With the first part of its fourth season just released on Netflix, it seems only fitting for us pay extra attention to Penn Badgley’s (quite literally) breathtaking stories in “YOU.” And this time it has turned around.
Because we’ve already covered that You once before in this column, I won’t wade into the finer details and nuances of previous seasons. But if somehow you still haven’t seen them, “YOU“ follow the story of Joe Goldberg, a charming yet psychotic stalker who (all too easily) becomes obsessed with the women in his life.
As said, “YOUlast season deviates a bit from Joe’s modus operandi. Instead of being the predator, Joe has become both the hunted and an unwilling accessory to a life he is desperately trying to leave behind.
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**As always with new releases, this column strives to remain as spoiler-free as possible, but that’s not always possible given the intimate nature of Joe’s stories. So if you plan to avoid spoilers, it’s best to watch the latest season of You first.**
Joe’s Stories Take a turn into the unknown
The season begins with Joe moving (again) to a new town in hopes of starting a new life under a false identity. And as usual for Joe, he seems to have gotten off scot-free again, failing miserably at his dream job in his dream city. As he advises the audience, he didn’t plan it that way, but he makes the most of his heartache.
But all he can think about is being broken and abandoned. He uses his voiceover to tell the audience everything that happened between this one and the last one. He explains how he escaped, why he is in London and how he got a new job as an English professor. By all accounts, Joe lives happily ever after.
He even tells the audience over and over again that this time he will be fine. This time he will not interfere or manipulate. This time he will live the life he should always have. Almost rhythmically, over and over, Joe repeats these stories to himself, almost like a mantra. He really wants to be good – as much as he’s been a monster, he just sees himself as a victim of circumstance.
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The hunter becomes the hunted – Joe’s new stories
When the focus shifts from the subject of Joe’s desires to him being the target of someone else’s, the story takes a terrifying new turn. Instead of being in control and manipulating the lives of the women he falls for – this season shows us, Joe, in a whole new light.
For all the times Joe’s pleaded with the audience that he was a victim of circumstance, this time he really is—albeit in a well-deserved and karmically induced twist of poetic irony.
This time, the you that Joe speaks to through his stories isn’t the fictional ideal of a woman he knows or even loves—that’s a question. It is a punctuation mark in the shadow of an idea and a stand-in for the unknown element that tries to take away his newfound self-control.
A Lack of Control – Joe’s Paranoid Stories
Joe repeatedly tells his listeners that he wants to be good despite an unknown force worming its way into his life and threatening to expose him if he doesn’t follow their will. For once, Joe is really done with manipulation – he even tells the audience after being thrown out a window that he’s getting too old to live like that.
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A Twist of Irony – Joe’s Stalker
Just as Joe truly believed he was making the lives of his victims better, Joe’s stalker tries to bring out Joe’s most—er—Joe-ness. Whenever Joe receives a new message from his stalker, it acts as a callback to a more obscure version of himself.
Each message reads like an asterisk on Joe’s past stories, adding punctuation to his character—a taunt and a nod to who he’s trying to leave behind. For once, rather than commit to a fictional ideal of someone he has placed on a pedestal, Joe looks down into the depths of his own mess.