During its unexpected journey in the transition from being an overlooked Lifetime gem to an unexpected Netflix smash hit, creepy romance/thriller You evolved beyond its Dexter counterpart and into something truly special. Season three ended in a sort of reset, appearing to promise that Joe (Penn Badgley) would be stalking librarian Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) and her daughter in a new setting: Paris. I assumed season four would be back to basics. Whereas the first two seasons found the viewer following Joe’s obsessions, the third actually explored the complicated murderer attempting to start a life, and trying to function as a proper father and husband. To my surprise, new horizons are in store for a very different fourth outing. This time, Joe finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery, where the bodies of the rich elite begin to pile up at an alarming rate…
For the first time since it’s run began on Netflix, You has been split into two halves. The first chunk of five episodes heads to the streamer in early February, whilst we must wait until early March for the last installment. Typically, dividing seasons into parts like this is often reserved for the final seasons of shows; You, however, shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. As the season begins, Joe is thriving in his new normal. Under the guise of Professor Jonathan Moore, Joe teaches student in London. This is one city, at least, that he actually seems to admire, far from the suburban hell he previously shared with Love, his deceased ex-wife. Joe’s death faked, he now exists trying to simply blend in. No love, no people, just books—this is the motto Joe must abide by if he has any hopes of keeping to the fringes of society.
Alas, it could never be that easy. You pulls a definite bait and switch by not strictly focusing on his obsession with Marienne, but instead on Joe’s attempts to better himself and move on from all the death and destruction in his wake. A brand-new cast of characters is here to accompany Joe’s new identity, and every last one of them is filthy rich. These include douchey Malcolm (Stephen Hagan), a fellow professor and party animal who Joe just happens to have a perfect view of via his own flat; Kate (Charlotte Ritchie), Malcolm’s art gallery director girlfriend who immediately seems suspicious of Joe’s schtick; Adam (Lukas Gage), the youngest son of a wealthy magnate whose very own exclusive club, Sundry House, acts as a frequent locale for the pals to frequent; snobby tortured artist Simon Soo (Aidan Cheng) and his influencer sister, Sophie (Niccy Lin); Roald (Ben Wiggins), a ladies man obsessed with boating and hunting; Connie (Dario Coates), a horse-owning lunatic; and finally, successful author Rhys (Ed Speleers), an Oxford alum interested in running for mayor.
This is not a world Joe is familiar with, nor is it one he necessarily wants any part of. Joe would rather continue on with his aimless teaching existence. After literally just one night of debauchery and partying, his old ways come rushing back. One of the group ends up dead, and a mysterious texter begins to harass Joe in threatening messages that conveniently vanish the moment they are sent. A serial killer emerges, threatening to uncover Joe’s calculated secrets. Can Joe outsmart the Eat the Rich killer, or is he destined to meet the same tragic fate his friends succumb to, one by one?
The addition of this new serial killer element to the proceedings add a layer of further intrigue to an already excellent series. By allowing Joe to evolve beyond his romantic entanglements and obsessions, You finds a new lease on life. Penn Badgley is clearly soaking up the material in an uncompromising manner. By turning introspective and meta, You calls into question numerous murder-mystery tropes while forging ahead on new path of its own creation. I was previously unsure as to how this series would thrive without the frankly vital bond between Joe and Love that had propelled it since season two—now, halfway into the new season, there is no denying what the filmmakers and creative team have been able to accomplish.
You has always thrived on dark humor mixed with the macabre, and season four is no exception to the rule. Nastiness is bound to occur, but Joe’s inner monologue told to us in voiceover is the true savior of the series. He proves to be a constant source of insight. Joe’s character is great again, and the scenarios in which he find himself stuck are highly addictive to watch. The fifth episode, heavily inspired by horror flick Ready or Not, is probably my favorite bit of storytelling this season has portrayed thus far. Maybe my one and only complaint would be that the central accidental relationship definitely does not have the same sense of immediate chemistry that Badgley shared with other actresses. Nevertheless, You is top tier thriller entertainment through all five breezy episodes. Splitting the season as such makes perfect sense, while tantalizingly teasing what is yet to come. Surprising connections, bodily dismemberment, golden showers, smarmy rich assholes, and Prince Albert piercings—You has it all, and more!
You spins a binge-worthy whodunnit when season 4 part 1 debuts exclusively to Netflix on Thursday, February 9th.