After a month long hiatus, Netflix has released the final half of season 4 of the hit psychological thriller You. Unveiled nearly five years ago, its an oddly addictive series that seamlessly blurs the line between love, obsession, and psychosis. It’s the kind of thing that makes you sound like a lunatic when describing admiration for, as the protagonist of the saga (Joe Goldberg) has a penchant for locking the people he loves in giant plexiglass cages.
In addition to body count and teaching us the fine art of stalking, it has solid comedic elements mixed in, and much of the time you’re rooting for the inevitable death of the victims by the hero. Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl fame, anchors the show and shows off his dark comedic prowess as the bibliophile sapiosexual who gets a little overly attracted to like minded women.
The closest thing to this show’s vibe is the long running hit series, Dexter on Showtime. It was made great by the talent of star Michael C. Hall formerly of Six Feet under, who used that similar winning mixture of creepy charm, and humor.
In many ways You is an improvement of the Dexter formula. After season two, Dexter quickly became a predictable plug and play saga about villain du jour that would end up on the cutting table and fill Dexter Morgan’s lust for blood. Aside from the side character development or serial killer boss in a season finale, there was little arc to the main character and every season of the show was nearly identical.
Not so with You. Yes it scratches that same Dexter itch, but Joe Goldberg is a character that’s trying to stop what he’s compelled to do and find someone new to help him start over; he just can’t. Joe’s kills have consequence and linger with him. They expose him in some way, force him to move to different cities, adapt, become someone different, and strive again to leave it behind and be normal.
Season one was a fresh and fun take on the pains of dating, rejection, and obsession. We learn about Joe’s traumatic childhood which drives him to lock up those he loves and cherish only books as the only things that can’t willingly leave him. He’s a tragic hero and means well, but things never turn out the way you want when you imprison your girlfriend. Penn Badgley’s portrayal of hero Joe is the perfect blend of handsome darkness and empathetic misery. It’s difficult to imagine the show ever cast with anyone else.
Not only does You give us great gimmicks in giant plexi cages and a bookworm who falls for well-read beauties, but it showed us how easy it is to lurk in the bushes with a baseball hat on. Seriously, the main flaw of the show is that whenever Penn Badgley puts on a ball cap, he can stand two feet from someone and apparently turn invisible.
Jabs aside, fans of the show will tell you that it’s not an easy formula to duplicate, without becoming cheesy. Yet, You continues to strive to outdo itself and keeps us invested without becoming “murder du jour”.
Season two introduced a location change and a much more believable obsession and love interest by the way of Victoria Pedretti (Love Quinn). You’ll most certainly recognize her from The Haunting of Hill House and Once Upon Time in Hollywood. It also delivered a quite decent plot twist that played heavily and rolled right into Season three. The follow up was an explosive, fun ending that almost seemed to close out the series. After the season three finale there didn’t look to be many places to go, as SPOILER ALERT Joe was “dead” and he’s gone abroad.
Then came Season four. On paper, “Joe takes London” sounds absolutely horrid. As usual, writers Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti did not rest on their laurels and stick with the previous formula. They found ways to reinvent the character and make the show feel fresh. Introducing annoying, rich elitists in need of a good stabbing and multiple season twists at regular intervals that kept us guessing, Season four is easily the most inventive of the lot.
Joe is a passenger this season and not in control of anything, at any point. He’s in hiding and trying to start anew, but we all know his nature just can’t allow for it. It’s especially difficult when there are beautiful women who like to read and accidentally give him a passing glance.
Ed Speelers is fantastic in every way as author and politician Rhys, while former love interest Tati Gabrielle returns to our delight. We also get a heavy dose of unbearable upper crust influencer characters such as Adam, masterfully played by Lukas Gage who seems to be everywhere right now. You’ll remember his face from Euphoria and The White Lotus. The climax and cliffhangers of You, Season four all work to make us wonder if this is the end of the series or if there could be more to come. In a show about a serial killer (let’s face it that’s what he is), one can’t continue on forever without some finality and You did a great job of bringing things to a head. Is there more in store for Joe Goldberg or is this it? I guess the ratings will decide. Help give it another season by watching it on Netflix. Available now.