Warning: Spoilers ahead
Netflix’s hit series “You” returned on Feb. 10 for its fourth season with the release of part one of two, with the first five episodes out of ten. The psychological thriller follows Penn Badgely playing Joe Goldberg, a seemingly nice guy with a habit of obsessing over and stalking his desired romantic partners.
Throughout the show, Joe goes through multiple disastrous relationships, often going too far as he pursues women of interest. His attraction spirals into an unhealthy infatuation, culminating in him obsessing over, following and even committing murder in order to get what he wants. The show follows Joe as he goes from New York to Los Angeles to suburbia, each location featuring a new object of attraction.
Season four picks up right where season three ended, with Joe fleeing to London after murdering his wife and faking his death. He assumes a new identity as Jonathan Moore, a university professor, and promises himself that he will live a reformed life. In his words, “If LA was purgatory and suburbia was hell, London may be when I finally got to the good place.”
The new season marks a character shift from the previous three. Instead of being the murderer, Joe finds himself being framed by the “eat the rich killer.” The killer has been targeting members of London aristocratic society and finds Joe and threatens to reveal his dark past. To avoid this, he is forced to become a detective and solve the mystery before his true identity is exposed.
Badgley is the obvious standout in the season, as he has been during the show’s duration. Best known for his role as Dan Humphrey on The CW’s hit show, “Gossip Girl,” Badgley has received well-deserved critical praise for his portrayal of Joe, with many pointing to his versatility and acting range. Badgley is terrifyingly charismatic and incredibly convincing in his performance, almost successfully justifying his actions to the viewer.
The most universal point of praise is towards Badgley’s narration in “You.” Simultaneously charming and chilling, the monologue is used as a way to provide the viewer with Joe’s sociopathic perspective. Through this, viewers can see into the mind of the antihero.
However, season four takes on a different tone. Joe’s narration is even more immersive than before. His inner dialogue is pointed, sardonic and honest, with elements of dark humor lingering in each line. It’s an unexpected comedic relief, yet it also manages to add a sense of realism.
With one of the main themes of this season being status, Joe finds himself thrown into the world of the rich London elite. Their lifestyle is shocking and incredibly out of touch, something Joe constantly points out in his monologue. He acts as a surrogate for the audience throughout season four — he, too, is navigating unknown territory and is taking the viewer along for the journey.
This is key in navigating class consciousness and conflict. The fact that the most relatable character is a murderous stalker with obsessive tendencies points to the intense socioeconomic divide in today’s society. The rich are no different than the cold and emotionless Joe — they simply have the wealth to hide it.
Yet, Joe’s expert characterization and the show’s creative take on class disparity is not enough to distract from the shortfallings of the side characters. They are all written and portrayed as caricatures. Therefore, the message being promoted by the show fails to reach complete fruition. The use of stereotypes fails to fully establish a persona, and the reliance on clichés causes all of the London aristocrats to blend together. There is no nuance to the douchebag jerks; they are simply douchebag jerks. When compared with the incredibly complex Joe, each side character seems cartoonish.
Season four also has an uneven pace. As opposed to the zealous intensity of previous seasons, season four takes time to fully unfold the mystery at the center of the season. While this allows for a more immersive watching experience, the slow-moving development made for an occasionally dull watch in the earlier episodes. As the season progresses, the energy increases and eventually builds into an action-packed, mid-season cliffhanger that makes the watching experience worthwhile. Yet, the pacing inconsistencies make it difficult to sit through the slower elements of the season.
The inconsistent pace is in part due to the release format. Only the first five episodes of season four were released on Feb. 10, making up the first part of the season. The reason for the two-part release was explained by Showrunner and Producer Sera Gamble via Instagram, saying “Trust me, you’ll need the time to process.”
Part two of season four will be released to Netflix on March 10.