This post contains spoilers for You Season 4, Part 2.
Netflix’s You has always loved a self aware plot twist, but this one feels… let’s call it elite.
Season after season, this soapy drama has found ways to surprise its viewers with diabolical plot twists that often smash genre tropes. (Remember when Penn Badgley’s Joe Goldberg found out that the woman he’d stalked into a Season 2 romance, Victoria Pedretti’s Love Quinn, was actually a compulsive murderer herself?) This season, however, takes things to a new level of self awareness. Was that twist ending… a Gossip Girl reference?
The first half of You Season 4 debuted last month, and the final episodes dropped this week. In Part 1, Joe Goldberg jetted off to London and once again befriended an improbably rich crowd while also sweeping his past crimes (including killing his wife and faking his own death) under the rug. Unfortunately, some newly surfaced serial killer started shanking Jonathan’s new friends. Curious—I wonder whodunit!
For a moment at the end of Part 1, it seemed as though we’d gotten our answer. Joe’s friend, Rhys Montrose, did confess to the killings. Now, however, comes the twist: Joe was the killer—and, ipso facto, his own stalker—the whole time. Even before we get to a cheeky needle drop of Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” it’s hard not to flash back to a certain voice crooning, “You know you love me.”
Gossip Girl dropped one of the most controversial twists in teen television history when it revealed that Badgley’s Brooklyn-bred outsider character, Dan Humphrey—Dan Humphrey!—had been the show’s ruthless chatterbox all along. Fans spent hours processing the news and debating whether the twist actually fit in with the events we’d watched for a decade. (For the record, it totally didn’t!) This You twist, which encompasses only one season of You, is obviously smaller than the lightning-rod Gossip Girl reveal. What it lacks in scale, however, it pays back in goofy commitment.
Confused? Here’s the explanation: Remember how Joe tracked down his old colleague Marienne (Tati Gabrielle), whom he believes to be his soulmate even though she moved to Europe to get away from him, but surprisingly let her go? It turns out, he actually kidnapped her and locked her in his favorite glass cage—this time, reconstructed underneath a bad Indian restaurant. (On top of all the trauma Marienne has apparently had to endure this season while Joe has played around with the rich and famous, she will also probably never enjoy samosas again—a true tragedy.) At some point while doing this, Joe suffered a streak of self-aware shame so deep and so insufferable that he splintered off a portion of his mind to create a new persona.
That new persona would be Joe’s only real friend in the U.K.—Rhys Montrose, whom he thought, at least, he’d met at a party. Although Rhys is a real person who really did publish a rags-to-riches memoir and really is running for mayor, Joe has never even met him. Instead, we learn, Joe has developed a serious case of erotomania, convincing himself that he and the object of his obsession have a real, flesh-and-blood acquaintanceship when in fact, Rhys has no idea who Joe is right up to the moment when Joe murders him. (That’s its own long story, and we’re going to leave it alone.)
At first, You seems poised to ruin this act of inspired silliness with too much explanation. Viewers must unfortunately sit through a pretty lengthy montage that proves for any naysayers that this was no slapdash effort; the seeds for this reveal have been planted from the word “go” this season. (Ever notice how Joe and Rhys only ever spoke alone, and never in groups? Now we know why!) We even got a retrospectively conspicuous bit of foreshadowing in Episode 6, when Joe’s friend Phoebe gets held hostage by a stranger with her own case of erotomania. Surely us viewers deserve a little more credit than this!
Fortunately, however, the season rights itself after a little over-explication, and things really come together during the penultimate episode, when Joe (once again) hits rock bottom. It’s here that we get Victoria Pedretti’s return as Love Quinn, which Netflix even teased in promotional materials for the season. (You just hasn’t been the same without its chaotic queen.) Alas, Love is not alive, as some fans on social media hoped. Instead, she and Elizabeth Lail’s Guinevere Beck—the other ex we’ve watched Joe kill—come back to haunt him in a hallucinatory dream. It’s not quite as intense as the time Joe did acid, but it’s enough to conjure a few goosebumps—and, once Pedretti shows up, some good laughs.
Killing off Love at the end of Season 3 could have kept Joe running in circles more than usual, stalling his growth and boring viewers in the process—and for a while, one could argue that happened. Still, the final half of this season feels like a return to form. Once again, You has found a way to fold itself into something new. In the end, Joe must face who he is with at least a little honesty. The person he ultimately sees reflected back at him when this season ends opens up a lot more questions about where this series is headed than it answers, but the road ahead looks as morbidly intriguing as ever. XOXO…
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