At first, YOU made me extremely uncomfortable, so much so that I turned it off before finishing the third episode. But then I came back with Season 2, and I was hooked and that uncomfortableness became something that glued me to my seat. But after Season 3, I wasn’t sure where the series would go. With the ending, Joe (Penn Badgley) in Paris and starting a new life, the world was an open book, but as a fugitive, he should be backed into a corner… right? Well, sort of. YOU Season 4 manages to bring an entirely new narrative to the series, changing Joe’s targets of obsession and the genre of the series too.
After his previous life went up in flames, Joe Goldberg fled to Europe to escape his “messy” past, adopt a new identity, and, of course, pursue true love. But Joe soon finds himself in the strange new role of reluctant detective as he discovers he may not be the only killer in London. Now, his future depends on identifying and stopping whoever’s targeting his new friend group of uber-wealthy socialites, which, well, he hates with every fiber of his being. YOU Season 4 Part 1 brings back some familiar faces with Penn Badgley and Tati Gabrielle but grows its cast with Charlotte Ritchie, Lukas Gage, Ed Speelers, Tilly Keeper, Amy-Leigh Hickman, Niccy Lin, Aidan Cheng, and more.
From episode one to episode four, YOU Season 4 lands every twist and every element of storytelling. When viewed apart from the rest of the series (which you really can), YOU Season 4 Part 1 is just fantastic television. It creates a thrilling mystery and thrives in dark humor. It plays with tropes and narrative archetypes so perfectly that you have to clap for its execution of a whodunnit murder mystery right down to the big mansion setting. On its own merit, partitioned from the previous seasons, the characters are brought to life by fantastic actors who make you side-eye or hate them with ease. Badgely is again a master of holding attention as Joe, with his charm oozing in every piece of narration, even when it’s morally bad.
However, it’s still important to look at this season against the journey that we have been on with Joe since Season 1. Most importantly, the growth, backslides, and choices he’s made that have led him to this very specific moment in Season 4. To be completely honest, showrunner Sera Gamble has thrown every expectation out of the window and with that, everything that the show was before. That makes YOU Season 4 Part 1 a shot in the dark. It’s a whodunnit. Joe is the victim—for the most part, the titular “you” isn’t someone he’s stalking but instead someone circling him. The “you” Joe is searching for is the one killing his “friends.” Making Joe a detective of sorts, it’s clear that when his house burned down in Season 3, so did everything the series was known for. That isn’t inherently bad, and for me, it works. But it will easily divide those going in expecting anything from themes from the past seasons.
If there is anything critical to be said about YOU Season 4 it’s that it’s leaned too far in love with its lead sociopath. While each season used Joe’s charisma and manipulation to keep the audience enthralled, it was always clear no matter how you looked at it that Joe was a villain in so many other people’s stories. In Season 3, Joe’s humanization began when he met his evil equal with Love, but Season 4 pushes empathy for Joe to a new height. When everyone in his group is being targeted by a killer but are also absolute assholes, for a complete lack of a better phrase, how can you root against a guy evading arrest in a foreign country? Sure, Joe is a murderer many times over, something we’re reminded of in his interactions with Gabrielle’s Marienne, but compared to them, is he really that bad? In a lot of ways but in the ones that the season chooses to focus on, no.
But on the whole, the season makes Joe someone to root for and, ultimately, see as a hero because he’s not a member of the uber-rich racist, sexist, and all kinds of other bigoted elite. This pushes the season into uncomfortable territory again for me. The catharsis from the series must never lose sight of Joe’s true nature. However, that is all that happens here.
Now, it has to be said that this is still Part 1 of a two-part season. Could there be a true irredeemable heel turn in the future? Well, if there is, the series will be in a much better space. That said, despite my complicated feelings with the direction and leaning into the online thirst for Joe (c’mon, even Badgely said don’t) I still love YOU. YOU Season 4 is something entirely different while buying fully into the whodunnit pop culture moment and doing it very well. A great unwinding murder mystery, this YOU is something new and different but still something great.
YOU Season 4 Part 1 is streaming exclusively on Netflix now, with Part 2 coming March 9, 2023.
YOU Season 4 Part 1
- Rating - 8/108/10
YOU Season 4 is something entirely different while buying fully into the whodunnit pop culture moment and doing it very well. A great unwinding murder mystery, this YOU is something new and different but still something great.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.