In the Netflix series You, Joe Goldberg is a very habitual creature. He continuously falls into obsessions and becomes a human leech, literally sucking the life out of people who always happen to end up dead. No doubt a habit he will continue in the announced upcoming fourth season.
The show is filled with treachery, lies, and violence. Every main character has some form of survival instincts that allow them to fight for their lives, outwit their predators, and maybe even escape Joe’s fatal grasp. However, while it comes naturally to some, others have to try harder to look after themselves.
Much like Benji in season 1, Theo was one of the most helpless victims in the show. He was used as a pawn in Love and Joe’s grand scheme and was lucky to get out of it alive.
Theo was blind from the very beginning. He trusted Love and fell for her charm and seduction, but she used him for her own ends. Even after seeing the cage in the basement where Sherry and Cary were locked away, Theo refused to believe anything bad about Love. Although he did care about his dad and wanted a better relationship with him, everything he did was mostly for Love’s sake. He was lucky to have survived Love’s attack and have Joe spare his life.
Forty entered the show in the second season and really did manage to mess a lot of things up for Joe, although not always intentionally. Even though he appeared immature and dependent on others to survive, he did have some wits about him underneath the hapless facade.
Forty was highly disturbed from his traumatic childhood, leading him to abuse drugs and alcohol, which dramatically hindered his survival skills. He was highly dependent on Love, and even Joe through most of his time on the show. However, even though he appeared helpless, he did find out the truth about Joe, which many people were unsuccessful in doing. He was even brave enough to try and face Joe by showing up at Anavrin with a gun. He just wasn’t strong or insightful enough to know Love was lying to him as well.
Beck was a bright young writer with a hard past and she was one of You’s most likable characters in season 1. She showed she had the brains and skill to survive but, unfortunately, was just not strong enough to see it all the way through.
Beck was an intelligent, compassionate person and a truly great writer, but her weakness was her constant need for attention and blind trust in others to make her happy. She was in the dark until the moment she found Joe’s box of trinkets hidden away. It wasn’t until she was in the cage that she revealed her true self-preservation skills. Beck desperately tried to pretend to go along with Joe’s plan to frame Dr. Nicky for all the crimes and successfully got him to open the cage so she could escape. She even stabbed him with a typewriter key to make a run for it but just wasn’t strong enough to truly escape him.
Peach was one character that showed a deep level of self-preservation through manipulation and deceit. She had some similar traits to Joe and was one character who suspected him from the very first moment she met him, which definitely makes her one of the most intelligent characters in You so far.
Peach was willing to do whatever she needed to get what she wanted, which was Beck. She manipulated Beck to keep her by her side at every turn. She even would fake her own injuries and sicknesses to get Beck away from Joe. Peach showed her survival skills were fueled by lies, not wanting to admit the truth about herself and show any sign of weakness. She survived Joe’s first attempt to kill her and gave him a good fight the second time, although it ended in her demise.
As told in the show, Candace was one of Joe’s first obsessions and her self-preservation skills proved to be some of the best up against Joe. Although not to the same extent as Love, she was almost a mirrored version of Joe.
When she tried to break things off with him, Candace was almost killed by Joe and proved her strength when she literally dragged herself out of the grave. After that moment, Candace relentlessly tried to track Joe down and claimed she wanted to protect others from suffering the same fate. She tried to play Joe at his own game, putting on fake personas and engaging in a fake relationship with Forty to get close to Joe. With high intelligence and clear self-preservation skills, Candace might have succeeded in her agenda of revenge if it weren’t for Love’s own evil nature.
Cary was not the smartest or most level-headed individual, instead, he relied solely on brute strength for self-preservation. He made the perfect team with his wife, Sherry, combining his strength with her wits to successfully get out alive.
Cary was certainly not smart enough to survive in a battle of wits. He proved, however, that he was physically strong enough to win a fight both times it came down to it against Joe. He had a basic sense of survival when caring for injuries that could have been fatal, like when the arrow shot him, and again when Sherry’s ear was shot. The inspiration that fueled his survival was his family and he was willing to do anything to protect them. He survived all of the adversity he faced in season 3, proving he had more than adequate self-preservation skills.
Matthew was willing to go to extremes to find what he wanted to avenge his wife. He put himself and his livelihood at risk, using illegal software and means, and put his own mental and physical health on the back burner. Uniquely, Matthew’s strength was his lack of trust in everyone and how he treated everyone as a potential suspect until he could prove them innocent. Although his original plan failed, he still found out the truth about Joe and Love in the end. He was able to convince Joe to tell him where Theo was and left Joe behind to receive his rightful judgment from Love.