Sum: Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman is a series of explorations about the nature of different potential afterlives.
Lastly, The Power by Naomi Alderman is an amazing, terrifying battle of the sexes that follows women who discover they have the ability to inflict terrible pain and even kill with just a flick of their fingers.
Jeez, can’t this guy chill out and read some Roald Dahl once in a while?
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
By the end of the first episode Joe is gifted a book by Love. On its surface it seems like nothing beyond a harmless gesture, right? Well, a quick skim of Play It As It Lays’ synopsis reveals this may have actually been a major red flag. Didion’s breakout novel tells the story of a woman who hopes to mend her broken life by making it big in Hollywood. Upon her arrival she quickly enters a toxic relationship with a man she barely knows.
Love describes the novel as “smart, complex and a little dark,” which is perfect because such subject matter makes her “feel at home.” It’s safe to say that this was some major foreshadowing as Love, after getting into a complicated relationship with Joe, later talks about her broken childhood. A childhood that featured a bit of murder.
Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
In episode three, viewers get a quick look at Joe’s work locker. Inside contains his work apron, a pastry from Love and, of course, some books. One of the titles is Nostromo. Conrad’s novel features one character who is trying to navigate a political crisis but is shot to death before he can stop it. All thanks to a case of mistaken identity. Just like Forty.
As Joe and Ellie get to know each other better they eventually settle on a trading system: movie recommendations for book recommendations. After Ellie insists Joe watch The Big Sleep, he returns the favor by buying her a copy of Mikhail Bulgakov‘s The Master and Margarita, another Russian classic all about Satan and a vodka drinking cat. Super chill, Joe.
Later in episode six, Joe buys Ellie a copy of Raymond Chandler‘s Farewell, My Lovely. Another super chill pick about secret identities, lies and murder in the city of Los Angeles. Sound familiar?
The Charles Dickens Collection
When Joe breaks into Henderson’s (Chris D’Elia) house he notices something peculiar on one of the shelves. It appears to be the complete works of Charles Dickens. Joe never took Hendy for a Dickens guy. When he goes to pull one of the books out, it turns out to be a latch that opens up to a secret room. This is potentially a call back to season one, where Joe follows Beck out of state to a Charles Dickens festival.
Just when you think Joe might finally chill with the whole stalking thing, there’s another woman he’s got his eye on. It turns out to be his new neighbor. However, the jury is still out on whether this is another love interest or the set up for another shocking twist in a later season. My favorite theory so far is that it might actually be his Mom. But back to the books.
Through a hole in the fence we get a shot of the woman’s back as she reads by the pool. She turns out to have a thing for classics. First there’s Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, a sci-fi book about a future that’s engineered to be pain free but meaningless. Then, there’s A Guide to Jane Austin by Michael Hardwick and Kafka’s Selected Stories which focuses on the classic writers.
What was your favorite literary Easter Egg on this list? Were there any we missed? Let us know!
You Season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.