Why the You season 4 part 1 finale's big twist fell completely flat
The whodunnit reveal was just another half-baked attempt to highlight unreliable narrator Joe Goldberg’s skewed perspective. When is he actually going to meet his downfall?
Warning: This article contains spoilers for You season 4 part 1.
After its first three seasons, Netflix thriller You needed to shake things up. Until the latest chapter arrived on our screens, the show has followed the same pattern: its puppyish, book-loving and not-so-romantic lead Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) would find the love of his life, stalk and woo her, discover the real love of his life, and a killing spree would ensue.
Season 4 tries to turn the tables – the new 'You' isn't a romantic partner but a serial killer who takes out several members of the high society crowd Joe now finds himself associating with in London. The Cluedo-esque whodunnit is for the best: killing women is most definitely bad and Joe is entirely over it. This way, he gets to play the good guy and track down the murderer.
Eventually (spoiler alert), the mysterious killer is revealed to be none other than Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers). The rags-to-riches author who Joe befriended in episode 1 has a memoir about overcoming a rough childhood, titled A Good Man in a Cruel World, and is taking London by storm as he embarks on a campaign to become the city's mayor.
But the twist falls completely flat.
Firstly, there were clues it was Rhys right from the start. Unlike the privileged socialites surrounding Joe, he came from humble origins and his contempt for the elite gives him a stronger motive than the rest of the cast. "They're dancing while the world burns, barely notice it's even burning," he says to Joe at a party, the pair bonding over their hellish childhoods and disgust towards the awful rich people around them.
Then there's the fact that Rhys is nowhere to be seen at the countryside retreat in the final episodes. The guests at Lady Phoebe's stately home – who we are supposed to suspect the most – are busy getting inebriated and partying, behaviour which seems at odds with that of the killer, whose actions throughout the series have been calculated and systematic.
Of course, part of the twist is that the killer isn't the cold and callous monster Joe had been expecting, but a fellow not-so-"nice guy" rationalising his murders as reasonable and necessary – and one who thinks Joe would want to join his mission to kill the privileged and undeserving. This triggers Joe, who has only ever seen himself as a romantic, selfless hero who kills to protect or secure the loves of his life.
"You're in serious self-denial about yourself," Rhys tells Joe when he declines his deadly offer. And he's right.
A twist forcing Joe to reconsider the justifications he uses for stalking and killing sounds like a good idea on paper, so why did it feel so anticlimactic? The problem is we've been here before with the 'You' of season 2, Love Quinn, who Joe obsesses over, stalks and eventually wins over, only to discover in the finale that she's equally murderous. Even better, we learn that Love has been manipulating Joe all along, playing him and driving him to murder with the goal of winning his heart.
Both Rhys and Love match a lot of the parts of Joe he can't bear to confront – his taste for violence and murder, the horrors of his childhood and the moral person act he uses to excuse his deadly ways. And it's getting boring now.
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While both twists have served to highlight the unreliable narrator's skewed perspective, the killer has yet to get his comeuppance. Joe always escapes unscathed and gets to continue narrating the show. And he always has the last laugh.
Perhaps even more frustratingly, the season 4 part 1 twist appears to be setting Joe up to play the hero in part 2 as he attempts to track down the high-profile killer hiding in the spotlight. When are we going to actually see Joe meet his downfall?
Arguably, season 4 had been preparing us for a predictable twist right from the start by making clear whodunnits are supposed to be formulaic. As Joe's student and murder mystery enthusiast Nadia tells him of the genre: "There are no coincidences. All motives usually boil down to money, sex and revenge."
Is season 4 part 1 paving the way for a bigger, better twist? Is it readying us for the twist to end all twists in part 2? We'll have to wait and see, though it does feel somewhat like the show missed its opportunity to have Love kill Joe and become the new narrator of the series at the end of season 3...
You season 4 part 1 is available to watch now on Netflix, while part 2 will land on Thursday 9th March. Seasons 1-3 are streaming now. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.
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