‘You’ season 4 episode 2 brings twists and the scariest ending
Things are looking different for the reinvented Joe Goldberg after the roller-coaster fourth season of the hit series starring Penn Badgley.
Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for “You” Season 4, Episode 2.
“You” has never been a series for the faint of heart, and Season 4 will challenge even the most vigilant fans of Penn Badgley’s serial killer drama.
Part 2 has it all: psychological dissociation, erotomania, secret hostages, Greg Kinnear and more (with a side of naan). The five episodes barely rest before Phoebe’s (Tilly Keeper) star story kicks in, which ends up being one of the wittiest parts of the entire season. From there, we learn the truth about Joe Golberg’s (Badgley) laid-back retreat in London, and it’s a harrowing journey to the end.
“We were interested in exploring the idea of redemption,” showrunner Sera Gamble told IndieWire before the season premiered in February. “The events of the last three seasons have taken a toll on this character as much as they have taken a toll on us watching it. We learned a little about the mistakes you can make in relationships. We wanted Joe to learn a few things too. The edge we’re always playing with is, “How self-aware can this character be?”
As it turns out, quite a bit—perhaps too much.
Season 4 has purposely covered up Rhys (Ed Speleers) from the start, but the reason for this was made clear in the Season 1 finale; because Rhys was the Eat the Rich killer and keeping him on the periphery prevented viewers from suspecting him too soon.
A clever way to cloak the second twist, in which Rhys – at least the Rhys that viewers and Joe know – is not Rhys Montrose at all, but a projection of Joe’s psyche, personified with his most murderous tendencies. A secret psychic twist isn’t revolutionary by any means, but it makes more sense on “You” than it does on so many other shows and movies. Joe Goldberg is mentally ill, no question; he’s hyper-fixated on every woman he’s ever “loved” and turning that obsessive nature into a new target has him completely on the trail. For someone who had never felt safe around men, Joe wanted a male friend just as much as Rhys claimed. As someone recently surrounded by rich, superficial people, she longed for Montrose’s supposedly grassroots persona, clinging as much to the idea of Beck or Love or Marienne.
“It’s been a separate vision we’ve had for a long time, that Joe will get more relaxed every season,” Gamble said. “The same way we went, ‘What is the love story of this character who lives for love, and how does each failed relationship affect him?’ — we also asked, “What is the psychological effect of lying to yourself and separating different parts of yourself by justifying and lying?” It was in our pocket and we thought of it every time we did any hallucination episode, starting with Season 1 when he hits his head.”
Courtesy of Netflix
And with that, “You” cements itself as decidedly uninterested in Joe’s redemption. Following the true path so violated Joe’s identity that his mind actively rejected it. During that time, the show reinvented itself, changing characters and settings to keep Joe out of the way—but simultaneously reinventing Joe himself. Through his own narrative, he framed this as repeated attempts to be a good person—a good partner, father, neighbor, and more—as he slipped deeper and deeper into inner darkness. The flashbacks show what Joe was really like while holding Marienne captive, which Badgley said “feels like a different character”, but he didn’t consciously play it that way. “It’s never a clinical depiction of a serial killer or a person with real schizophrenia,” he told IndieWire.
Finally, Joe is done reinventing himself and seeks unattainable redemption; its final form (or season) is accepted. This is reflected in his unique partnership with Kate (Charlotte Ritchie); One thing that “You” has always done is differentiate the female leads from each other, as well as differentiate their relationship with Joe. Beck was a trustworthy person; Love was as loose as Joe, and matched their madness with joy; Marienne saw Joe as a glimmer of sanity and stability amid Madre Linda’s superficiality. Kate is mature and practical, choosing a partner with whom she sees a future – in this case, a future completely divorced from the past. Kate and Joe may be in love, but it’s a strategic alliance rather than a romantic one.
In the final scene, Joe reveals that he fully accepts himself—integrating the murderously separated parts with the scientific romantic rather than rejecting his less appealing traits. It’s no coincidence that he shaved his only scene in season four, which is a chilling visual callback to previous seasons and versions of himself. He is no longer running away from the past, but rather bringing it – welcoming it – into his future.
Those who escaped
In the past, some loose “You” threads have been harmless, like the infamous pee bottle in Season 1 or Beck’s therapist (John Stamos) who eventually took the fall for his death. But after four seasons and multiple reinventions, Joe may not be able to move past his past. Those who doubted him in New York, Madre Linda, and London can trace this thread back to his past and his crimes—or remain silent for their own safety.
The two prime examples are of course Marienne and Nadia, both terrified of what Joe is capable of. If Marienne knows what happened to Nadia, she will feel indebted, but probably not to the point of putting herself or her daughter in danger again. Joe’s narration: Nadia is quiet in prison; The last time Joe put someone behind bars, it was a white man who had a successful career and speaking out didn’t do him any good.
Badgley said that “You” is at its best “when it’s about exploration, this fanciful, campy and deranged exploration of what we think of love and, for some, what we think of power.” The show has always pondered themes of love and class, so it’s used Joe’s determination as his secret weapon. But now there is another, the most hated and desired: money. With Kate’s money and influence (and loyalty), no one can touch Joe, least of all the ones she’s outsmarted. without the power of the Lockwood name.
“You” hasn’t officially been renewed for a fifth season (though Badgley and Gamble have ideas), but Season 4 wraps up its inherent narrative just like its predecessors. Season five may bring back Marienne and Nadia and the possibility of Joe’s demise, but it will undoubtedly reinvent the series for one last blood-soaked hurray. As Marienne declares, over and over again, Joe Goldberg cannot be caught: he can only be stopped, once and for all.
Additional reporting by Samantha Bergeson.
“You” Season 4 is now available to stream on Netflix.
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