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The Best Characters in ‘You,’ Ranked

Hello ... best 'You' characters.

Some of the best characters in You

Despite some of the issues with You, there’s no denying that it’s given us several memorable characters. Every season introduces more characters that Joe (Penn Badgley) can’t help but analyze. Some he becomes obsessed with, some he can’t help but try to care for, and many he flat-out despises. But even if Joe hates somebody, we likely love them anyways (unless you’re most of Beck’s friends, then yikes).

If you’re hoping to see Joe Goldberg on this list, you won’t find him. This list is for the best You characters that aren’t Joe, including some you may have forgotten, and I’m ranking them from good to great.

Ethan (Season 1)

Ethan talking to Joe in You season 1

Let’s be honest, as far as You season 1 characters go, Ethan (Zach Cherry) is the sweetest and most genuine one of them all. Naturally, he had no idea what Joe was capable of and that in turn kept him safe from death. Ethan is also the perfect example of allowing men of color to be soft even in a series as bonkers as You. And believe me, that’s more important than people realize. He may not be as deep as other characters, but does he have to be? He’s on this list because he deserves to be here.

Candace (Season 2)

Candace being absolutely tired of everybody in You season 2

The amount of hate that Candace (Ambyr Childers) received when You season 2 dropped was shitty. Candace was a reminder that Joe is an unreliable narrator in all of his relationships. Sure, she should’ve stayed far away from him and anyone he became associated with. But other than a few choices that were driven by wanting to take Joe down, Candace was a crafty, strong character. It’s hard not to appreciate that, especially after dealing with Joe’s hardcore gaslighting.

Ellie Alves (Season 2)

Ellie Alves smiling in You season 2

Bold teenagers tend to make for good characters and Ellie (Jenna Ortega) is certainly one of them. It’s not solely because Jenna Ortega plays her (and we all love her at this point); it’s the fact that Ellie feels like a real teenager. She doesn’t come across as someone trying to be too adult, nor does she pretend she’s anything other than Gen Z. You season 2 introduced characters with more spunk and humor infused into their personalities. Thankfully Ellie wasn’t a drag to watch on screen—even in her last scene, which was heartbreaking.

Peach Salinger (Season 1)

Peach looking upset in You season 1

Ah, Peach (Shay Mitchell) was certainly not a peach for most of her time in You season 1. She was a classic mean girl with a lot of money to spare. But part of what made her interesting was her obsession with Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Peach was a direct contrast of Joe’s character, but ultimately it’s doubtful she would’ve killed Beck (she merely let her leave after their falling out). It’s a great thing when women of color are allowed to be complicated, deliberately flawed, or even horrible. She may not be someone you’d want to be friends with, but damn is Peach a memorable character.

Forty Quinn (Season 2)

Forty in Anavrin in You season 2

Why is Forty (James Scully) higher on this list? The reason is that Forty comes off as a real person who is incredibly chaotic and never shuts up. It’s easy to see why Forty is a fan-favorite character. He’s funny, he’s occasionally charming, he brings the camp (Scully is queer, btw), and his character had a really tragic backstory—especially considering how dysfunctional his family is. Forty is a character who helped bring the comedy to You season 2, even when shit hit the fan.

Lady Phoebe (Season 4)

Lady Phoebe smiling in her outfit in You season 4

Season 4 has its problems, obviously, but some of the new characters were tremendous. Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper) stole hearts and was one of the most likable members of the rich friend group that Joe found himself in. She was relatively kind, sweet, and was taken advantage of by too many people. And yet she had moments where she proved she wasn’t going to take anybody’s shit. All in all, Lady Phoebe is a very endearing character and deserves every bit of the appreciation she’s received.

Nadia (Season 4)

Nadia smiling in the library in You season 4

Over the course of four seasons, no one has come as close to exposing Joe as Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman). Poor Nadia went out of her way for a woman she didn’t know whatsoever, and risked her actual life to save Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) from the cage. Nadia is one of those characters who is so brave, selfless, and smart. She deserves to live free with her boyfriend (who Joe unfortunately murdered) and not be thrown in jail for things she didn’t even do. Nadia has one of the most grim endings—aside from getting murdered—for a You character that we’ve seen so far. Aside from the way Nadia’s story ended, she was one character who didn’t make me want to break a pencil.

Delilah Alves (Season 2)

Delilah in the glass cage in You season 2

It’s horrible when a character like Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) gets killed for no good reason. Delilah is one of those characters who could’ve been aggressively unlikable in the wrong hands. Emotionally dysfunctional characters with tragic pasts are either written well or … they’re not. Thankfully, Delilah gave us drama and emotional moments (her pleading to be let out of the cage is rough), not to mention she actually had chemistry with Joe and there was more of an authentic feeling to their relationship. If only Delilah had been allowed to live and escape with Ellie! She survived horrendous events in her past and was just trying to do right by other survivors.

Marienne (Seasons 3 and 4)

Marienne being shocked to see Joe in You season 4

If you’re surprised that Marienne is this high on the list, then I don’t know what to tell you. The authenticity of Marienne as a character and a mother is very endearing. She had a lot of struggles as a recovering addict who was dealing with an abusive ex, and she portrays the stress of it all—especially as a Black woman—so damn well. Marienne is the only obsession of Joe’s who isn’t dead (either by his hand or Love’s), so hats off to her for being that smart. Among the very horrible characters in You, Marienne is one of the best, and that’s on that.

Love Quinn (Seasons 2 and 3)

Love talking to Joe during their last dinner together in Joe season 3

There’s so much appeal to women who are chaotic like Love (Victoria Pedretti) in our current time. We’ve seen cis men behave like Love time and time again. And while Love’s privileges as a rich, white cis woman do aid in her going undetected, she’s such a fascinating character. Does her physical attractiveness contribute to the appeal of her character in a general sense? Sure. But her personality is attractive, too. She’s protective, isn’t afraid to be herself, and she’s deeply flawed. Love is still one of the characters people hope isn’t dead (even though she very much is), and that alone speaks to why she’s high up on this list.

Rhys (Season 4)

Rhys looking at Joe at Simon's art show in You season 4 part 1

The twist (that most of us saw coming, let’s be real) didn’t diminish Rhys (Ed Speleers)’ character for me. Ultimately, I have him up here with Love since he owned season 4. Even after the real Rhys is killed by Joe, Rhys remains a character that draws people in. He is Joe (at this point it’s probably best to subscribe to the idea that Joe has D.I.D.), and yet he’s way more appealing as a character. It could be that Ed Speleers plays him so well. His scenes with Joe are intense, full of sexual tension, and very emotional (the bridge scene!). There’s something so interesting about Joe’s alter appearing as the man he’s obsessing over (don’t get me started on the sweaty gym towel). He’s funny, charming, campy, and has become a favorite of many fans on social media.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.