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In the midst of London lives a seemingly harmless literature professor named Johnathan Moore (Penn Badgley). He’s new to the country and to the group of rich snobs he’s become acquainted with. He’s the average man, nothing special about him, except for one thing: he has a secret. He’s not really Johnathan Moore.
Joe Goldberg (aka Johnathan Moore), the cold-blooded killer who always escapes, returns to Netflix for You season four in February this year. Released in two parts, this season turns the classic murder mystery trope on its head and builds excitement throughout part one (the first five episodes). Part two (the last five episodes), however, nearly ruins the jaw-dropping progression of the first episodes in an effort to remind viewers of what show they are really watching.
A Whodunit Conundrum
Season four of You is a chaotic play on murder mysteries. Joe, despite his ever-growing trail of bodies, assumes the detective role while the other characters portray suspects, victims, and antagonists. While this is a clever turn on the trope, the tone doesn’t match with the rest of the show. Until the reveal of the twist, season four felt completely independent from the first three seasons, confusing viewers until the eighth episode.
The irony of a murderer portraying a detective character was the perfect spice to add to the drama. Much of the first half of the season references multiple tropes of a whodunit, like the characters all heading to a completely conspicuous mansion for a vacation, the unsympathetic victim, and even a brilliant parody of The Most Dangerous Game. The audience might even find themselves rooting for Joe, nearly ignoring all the horrible acts he has committed right in front of our eyes.
The whodunit of the season was amazing, except it didn’t fit within the exaggerated realism tone of the show. I found myself much more interested in this season than the last (which I rated a 4/10), but the reason was because this felt like an entirely different series. Season four felt like a new Netflix show that got high ratings but would inevitably be canceled after just one season. The change of the often-annoying predictability of Joe’s story was refreshing, but didn’t blend in with the rest of the series.
Twisting the Narrative
In the eighth episode of this season, there is a gigantic plot twist. Since this twist is so huge, this review will not discuss it. Feel free to read all about the ending here if you haven’t seen season four and would like to spoil it for yourself.
The twist perfectly fits in with the story and leaves viewers wondering why they didn’t see it coming sooner. Showrunner Sera Gamble said the show’s creators kept “a close eye on how crazy Joe was from season to season” in order to make the twist work. And work it did. Subtle hints are planted throughout the run of the season, and the elevated craziness of Joe and accomplice Rhys (Ed Speleers) link with the ever-growing psychotic situation to make for a twist that blends well and is exciting to watch. What comes after, however, is incredibly lackluster.
In the end, the tone of the show was reset, but in a disappointing way. If the season had ended about halfway through the last episode during the bridge scene, I would have been completely satisfied. However, since the show couldn’t continue on if that had been the case, the annoying predictable nature of Joe and You was re-established. If a season five is on the way, hopefully it won’t be as lackluster and boring as the season four ending.
There were many different characters this season, and most of the main characters - Joe, Kate (Charlotte Ritchie), and Phoebe (Tilly Keeper) - feel extremely real and have some great character development. Joe’s arc goes from bad to worse (in the best way) while Kate reveals her true personality and Phoebe realizes her worth.
It was really interesting to see characters other than Joe go through a sustainable growth. Kate, although she is a somewhat irritating character, had a compelling arc as she battled her desire to be a good person and her nearly irrefutable offer to take over her father’s corrupt business. This tied in with her relationship with the increasingly deranged killer, Joe, as her wish to be good clashed with her love for the bad guy.
Phoebe is the sweetest character of this season, and, more than anyone else, I found myself rooting for her despite her story serving as more of a subplot. Even the awkwardly-placed kidnapping scene is interesting, as fans wait to see if the nicest person ever shown on You would survive.
Joe receives the most enticing arc in season four. His spiral into an even more delusional murderer adds flawlessly to break away from his predictable stalk, kill, repeat pattern. It was finally something different after three whole seasons of the same guy doing the same thing over and over again. Joe achieves a new level of crazy and brings a new level of excitement to the show.
Contact Riley Nower with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org