The following review contains spoilers for the TV series You.
“This feels like the European holiday I desperately needed.”
In season three of the hit Netflix series You, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) tried to live an ordinary life in Madre Linda with his wife, Love (Victoria Pedretti), and child Henry. It all backfired when Joe reverted to his obsessive tendencies by stalking his neighbor Natalie (Michaela McManus) and co-worker Marienne (Tati Gabrielle), thus causing distrust in his marriage. Eventually, Love tried to murder Joe, but he burned down their house and staged their deaths.
Although, tragically, Victoria Pedretti is not in season four (for obvious reasons), I mustered up the energy to move on with the series. The show picks up as Joe follows Marienne to Paris and then London. However, before Joe murdered Love, she told Marienne that he was a stalker and a murderer. So when Marienne saw that Joe followed her to Europe, she ran off and rejected him.
The loose ends from season three tie up early on, as Joe decides to settle down in London, keep quiet, and live a normal life. He gets a job as a college professor under the name Jonathan Moore and becomes invested in (and irritated by) his loudmouth, obnoxiously rich colleague and neighbor Malcolm Harding (Steven Hagen). One evening, Malcolm's girlfriend Kate (Charlotte Ritchie) gets mugged as Joe is passing by on a walk. Since season one, the signature of the show has been Joe's internal monologue, and it truly shines through in this scene. He debates whether or not he should intervene because he doesn't want to get involved in other people's lives anymore. Alas, he chases the muggers off but tells Kate not to tell the police that he saved her in order to continue laying low.
To thank Joe for saving his girlfriend, Malcolm invites him out for drinks at an exclusive club that he and his friends frequent. There, Joe meets Malcolm's heavy-drinking, spoiled-rich friends, who pressure Joe to drink until he blacks out. He wakes up the following morning in his apartment but has no recollection of the night before. Joe sees Malcolm was stabbed to death on his dining room table. Although he has a pattern of murdering people who serve as obstacles in his life, Joe is positive he didn't murder him and believes he was framed.
For the first time in the entire series, Joe is not responsible for a murder. It makes you sort of want to root for him despite his past. His attempt at a new life in London shows that he is making an earnest effort to be a normal guy. But not even he can escape his past, as he begins receiving anonymous texts from someone in the friend group who taunts him.
As the season proceeds, Malcolm's upper crust-y friend group gets picked off one by one in a classic Agatha Christie fashion. The murderer is named the "eat the rich killer.” Malcolm’s friend Phoebe (Tilly Keeper) decides it is an appropriate time to host a weekend getaway at her family home in the country. It's like she has never seen a scary movie before. Joe receives a text from the anonymous entity who has been terrorizing him for weeks that they are excited to spend some alone time together over the weekend.
My main criticism of the season, most specifically during the weekend getaway, is that the plot’s unfolding is very rapid. Scene after scene, there are huge unexpected plot twists that don’t serve much of a purpose except to keep people engaged. In the fifth episode, it’s revealed that Roald (Ben Wiggins) has had an obsession with Kate since college, making him a prime suspect. But up until the fifth episode, the only thing that we knew about Roald was that he was kind of a jerk. He didn’t even interact with Kate before the weekend. I enjoy mysteries where the audience can figure it out for themselves, and some of the plot twists were not quite earned.
At the weekend getaway, another insignificant character gets murdered and Joe finds Kate standing over the body. Kate claims she didn't do it, but they cover up the evidence so no one becomes suspicious of either of them. How the writers make these insufferable characters so interesting is beyond me. Roald catches Joe with the body and gathers all his drunk friends to announce that Joe is the "eat the rich killer." But at the end of the fifth episode, the murderer is revealed to be Rhys (Ed Speleers), a candidate running for the mayor of London. More people are bound to die, so my guess is that the next person to go will be Phoebe. She knows a little too much because she is the friend in the group that people confide in the most. She has also proved to be smarter than she lets on and could serve as a threat to Rhys.
The second half of the season comes out on March 9. Joe has a student named Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman), whom I didn't care to mention because, so far, she has served no purpose except to remind us that Joe is a professor. But her behavior has been consistently suspicious. She had a secret relationship with Malcolm and is always around after Joe receives an anonymous message. If her character wasn't involved somehow, there would be no point in having her around because she's not giving anything to the story.
I'm looking forward to the second half of the season because the first half was so intriguing. I was quite skeptical about season four because the last season was so good and ended with a satisfying dose of closure. Yet, the latest season very much justifies its existence. The writers have really developed a unique voice for Joe, even when he's just thinking to himself. The aesthetic is also ironically cozy, which occasionally blinds me to the fact that this show is literally about stalking and murdering people. I think that’s an accomplishment. I’m curious to see if Marienne returns in the season finale or if her character is permanently written off, but if You has taught me anything, it is to expect the unexpected.