You season 4 felt like a fresh take on the old concept, but Joe’s arc took a troubling turn.
For three seasons of Netflix’s You, we’ve been watching Penn Badgley’s Joe Goldberg find the love of his life, only to turn around and end her life. Guinevere Beck, Love Quinn, Candace Stone, and countless others have been lost to his obsessions.
In You season 4, Joe’s obsessions were still front and center. You can’t tell a story about this guy that involves anything casual. He’s a ride or die kind of guy, although “die” seems to be the option he goes with most of the time.
That being said, there was actually a lot that was very different from You’s previous offerings in season 4, and I have to say, most of the changes were extremely refreshing.
Let’s start with the new setting and the brand new cast of supporting characters that would serve as the subjects of Joe’s fascination and scorn in You season 4.
These types of changes are definitely not new for this show. When you continuously leave a trail of blood in your wake, it tends to be difficult to settle into a neighborhood. Actually, one of my favorite aspects of You has been its satirical take on each new place that Joe finds himself in, which always includes the people who call that place home.
From the elite academics in New York City, to the Hollywood elite and the organic movement of Los Angeles, to the elite moms of Madre Linda, You’s supporting characters can always offer a laugh and an eye roll. Both because of their quirks and Joe’s delusional takes on their brand of “evil.”
Although I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Forty, Delilah, and of course, Cary and Sherry, I have to say that You’s London elite are my favorite cast of supporting characters yet.
I was endlessly charmed by Lady Phoebe and adored how thoroughly uncharmed Kate seemed to be by Joe. My eyes never stopped rolling for the Soo siblings, and strangely, my heart never stopped rooting for Adam. The unbridled emotional reactions of Roald and the complete sociopathy of Blessing offered a wild ride that kept me guessing until the very end of You season 4.
In fairness to those I loved and lost from past seasons, however, part of why season 4’s characters grabbed hold a little harder was because of the more central role they were given in the story. Instead of simply revolving around Joe’s insanity, they were the central pillars in the architecture of You’s crack at a whodunnit.
Instead of watching Joe fall in love and everyone around him fall at his hand, we saw a different kind of story play out. It certainly involved just as much murder, but for once, Joe was rarely the perpetrator. Finally not the instigator, Joe found himself playing the role of investigator as those around him were picked off by some unknown force, who he referred to as, of course, “you.”
I actually loved trying to solve this mystery along with Joe. I love this show, but there’s only so much I can take of watching Joe make the same mistakes and justifying them in the exact same way. It was cool to see him follow a different path while still being the same old, perfectly problematic, Joe.
I liked how much this season’s literary genre featured into the plot, and the overt breakdown of the tropes. I also liked how the mystery played itself out. Although it was obvious, it threw in enough twists that I remained guessing throughout.
Now that Joe knows who “you” is, I’m excited to see how the rest of You season 4 goes, and I’m thrilled that we get to spend some more time with these characters. However, there is one aspect of the season that I think absolutely needs to change, and fast.
While I enjoyed the season’s reinvention, I realized I didn’t find myself being infuriated with Joe quite as much as usual. In fact, I was finding him downright relatable at times. That’s when I realized that You season 4 might actually be taking steps toward redemption for this character.
In contrast to previous seasons where he’s struck down almost anyone who figures out his secret, even if they were the person he claimed to cherish, he did things differently in season 4.
He actually let Marienne go. This woman knows he’s alive, knows the he committed at least two murders, and really has no reason to keep his secret, and he let her go. For Joe, that’s monumental.
Also, Joe only killed in self defense in You season 4, which is something that it’s a lot easier to excuse someone for. There were several instances where I thought that the moment had come for him to kill an innocent person again, but he always managed to find a trap door out of the corner he was backed into.
The season placed him amongst other people who didn’t seem to care about killing, making him look downright thoughtful in comparison. His obsessions didn’t run nearly as deep in this season, either. Although he was intrigued by Kate, he kept her at a reasonable distance, presumably scarred from his experience with Love.
Let me be clear. Joe Goldberg, can never be redeemed. Not under any circumstance. It’s confusing enough that this monster comes in such a cute, charming package. We cannot have a legion of young people thinking that there’s actually a warm and gooey center to this cold hard killer.
While my thoughts, and desperate hopes, are that this isn’t where You’s creative team is going with this story, season 4 has me worried with its far too infrequent reminders of the completely irredeemable character we’re dealing with.
There were a lot of comparisons to make between Joe and the would-be-crowned killer of the season, so I’m hoping that this “seemingly good person turned villain” story will be echoed with Joe in You season 4, part 2, and that it won’t give anyone any more reason to think he’s the hero of this story.
You season 4 did a lot right, and if it could just sprinkle in a few more evil acts from the front man in part 2, I think it could be the show’s best season yet! Keep all the reinvention, lose any hope at redemption, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.