This review contains spoilers.
What makes a villain terrifying? Is it the fact that they are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals? Or is it that they inherently believe in the “righteousness” of their actions? I would say it is a combination of both. The second part of “You” season four, released on Netflix on March 9, depicts an unhinged sociopath in Penn Badgley’s Joe Goldberg.
The first part of the new season left fans disappointed with the change in narration. The dynamic of Joe being the protagonist looking to save everyone around him raised questions over the future of the show. Although the change in environment and plot was refreshing, the script did not live up to its potential. Joe had always been a hypocritical antagonist who looked for excuses to justify his actions, so the change in dynamic seemed out of character.
However, the new episodes go on to demolish everything the previous ones have established. We go back to see Joe being his usual self, and it feels so good. In the new installation, we do see many plot similarities to the past seasons: Joe’s current love interest Kate Galvin is revealed to have a hidden dark side like Love Quinn, his love interest in season three, does; Joe’s victim, Marienne Bellamy, is let free but does not report him to authorities; Joe killing someone negatively impacts his current obsession. In other words, the season does seem repetitive, but the plot twists force viewers to reset their thoughts and takeaways from the first part of the season.
In addition, the series uses a few motifs to facilitate the change smoothly. The most prominent is the gradual change of Joe’s voiceover to an imaginary argument between him and his alter ego, Jonathan Moore. I believe the series used Joe’s ridiculous voiceover excessively where he blamed everyone for something that they did not do; the writers made a bold choice of removing the voiceover from the equation and installing the voice onto a separate identity: Jonathan. The usage of disorientation and a lack of consciousness in Joe is a brilliant idea, given that he has patterns of killings and inflicting pain, like any serial killer. Serial killers often alter reality in their own ways, either through generating biased reasoning or by creating imaginary events. Hence, Joe’s internal struggle gives him a further definition of a serial killer.
Some people could argue that the first part of the season does not serve a purpose and that the show could continue displaying Joe as he was, but I believe the contrast in the two parts of the fourth season only enhances Joe’s fatal mental capacity. As soon as he begins to blame himself for Love’s death and Marienne’s escape, Joe starts believing that he is redeeming himself. In reality, he is still committing crimes like his usual self subconsciously through Jonathan. Joe’s inherent narcissism renders him incapable of feeling guilt and taking on the responsibility for his criminal actions. The separation of his bad side from a somewhat decent side is an interesting parallel to see as we take a deeper dive into his thought process.
In a world of murders, we see a unique storyline for Lady Phoebe. A character who looked lively and rich in personality earlier in the season goes through a heartbreaking decline in the latter part. Phoebe was one of the few characters who did not have major controversial flaws, but the cruelty of those around her inflicted so much pain that she fled the country. Although her story is separate from the grand scheme of events, it shows us issues that some elites might go through. The show successfully displays two perspectives on the issue: Joe disparaging elites for their treatment of low-income workers and Phoebe treating other elites with utter disregard.
The fourth season of “You” is officially over, and it brings out refreshing themes, such as rich versus poor and mental trauma. The season takes on a big gamble by changing the location from suburban America to the heart of London, but it pays off. The writers have completely changed the cast when transitioning the first season to the second, so a further step towards transforming the show is necessary. This new season is definitely the most emotionally-significant installation yet.
Netflix recently announced that “You” has been renewed for a fifth and last season. One cannot help but wonder if past characters like Joe’s confidante Ellie Alves and his son Henry Quinn-Goldberg will come into the equation again. It is safe to assume that the last season will have a great amount of emotional depth because Joe has portrayed himself as the victim of his “troubled” wife, and some of his victims are still out there, looking at Joe getting away with crime after he brought trauma to their lives. The world knowing Joe’s story opens a world of possibilities.
Yashonandan Kakrania (he/him, 26B) is from Kolkata, India. He is pursuing a dual degree in BBA and MSBA. He is a huge film enthusiast. Outside the Wheel, he is a SA in Dobbs Hall, Board member of Hindu Student Association, and a part of different business clubs.