Warning: This story contains spoilers from season 4, part 2 of You.
He’s back! Joe Goldberg proved that a leopard doesn’t change its spots — and nothing is how it seems — on season 4, part 2 of You.
“I think what the show was doing is, like, a campy exploration of our most toxic misconceptions of love and power and ourselves,” Penn Badgley explained to The Hollywood Reporter about the show’s epic plot twist after part 2 hit Netflix on Thursday, March 9. “And if we forget that and get lured in by his unreliable narration and think we’re actually in a story about a man who’s trying to change and trying to fall in love and trying to find somebody, well then we’re too much under Joe’s spell. And that’s good on one hand, because it means we’ve made this thing in a compelling enough way that that’s what it does. But the show is most valuable when you’re under Joe’s spell and you’re watching it, again, as more as an exploration of us, rather than just about him.”
After part 1 of the Netflix hit’s fourth season premiered in February, viewers were led to believe that Badgley’s character — formerly Joe, now Jonathan Moore — had jetted off to London to begin a new life as a better person before the Eat the Rich Killer, unveiled as Rhys Montrose (Ed Speelers), began killing his friends.
Part 2, however, revealed that the villain wasn’t Rhys, after all — it was Joe, who created an alter ego to embody his darker demons. In addition to being unmasked as the killer of every person who died in season 4 part 1, You also gave fans a second surprise: Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) never escaped at all.
The Gossip Girl alum shared that the play on Joe as an unreliable narrator is exactly how the show was able to trick its audience.
“If you think it’s about him, that’s when you’re too much under the spell,” he explained. “And so I think I was just trying to help the concept do what it does best. I mean, it’s right there in the title. It’s You. It’s not him. Not taking anything away from him and his transgressions.”
Showrunner Sera Gamble, for her part, shared with Vulture in March that the Fight Club-like narrative is something she and executive producer Greg Berlanti had planned for a while.
“Joe’s character arc is something we had been talking about for a couple of seasons,” she said. “Greg would point out that the pressure on him only gets greater the more he runs and tries to start over. The thing that’s particularly fascinating to me is how baroque his justifications have had to become. It’s one thing to have to justify killing one or two ex-girlfriends, and it is quite another to walk into a season with a minimum of 10 murders under your belt.”
Gamble noted that the show began weaving in Joe’s hallucinations back in season 1, adding that by season 3, “he had a fever, and the inner monologue became a whole separate Joe that was sitting there, taunting him.”
While Joe eventually attempted to kill himself by jumping off a bridge in the final episode of season 4, he survived the fall and pledged to start a new life with girlfriend Kate (Charlotte Ritchie). The decision to keep Joe alive is something Badgley was on the fence about.
“Joe is a perfect device because you can delve into something, but you always have the safety cord or the safety net of, ‘Yeah, but he’s a hypocrite.’ We are all exploring something earnestly, I think. But of course nobody has a perfect perspective, so if there’s any place where it’s really got some blind spots, well, that’s Joe, frankly. That’s OK. So, in a way, I really like that,” he told Salon in February. “It’s like we can dig in and not worry about having a perfectly protected stance, because at the end of the day, Joe is an unreliable narrator and a despicable human being.”
He continued: “So, just because he’s thinking it and saying it, doesn’t mean that we think it’s right. But he is getting at something, and of course people can identify with that. So to me, Joe is, like, he’s a many-sided die. He’s got too many sides, and he needs to die.”
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Keep scrolling to see how things ended for Joe on part 2 of You season 4: