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Played by: Penn Badgley
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Unlike other sociopaths depicted in media, he oftentimes does things without a plan of how to move forward. He frequently has to think of plans to deal with the aftermath of his mistakes. His first murder was also an impulsive crime of passion, which helped set him on his current path.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Dr. Nicky diagnosed Joe with split-personality disorder but there are signs that Joe has issues beyond that. He constantly mentions reading people wrong and his interactions with other people usually go against his narrations, indicating that he creates a socially-acceptable persona.
- Ambiguous Situation: Regarding Candace. Did he murder her, and hallucinate her in the finale? Or did he fail at killing her, and she's back?
- Adorkable: If he were sane, he'd be a straight example of this trope.
- Affectionate Nickname: Candace always calls him "Bunny", which is especially notable as there aren't many nicknames for Joe.
- Big Brother Instinct: Joe loves Paco like a little brother, often feeding him, lending him books, and being there for him when his parents can't. This culminates in him killing Ron to protect him.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Plays up his innocent Boy Next Door demeanor, and has no trouble convincing cops, and the public in general, that he's an upstanding citizen.
- Blatant Lies: Frequently, both in long-term plots and when caught off-guard by law enforcement.
- Commonality Connection: He and Beck both love literature. He attempts to invoke this trope in other ways, in his stalking of Beck and showing up in places she likes.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Abandoned by abusive parents, and raised by the abusive Mr. Mooney.
- Deconstructed Character Archetype: Of the handsome Stalker with a Crush. He lies to Beck, manipulates her, steals her things, violates her privacy, and kills several people and, eventually, her. He justifies this by saying that it's all the name of love, but the series goes out of its way to point out how horrible this all is.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Subverted, though he sees himself this way.
- Determinator: Nothing will get in the way of him and Beck. Even Beck.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite being a sociopath, he genuinely cares about Beck, Paco, Claudia, and Mr. Mooney. Though his love for Beck doesn't mean he's unwilling to hurt her.
- Freudian Excuse: It's unknown if he was always sociopathic, but his belief that loving someone doesn't preclude hurting comes from Mr. Mooney, who taught him that.
- Genius Book Club: Fitting, seeing his profession and Training from Hell from Mr. Mooney.
- Has a Type: Seems to be into artists and creative-types.
- Hypocrite: He expresses shock and outrage over Peach's stalking behavior, without a hint of self-awareness. He considers cheating the worst kind of sin, despite cheating on Karen with little guilt. And he is disgusted with men who treat women poorly, despite being far more violent toward women than any of them will ever be.
- Insane Troll Logic: Used to justify his Hypocrite tendencies, and violence in general.
- Karma Houdini: Doesn't get in trouble for any of the murders he's committed.
- Misogyny: He dismisses most women he meets as vapid or promiscuous. While he puts Beck on a pedestal, he doesn't have any faith in her intelligence, agency, or right to make her own choices.
- Mistaken for Pedophile: Ron is under the belief that the only reason he hangs out with Paco is because he's a "freak."
- Mr. Fanservice: A lot of fans probably look past his actions on account of how handsome he is.
- Never My Fault: He acknowledges that some things he does are wrong, but he always tries to give a justification for why he does the things he does.(after attacking Peach) She forced my hand, that's on her and her family for screwing her up.
- Non-Action Guy: He's not very athletic, when trying to follow Peach while she's jugging in the morning he can barely keep up with her. And in his one fair fight, he gets absolutely clobbered.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Joe can differentiate between good and bad, and most of the people he targets are abhorrent in his eyes (e.g. douchebags, stalkers, rapists, and domestic abusers) and believes that his actions benefit the world at large. However, he can't recognize that he is also a bad person.
- Pet the Dog: He displays genuine concern for his neighbour Paco, and regularly gives him books, food, and companionship.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Occupies the role of "poor suitor" compared to Beck's other romantic interests, and social circle in general, especially Peach and Benji. Feels it deeply.
- Selective Obliviousness: Absolutely refuses to acknowledge that Beck isn't as perfect as he believes she is.
- The Sociopath: Has trouble genuinely connecting with other people and has generally no issues committing morally reprehensible actions beyond not getting caught. He has occasional bursts of moral clarity (such as his brief panic of guilt over killing Benji while treating Claudias drug overdose), but they quickly pass.
- Stalker with a Crush: The premise of the series.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: He's charming, handsome, and intelligent. No one would think that he murdered at least four people.
- The Unfettered: He has no moral qualms doing what it takes to get and keep Beck.
- Unreliable Narrator: It's best to take some of his observations of people with a grain of salt, as they are very self-serving, and he's slightly Ax-Crazy.
- Villain Has a Point: While he surpasses any justifiable actions, he is spot on about Benji being a horrible person, Peach being in love with Beck, and Beck cheating on him with Dr. Nicky.
- Yandere: Will take out anyone he sees as "interfering" with his and Beck's relationship, including Benji and Peach.
- Your Cheating Heart: Cheats on Karen with Beck.
Guinevere "Beck" Beck
Guinevere "Beck" Beck
Played by: Elizabeth Lail
- Adaptational Dye Job: Has dark hair in the book and blonde hair in the adaptation.
- Blatant Lies: She's nowhere near as bad as her Ax-Crazy boyfriend, but Beck has a lot of issues with honesty. She carries on affairs and frequently misleads people in her life.
- Black and Gray Morality: In a sense, the show presents Beck as not a good person. She's flighty, irresponsible, and proud. She cheated on her boyfriend on numerous occasions, lied to him, and started seducing him despite him being in a happy relationship. Despite this, she is a saint compared to Joe.
- Broken Bird: Her history with her father has fucked her up as a child, and she has difficulty finding actual intimate. She goes after broken men because she believes that she doesn't deserve better and constantly tells Joe that she's a mess.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Zig-zagged, as she's had some genuine struggles but she sometimes misrepresents her life experiences to seem more interesting/dramatic as an author.
- Doom Magnet: As Joe's Love Interest, bad things tend to befall everyone she is associated with.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Attracts Joe, Benji, as well as her friend Peach and therapist, Dr. Nicky
- Last-Name Basis: No one calls her "Guinevere", even her father who shares her last name.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Is there anyone not morally questionable, or a Jerkass in Beck's personal life?
- Small Name, Big Ego: When her writing on Peach's death is published, it quickly goes to her head.
- So Okay, It's Average: Beck struggles to write things that are inventive and profound, citing writer's block and a number of other challenges.
- Psychotic Love Triangle: Doesn't fully realize it, but is in one with Joe and Peach.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She loves Joe more than anyone else and believes he's the one. He's kind to her, polite, charming, intelligent, and he dotes on her and also unconditionally loves her. She breaks off with him permanently when she realizes he's a monster.
- Weirdness Magnet: Despite being rather normal, if not somewhat flighty and irresponsible, she manages to attract the attention of two stalkers who are both willing to murder for her.
- Your Cheating Heart: Is revealed to have been carrying on an affair with her therapist, Dr. Nicky.
Played by: Luca Padovan
- Break the Cutie: Ron beats up his mother, and Paco is powerless against this. He gets mad at Joe because Joe couldn't help him and in the end, he tries to get back at Ron and is nearly killed for his troubles.
- Harmful to Minors: Paco witnesses the murder of Ron, and leaves Beck screaming in the basement of Mooney's bookstore.
- Morality Pet: Paco is the only indication that there is at least a sliver of good in Joe's heart.
- Troubling Unchild Like Behaviour: Later on in the series, he attempts to steal a gun and kill Ron with it.
Played by: Shay Mitchell
- Alpha Bitch: Despite being in her mid-twenties, she still acts like one for their group of friend.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Peach's manic and manipulative behavior puts her into this category.
- Attention Whore: Blows up Beck's phone, and even fakes a suicide attempt to keep Beck near.
- The Beautiful Elite: She's beautiful, rich and fashionable and looks down on Joe for being a poor bookstore clerk.
- Control Freak: From her fitness regimen to her need to dominate her social circle, Peach needs to be alpha.
- Driven to Suicide: Averted, but Joe fakes a suicide note to cover up his murder of her. The Salinger family ends up hiring a private investigator, believing Peach wasn't suicidal.
- Incompatible Orientation: With Beck, which borders on Single-Target Sexuality because there's no reason why she couldn't hook up with another woman. She just loves Beck.
- Old Money: She comes from an old-moneyed family.
- One-Hour Work Week: Unlike her friends who are students or freelance, Peach works a conventional 9-5 job. Like her friends, she seemingly has endless time and money for random cocktail parties and shopping trips.
- Rich Bitch: Most definitely. A snooty, Upper East Side princess.
- Too Clever by Half: Despite some ditzy tendencies, Peach can be very perceptive. Ulterior motives aside, she's correctly suspicious of Joe, and correct that he stole her book and laptop. Joe's jealousy of her presence in Beck's life combined with She Knows Too Much leads to her murder at his hands.
- Sacrificial Lion: Joe's main "obstacle" to win Beck's love, and is killed off by him mid-season.
- Stalker with a Crush: Revealed to be one to Beck, even keeping an archive of photos of her on her computer.
- With Friends Like These...: Frequently makes catty comments towards her friends, and sabotages their attempts at success for petty reasons.
Played by: Zach Cherry
Played by: Kathryn Gallagher
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Especially because she's an original character in the TV series.
- Big Beautiful Woman: A body-positive social media influencer.
- Childhood Friends: With Peach.
- Fat Best Friend: Was Peach's "fat friend from prep school", and is dying to shed that reputation.
- Fallen Princess: After a questionable video from college is leaked, her reputation is in shambles and her business partners want nothing to do with her.
- Hollywood Pudgy: Peach and some other characters consider her overweight, despite her just being slightly more curvaceous than the other girls in her friend group. Subverted in that the show portrays this attitude as being absurd.
- Shipper on Deck: A downplayed version to Joe and Beck, generally involving Joe in Beck's struggles with her group of friends, another way in which she is a foil to Peach.
- Spoiled Sweet: Something of a Foil to Peach, in that they are implied to have the same background but Annika is much friendlier and more accepting of the people around her.
- Those Two Girls: With Lynn.
- Where Da White Women At??: Gender and race flipped. Peach leaks a video of her at college where Annika complains that only black men are into her body. It goes down extremely badly and she's humiliated across the Internet.
Played by: Nicole Kang
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: A more Downplayed example, and something of an Informed Flaw considering the show's narrator.
- Raised Catholic: Possibly. She crosses herself in Peachs memory. Of course, this may just be a casual gesture.
- Satellite Character: Gets the least characterization out of Beck's friends.
- Those Two Girls: With Annika.
ClaudiaPlayed by: Victoria Cartagena
- Extreme Doormat: She allows Ron back into her and Paco's lives, despite the fact that he's an alcoholic and an abuser. After he hospitalizes her, she tells them it was an accident despite it clearly not being one. Subverted in that she knows that his connections will probably mean she'll lose custody of Paco, so she chooses to continue letting him beat her.
- The Junkie: One of the reasons Karen stays with her is to get her clean.
- Parents as People
RonPlayed by: Daniel Cosgrove
Benjamin "Benji" Ashby Jr.
Benjamin "Benji" Ashby Jr.
Played by: Lou Taylor Pucci
- Blackmail: An unusual example, in that he essentially offers to blackmail himself. He offers Joe a video recording of his involvement in a frat brother's death in college, in exchange for his freedom.
- Hipster: From his fashion choices, Soapbox Sadie tendencies, and interest in being cool he's a typical New York hipster.
- Imaginary Love Triangle: Is shocked that Joe considers him a romantic rival, considering he sees Beck as a hookup at most.
- The Junkie: Uses heroin and a number of other drugs, and goes through detox while kidnapped by Joe.
- Millionaire Playboy: Beck isn't the only girl on his radar.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Joe's first kill on the show.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: A go-to strategy for him.
Karen MintyPlayed by: Natalie Paul
Candace StonePlayed by: Ambyr Childers
- Casting Couch: Slept with a record executive to help her band. Zig-zagged in she that she was also sick of Joe.
- Fiery Redhead: A gorgeous, red haired front-woman of a band.
- The First Cut Is the Deepest: Beck speculates that Joe is not over Candace, and Karen drives the point home when calling out Beck later on in the season.
- Put on a Bus: Before the series, she moved to Italy. The friends she left behind are confused about her Long Bus Trip. Or did she ever live there at all?
- Spared by the Adaptation: Joe kills her in the book, which is implied to have been her fate after too many references to her being in Italy. She returns from Italy - though it's very ambiguous whether she was ever there - in the final scene of Season One.
- Your Cheating Heart: Slept with a record executive while dating Joe.
Played by: John Stamos