He’s moderately attractive, well read and caring, and he’s back to his old habits. Most people with a Netflix account know resident serial killer Joe Goldberg.
Penn Badgley, who plays Joe, is admittedly good-looking. I personally loved him in “Gossip Girl,” but his most recent murderous character belongs behind bars.
Not only do many people know about him, but they are fans of Joe while still acknowledging his disastrous habits that include injuring people, killing them and stalking victims. His murderous tendencies happen after he isn’t able to control his girlfriends, or his girlfriends’ friends or exes.
On Twitter, many fans make fun of the odd nature of Joe’s stalking that features hiding behind corners and later locking people in the weird glass box he keeps in a storage unit. Many fans also hint that Joe could be forgiven or that he could — in theory — be a good guy.
In a Variety Actors on Actors interview between Badgley and actress Gina Rodriguez, he talked about how people respond to his character and how sometimes Joe can be more charming than creepy to viewers.
“The cultural norms incline us to forgive a certain kind of person — namely someone who looks like myself — less so, someone who looks like you,” Badgley said. “The titular character, in my case, is someone who is doing unforgivable things, yet we keep performing backflips to figure out how it is that we’re going to forgive him.”
Badgley publically dismisses any romanticization or audience forgiveness of Joe, and rightfully so. Despite how harmless Joe looks in every episode, he still ruthlessly kills without feeling much regret.
In public, Joe is a quiet guy who has lost his past loves and really wants a simple life. What he does behind closed doors is also simple: he finds someone that gets in the way of his plan, and he kills them.
In the first season, Joe stalks Guinevere Beck, who goes by her last name. He steals her phone, follows her around New York City and watches her through her apartment’s windows.
During the first season, Joe kills Beck’s friends and boyfriend. After Beck figures out what has been going on, Joe kills her, too.
To recap the new season, Joe is up to his old tricks in Los Angeles. He steals an identity and keeps the real Will Bettelheim in a storage unit. From there, he begins stalking his latest victim, Love Quinn.
Joe, once again, gets tangled in the lives of Love’s friends and family while fending off the consequences of his previous crimes and the crimes he commits in Los Angeles. In addition, he gets involved in the lives of his landlord and her family.
Despite his intentions to be good and to keep his landlord’s young sister away from an older comedian named Henderson, Joe’s solution to the issue is to get rid of the comedian permanently. This happens while he pushes his agenda for Love to become as obsessed with him as he is with her.
While the show gives the audience a glance into Joe’s past that involves a violent household and trauma, this is not an excuse for his behavior. It does give causation for the crimes he’s committed; Joe does have a knack for “helping” the ones he loves.
Joe often thinks he is helping when, in reality, he worsens the situation for himself and others. He inserts himself into situations that he has no business being in at all and always finds the solution to be murder.
Joe makes it hard to hate him; he protects others who would have little to no protection otherwise (i.e. Paco and Ellie) and is the perfect romantic guy when he needs to be.
He’s also deeply hypocritical. When it is revealed that Love and Joe are more similar than he thought, Joe is disgusted by this turn of events because Love isn’t who he thought she was.
Love has known about his previous crimes the entire season and has chosen him because of his ‘predatory attitude towards relationships.’ This leads to the iconic line, “I wolf you.”
Overall, the show has an interesting look into a character with very deep issues. Joe does not deserve a redemption arc or to be forgiven by viewers, and Badgley agrees.