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Toxic Pairing: Love and Joe, YOU
Few will refute the claim that Love and Joe are toxic, they are both serial murderers after all. This common trait essentially led some to say that they were perfect for one another, but, unlike what you may have heard, two rights do not make a wrong. Not in relationships at least. There are obvious problems with the two lovers, the last episode of season 2 being a testament to it.
It seems Penn Badgley has a knack for stalker roles. The talented actor takes his Dan persona up several notches to become Joe Goldberg. We know from the very beginning that his character is disturbed. But what exactly is going on?
It seems Joe Goldberg has difficulties discerning perception, reality and interaction. During season 1, we see him chase Guinevere Beck, the woman of his dreams. He thoughtlessly murders those close to her if he found that they threatened their relationship. He also traps people in a plexiglass room that acts as a cage.
The relationship itself is tumultuous because Joe fails to recognize Beck as her own person and often acts authoritarian around her. Joe constantly manipulates Beck to get her to be more attached to him. Things go for a toss when Joe’s possessiveness and jealousy start to bother Beck. It seems as though all is well and Beck is safe when the two briefly break up. But the stars are not in our favor. They get back together, Beck soon finds out who Joe really is when she finds his box of horrors and ends up in his plexiglass cage.
Joe maintains throughout that he has done so much for her (so much crime) and is genuinely hurt that she does not appreciate him for his actions. Beck, on the other hand, is rightly horrified and in trying to get out of the situation, ending with the poor girl getting killed. We learn during this season that he had a previous girlfriend Candace and that *something* happened to her, we’re just not sure what. We learn later that he had tried to murder her after she tried to run away from him. He also murdered the man Candance had an affair with.
It does not take a genius to figure out that Joe is psychologically unstable. The main problem he has is that he becomes fixated on his object of desire. I am very carefully using the word object here because that is what they are to him. He does not see love as a partnership but rather as ownership. This is why he needs to have this form of authoritarian control over his partner’s life. This makes him essentially defunct in relationships but the heart wants what it wants. Joe may also be far removed from reality and may see his actions as justifiable- all is fair in love.
His way of loving is not really love because it does not matter how much care, concern, nurturing his relationship has, the minute his partner needs space, as one should, he becomes irate and reacts in dysfunctional ways. In the show, Joe seems mildly aware that his actions are not acceptable and as a result manipulates the situation to keep his real identity a complete secret. This is a TV show trope as it does not happen in real-life situations. Usually, stalkers are found out quickly or they commit a crime soon enough to reveal themselves. They are not criminal masterminds. Joe here is a dramatized TV character. It may very well be that he is not removed from reality but wants his relationship to be exactly like he wants. It could point to a personality disorder, antisocial and obsessive-compulsive being the most likely– more than one is also possible. He may also have underlying insecurities of getting left alone by those he loves, or not being loved for who he is. This is why he feels the need to control so much.
Joe’s home situation was not ideal. His father was abusive to his mother and himself. To protect her, he kills his own father. His mother later leaves him and he goes into the foster system. The events from season 1 determines that he was adopted by Mr. Mooney who was also abusive and locked Joe in the plexiglass box several times to force him to cultivate a reading habit. These early traumatic experiences have greatly affected Joe. Early trauma is part of his character becoming the creepy and dangerous stalker we know. Usually, abusive parents make people become insecurely attached to their partners in very dysfunctional manners. It also destroys what children learn about relationships— he has never really seen a healthy relationship in action. Further, he had little to no female presence in his life after his mother left. He could be left with feelings of abandonment and deep insecurity. It could be that Joe feels as though no one would love him if he didn’t make them or control the situation.
Joe and Love:
Joe’s obsession with Love starts on a somewhat similar note but this time he is a lot more careful. When Candace comes back, he flees to Los Angeles and assumes the identity of Will Bettelheim. He soon meets and becomes infatuated with Love. He knows he hurts his partners when things go wrong and he doesn’t want to repeat it. Joe also seems a little more stable in season 2. He has entrapped Will but for personal reasons that are not relationship-specific. He also lets Will go after he feels safe doing so. His first murder of the season is for self-preservation— still unstable but in a different way. He kills the man to who Will owes money. His second murder (Henderson) is accidental. He refutes Love advances until he gives in and begins a similar pattern of behavior. Unlike Beck, Love’s friends are quick to accept Joe and her needy brother also befriends him. He really doesn’t need manipulations to get to Love because she already likes him and expresses interest directly. The only hurdle for him in this season is Candace who comes to exact her revenge on Joe while also making sure he doesn’t kill yet another girlfriend. Candace does get killed, but not by Joe, Love kills her; she also kills Delilah.
What did I say about two wrongs? Turns out Love is similarly disturbed and unstable. We find she had murdered her brother Forty’s au pair when they were younger too. The two have quite an extreme side but the motivations may not be the same. We understand Joe on a very deep level because the story is primarily from his point of view. We understand his disengagement from reality and his psychological disturbance from the beginning of the series and are thus able to see it unfold. Love, we are only introduced to a whole season after knowing Joe. Further, we do not understand her motivations up until the very last episode “Love, Actually.” For this reason, the upcoming season will be an important insight into her mind and motivations. What do we know thus far?
Critics have likened her to Joe from the first season with Joe being her “Beck.” I believe this is inaccurate on many accounts. For one, she is not the only one employing manipulative tactics. However, she did extensive research on Joe before she approached him as he did with Beck. We know Joe held back around Love because he was scared. One, he did not want to hurt yet another one of his partners. Two, he was getting chased down by his ex Candace.
He still went back to many of his old tricks, unlike Beck who was mostly innocent. Love had an upper hand in this one which is why we see Joe getting disenchanted at the end. Love is also quite sneaky as her actions are a lot cleaner than Joe’s. We still do not find out what her backstory is. This makes Love’s mental state a puzzle. All we know is she became beguiled with Joe and stalked him excessively. Joe did the same and even lied about his name. Both of them did a bunch of bad things. Yes, she killed Delilah but Joe was the one who locked her up in the first place. And she killed Candance but didn’t Joe try to kill her too? More than once?
The difference is when she finds out who Joe really is, she is fascinated and this revelation makes her love him more. When Love’s real identity is revealed to Joe, something she does voluntarily, he suddenly feels disinterested in her. He even contemplates killing her. Nothing more toxic than one of the partners contemplating killing the other.
Now leaving the psychological disturbances, why does the murderous pair exude toxicity. Because Love wants him and he doesn’t. We also get a hint that Love might manipulate him into staying. They are having a child together and it was Love’s affluent family that helped clear all their mess up. Joe already has a philandering eye. As soon as the couple moves into their new home, Joe’s attention shifts to their neighbor.
There is an imbalance in their dynamic. For Joe, this disenchantment partly stems from his loss of control and also feeling controlled. With Beck, he controlled and manipulated everything. With Love, this went away. Love has similar control tendencies but she seems more removed from reality than Joe. She almost romanticizes their situation and stance as lovers who would do anything to get to each other. They are not on the same page and instead of communicating, they will both resort to manipulation and murder to get what they want. Love wants Joe to be with her and start a family. It is not clear what Joe wants, perhaps a new object of desire. Only the next season will help us explore how this will unfold but a duo who resort to murder to get to their partners are really not the most stable couple or one you’d want to root for.
It seems comedies are better at portraying healthy relationships than other genres. Jake and Amy are one of the most adorable and relatable couples on TV. Their relationship begins in a somewhat rocky manner. It is obvious to the viewers that the pair might end up together given the dynamic at the beginning of the show. They have a spirit of playful yet healthy competition. Amy seems to find Jake annoying and the latter finds Amy boring. Both of them are very obviously crushing on each other. Jake’s little crush becomes apparent through the first season and he decides to keep it to himself because Amy is already in a relationship. The emotions we see him go through as he tells his colleagues about his feelings is one of the most relatable scenes on TV.
Jake is immature at the beginning of the show and is battling self-proclaimed daddy issues. For Jake to understand Amy’s romantic situation and step away is very understanding of him. He does eventually confess his feelings when he goes undercover, given the chance that he never gets to see her again. When he comes back, he lets her know that was all a joke to save face and also continue working like they used to but he soon realizes his error and comes clean.
Amy can get very competitive and has incredibly high expectations for herself and others. She truly wants to believe she has found the correct partner in Teddy and after their break up gives up dating police officers because of the complications. Jake and Amy do get together by the third season but they see various hurdles in their relationship— working as coworkers and companions, being in a relationship with a police officer, the whole witness protection situation, Jake’s time in jail, their different ideas on having a family and many more. Ever since they first got together, they have been able to deal with their problems head-on and come back as a team.
That’s the key ingredient of their success- they are always a team no matter what. They have each others’ backs and have immense respect for each other. They also voice what is bothering them clearly and seem to have an excellent communication rapport. This could also stem from the fact that their relationship went through different stages before they began dating. They were colleagues who competed and teased each other and later friends.
Jake and Amy:
Jake’s character growth through the seasons is significant. We see him go from a slightly childish, immature bachelor to a loving father and husband. Amy also becomes a lot more open and comfortable being vulnerable. Jake opened her up to these emotions by always providing a safe space for her. This imbibition of selective qualities also points to how much the two revere and respect each other. As discussed in our previous article, respect is a cornerstone of a healthy relationship. The couple is able to talk openly about problems they might be facing and internal insecurities. They solve these problems together.
Jake and Amy also understand the importance of the little things. Something overlooked in their relationship is how the significant moments occurred through almost mundane experiences, Jake first realized his feelings for her when they were staking out a scene and playing with peanuts. One of my favorite Jake and Amy scenes is when Jake deliberately lets Amy win at the Jimmy Jab games because it would make her happy. Jake realizes he wants to marry Amy when she finds an error in the crossword. Amy gives him a sticker for waking up when he is having a tough day and genuinely celebrates small feats with him.
Jake is also excellent at disposing of the whole toxic masculinity thing. When Amy becomes Sergent, she is essentially his senior and he could not be anything but proud. He is almost in awe of her when she is pregnant and constantly tries to make her life more comfortable. He is also Amy’s No.1 hype man and means everything he says. Amy on the other hand is extremely patient and supportive of Jake. She comforts him when he is dealing with insecurities regarding fatherhood, she does everything to get him out of prison and eventually succeeds, she also goes along with his more crazy schemes like the time he got quarantined and everything relating to Doug Judy.
It must be noted that they remain coworkers throughout their relationship and are able a maintain a professional relationship as well. They also prank each other (Jake more) and still maintain the spirit of healthy competition they have had since the beginning, especially during the Halloween Heists.
The two are always trying to make things better for each other, are very supportive of each other, show their goofy sides, and are finally, so darn cute.
Riddhima Dave is a senior journalism student at Emerson College. Originally hailing from Mumbai India, she has previously worked at Harper’s Bazaar India and wants to build a career in multimedia journalism. Along with entertainment, she is interested in social issues, fashion and culture.
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