Hello… You Season 4 Part 1

Joe wears a ball cap and has a beard in You Season 4
You. Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg in episode 402 of You. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

The following contains spoilers for You Season 4 Part 1 (S4E1–S4E5), released on February 9th

This highly anticipated fourth instalment does not disappoint. You Season 4 Part 1 is anything but boring, repetitive, or formulaic. Showrunner and creator Sarah Gamble has done an incredible job keeping audiences on the edge of their seats with this adaptation of Caroline Kepniss’s novels.

Netflix will handily give you a two-minute recap on Seasons 1 through 3 before the beginning of Season 4. The most you need to know is that Quinn Love (Victoria Pedretti) is dead, and Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) faked his death and gave up their baby to a lovely queer couple. Joe followed Marienne Bellamy (Tati Gabrielle) to France because she was his latest fixation.

Charlotte Ritchie as Kate on the phone with Joe (Penn Badgely) watching in the background.
You. (L to R) Penn Badgley as Joe, Charlotte Ritchie as Kate in episode 401 of You. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

However, when we begin Season 4, Joe isn’t in France; he’s in London, going by Jonathan Moore and working as a Professor of Literature. In a whirlwind first episode, we learn that he found Marienne and was forced to give her up, breaking his own heart, due to Love’s father, who sent a private investigator to find Joe and kill him. Instead, this man gave Joe a new identity: Jonathan Moore. All the while, in the present, Joe is being swept up into a clique of the British elite by the same man that ends up dead on his dining room table the following day. After Joe gets rid of the body, thinking he’d killed the man, Joe receives a text from the real murderer, Rhys (Ed Speleers), who is impressed with Joe’s skills. Thus begins the You’s Season 4 arc, where Joe is no longer the hunter but the hunted.

You is so clever! The foreshadowing in the first episode alone is brilliant. The five episodes in Part 1 follow Joe’s fixation and obsession with his stalker as he kills more British elite and attempts to pin it on Joe. At the same time, Joe begins a fixation on Kate (Charlotte Ritchie), the girlfriend of the stalker’s first victim. The story and its layers are extremely well done. This group of British elite has many distinct, unique characters, and each is explored and portrayed exceptionally well by the actors.

I adore Charlotte Ritchie as a comic actress; I know her from Fresh Meat and Ghosts (UK), both hysterical shows where she plays two significantly different characters. You Season 4 is my first time watching Charlotte in a serious role, and she’s brilliant. Her character, Kate, has some interesting similarities to her character from Fresh Meat, yet she’s taken her in a completely different direction, much more stoic and inward. I’m delighted with her casting in this role, even if I wouldn’t have pegged her for it in the first place.

Phoebe, Lukas Gage as Adam cuddling at the first party Joe is invited to.
You. (L to R) Penn Badgley as Joe, Tilly Keeper as Lady Phoebe, Lukas Gage as Adam in episode 401 of You. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

The general presentation of privilege in You has always been one to watch. Joe Goldberg is constantly attracted to women of a certain privilege who act as though they’ve lived without or grown grounded despite it. His fascination with books, art, and natural wit or intelligence leads him into social circles and dens of elitists, snobs, superficial academics and the like. The luxurious life Joe was introduced to through Love Quinn was a very American, California kind of money and privilege that pretends to be humble and egalitarian.

Moving to London, the social class Joe Goldberg is introduced to is old money. The kind of privilege that wasn’t bought with 21st-century money but bestowed with jewels and aristocracy time ago. This comes with a superiority complex that American elite societies can never quite reach. You depicts this world and its frivolous debauchery with no consequences. You love and hate these characters with their money to flaunt fabulous clothes and terrible opinions.

Among them, you may recognise a few other actors. Lukas Gage, most notably from the first seasons of White Lotus and Euphoria, plays Adam. Adam is the rich but not as rich American boyfriend to Lady Pheobe, played by Tilly Keeper, who had an incredibly long run on the British staple Eastenders. Lady Pheobe is lovely, a little dim, but genuine and sweet. You might also recognise Ed Speleers, who plays Rhys, from Outlander and Downton Abbey. Rhys was a nobody until his mother died, and his aristocratic father scooped him up and put him through Oxford; he’s a likely candidate for Mayor of London.

I loved the way the You writers stacked scenes with Rhys and texts from ‘You’, the stalker, throughout the five episodes; it was subtle but effective. Down to the heart-to-heart conversations Rhys and Joe appear to have leading up to the pinnacle fifth episode. Ed Speleers plays the villain so so so well. He’s perfectly charming and then hideously insidious. And the order of the murders following the formula of a who-dun-it and every character having a motive… it was so well done!

Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg, Ed Speleers as Rhys looking at a painting.
You. (L to R) Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg, Ed Speleers as Rhys in episode 402 of You. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

It’s fascinating to watch Joe face his hypocritical ideologies about his own murders and obsessions with little to no comprehension that he and this stalker are so alike. Its always been apparent that Joe can’t face who he truly is because of his conscience. Despite how willing he is to kill for love, he also knows that murder is wrong and never kills because he “wants” to but because he, supposedly, has no choice, or they pushed him to this, or because he’ll lose his fixation if they stay alive.

This stalker, Rhys (Ed Speleers), kills because he believes it’s for the better good, and admits he enjoys the sensation of murder. At the heart of his motivation is a conscious understanding of class politics, but underneath that is the desire to cause harm to get his way. Rhys believes it is what his victims deserve.

It’s so funny to watch Joe try and distinguish himself from this other; fascinating to see the character study there. On the surface, Joe and Rhys’s motivations and comprehension of murder seem extremely different, but they are the same at the core of it—Willing to murder to get what they want. Ready to be “pushed” to commit acts of violence.

Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg as Jonathan Moore walking down the streets of London.
You. Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg in episode 401 of You. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

The thing that has irked me about You from its conception is the twisted infatuation with the character of Joe from female audiences. Yes, Penn Badgley is exceedingly attractive and plays Joe with plenty of charisma and empathy that makes us want to forgive Joe for his crimes. However, that doesn’t magically make this character a hero; he is always the villain. Even in Season 3, when Quinn was murdering people left, right and center, he was emotionally cheating on her by stalking other women; that is villainous! Sir, your wife needs your support right now!

But Season 4, Part 1 of You has invited a new murderer—Rhys—Joe has to compare himself to, and this time Rhys makes Joe look like the good guy for real. This is disappointing. I think that it gives the viewers who view Joe as the villain a unique opportunity to see Joe face the consequences of murder by another, perhaps eventually enlightening him to the horror of his own crimes. However, in the mind of a woman infatuated with Joe, it may allow them to feel justified, which is wrong.

I hope that You Season 4 Part 2 will tie together the consequences of all of Joe’s decisions and see the emotional downfall of this man. I want Joe to finally be consumed by his conscience and understand the horrors of his past actions. I don’t think the continuation of You past a fourth season will be beneficial for the character, plot or the series’ core themes about obsession, misogyny, and class structures.

Written by Isobel Grieve

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