I’ll be honest — I didn’t have very high hopes for You season 4. The way Love turned the tables on Joe by being just as murderous as he was in season 2 felt like a really fresh plot twist, and helped the thriller series avoid becoming stale. But, in case you’re in need of a You season 3 recap, Love ended up being murdered by Joe as he inexplicably escaped justice yet again: this time, by faking his own death before running off to Paris to find Marienne.
This ending underwhelmed me, as it felt like the Netflix series was becoming formulaic with its boy-meets-girl, boy-kills-girl, boy-meets-another-girl pattern. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when the trailer revealed that Joe was the one getting stalked for once, with the new transatlantic location also offering a refreshing change. Fortunately, You season 4 part 1 delivers in the sense that the storyline feels fresh, while remaining irresistibly camp and chaotic.
I devoured all five episodes of Part 1 in a single sitting, and I was striken by how fast I found myself invested not just in Joe and his misdeeds, but his new squad of London elite. The writers really deserve credit for how skilfully they were able to world-build and make me care about these new people so much — but, of course, it’s Joe’s cutting commentary and internal monologue that helps to accelerate this process.
So much (deserved) praise is heaped on Penn Badgley for his ability to play a psychopath, the fact that he is also really f**ing funny is sometimes overlooked. His line delivery this season continues to be impeccable — and more than once I found myself silently agreeing with or snickering at a snarky comment Joe said.
This, of course, in itself is terrifying given what we know about Joe, but Badgley, as always, brings a unique humility and humour to the character which, despite your best instincts, gets you almost on his side. To Joe’s — I mean Jonathan’s — credit, he does seem relatively committed to changing this season, and seeing him grapple with a stalker while resisting the temptation to become one himself is an interesting dynamic: least of all because it feels like a cathartic payoff to see Joe be at the receiving end of behaviours that he engaged in and tried to justify across the previous three seasons.
But my favourite thing about Joe’s internal monologue is the fact that his actions often seem to directly contradict his words, and while he might say he’s done killing, stalking, or just wants a simple life, he somehow seems to trip and fall into situations involving dead bodies, forbidden trysts, and that God-forsaken cap.
But Joe can’t get all the credit — the new You cast prove themselves to be everything you could hope for from the London elite. You’ll hate a lot of them, but that’s only because the actors are so skillful at knowing what traits to amplify to make their characters as insufferable as possible. What the writers lack in realistic depictions of the city they make up for in building a social circle with the most accurate ‘Gap Yah’ energy I’ve ever seen. It feels like we’re only scratching the surface with characters like Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper) and Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman), but their vivacity and expressiveness makes them fun to watch.
And then we have Kate, Joe’s new obsession played by Charlotte Ritchie. Given that the women Joe falls for tend to submit to his charms relatively easily, it’s nice to see him pine after a character with a little more edge. Kate might be an ice queen, but Ritchie is fantastic in showing the character’s glimmers of vulnerability and really selling the complexity of the character. Tati Gabrielle’s brief return as Marienne is also welcomed, and her interactions with Joe are a lot more satisfying compared to last season. They seem to be the only characters that can get under his skin and threaten his own self-image, making them also the most dangerous ones.
As for the plot itself, I’m a bit ‘Eat the Rich’d’ out by all those 2022 movies — but being able to witness a murder mystery unfold rather than just watching Joe kill everyone was another power shift that was more than welcome for this season. With Joe usually being someone who seems one step ahead, him being just as clueless as the rest of us is a nice change, and the gripping nature of the mystery is what makes the two-part nature of the TV series work. Again, I was sceptical of the two-part split at first, but there’s enough payoff at the end of part 1 that warrants a part 2.
Don’t kill me for this one, Joe, but as great as the series is, there are a few areas where it can afford to improve. First of all, it feels like they can’t decide whether to set the story in London or Oxford.
While the prestigious, collegiate university Joe teaches at definitely gives Oxbridge vibes, the series is clearly set in a very romanticized idea of London. Joe shouldn’t be able to leisurely walk or cycle to his job — he should be squeezed up by a pair of double doors on the Northern Line like the rest of us.
There’s also no way he’d be able to afford a Kensington apartment like that on an academic salary, let alone the travel and whatnot to go to all these bougie parties. And speaking of, what kind of professor hosts a single, 5-minute seminar once every three episodes? Those poor kids are 100% going to fail that module.
Of course, it’s important to remember that You is told through Joe’s perspective, so his narration and tendency to romanticize means that we’re probably seeing a version of London through his eyes rather than the real thing, but it wouldn’t have killed them to add a dubious American Candy store or two in the background.
You can stream part 1 of You season 4 now on Netflix.
You season 4 part 1 review
A refreshing and welcome change of pace keeps the intrigue alive.