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COLUMN: ‘You’ season 4: coming full circle

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SPOILER ALERT: This column contains potential spoilers for the fourth season of “You.” 

With “exile” and “Anti-Hero” being used in the finales of season 3 and 4, respectively, of “You” — a Netflix thriller —  I think Taylor Swift herself might have one more thing to say to Joe Goldberg: Welcome (back) to New York, London Boy. 

At the beginning of this season, we were whisked across the pond to London where Joe (Penn Badgley) decided to adopt the alias Jonathan Moore after killing his wife, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), and giving away their son. He is initially on the search for his most recent object of obsession, Marienne Bellamy (Tati Gabrielle), who attempted to escape to France with her daughter. Although the two have a brief encounter in the first episode, it seems that he lets her go and accepts that he must move on in a moment of character development. 

After watching three previous seasons of Joe’s obsessive and entitled nature, I was naive to believe he would allow Marienne to find peace.  

Joe’s new life as Jonathan Moore follows as he takes a job as a literary professor in London and falls in with a group of London’s wealthy elites through fellow professor Malcolm (Stephen Hagan). At this point, we meet Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers), a popular candidate for mayor of London with a troubled childhood — an irresistibly intriguing trait for Joe.  

The only member of the friend group who managed to charm me was Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper), a sweet socialite with a quirky style and a big heart. Her character had depth and compassion for others, and I felt myself rooting for her throughout her trials and tribulations of being taken advantage of by her greedy boyfriend, Adam (Lukas Gage), to being violently kidnapped by a mentally unstable superfan.  

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As members of the group begin turning up murdered, Joe simultaneously begins receiving mysterious messages from the so-called “Eat the Rich Killer,” who — terrifyingly for Joe — appears to know everything about his life before coming to London. As each new murder is discovered, the rest of the group seems to move on jarringly quickly — perhaps just gaining more Instagram followers in the process.  

Joe also begins a relationship with Kate Galvin (Charlotte Ritchie), an art gallery director and daughter of a wealthy businessman. We leave the end of the first part of season four, which was released Feb. 9, believing that Rhys — the charismatic public servant — is the one sending these cryptic, obsessive texts and murdering the other elites.  

In episode eight, we are hit with the inevitable twist — Joe did not actually let Marienne get away after their encounter. During a mental episode, he held her captive in the infamous cage — it appears to be more well-traveled than many of us after making its fourth appearance — before switching his identity to Jonathan Moore and completely forgetting about her.

Additionally, we find out that this episode led him to completely materialize the version of Rhys he was constantly in conflict with. Joe had never met the real Rhys, but rather became obsessed with him in the way he had been with past love interests — so much so that he adopted him as his dark side’s alter ego. 

The banter between “Rhys” and Joe this season became progressively more unhinged and fueled Joe’s spiraling paranoia about if he is truly a bad person. 

In terms of character chemistry this season, I found it rather lackluster compared to the terrifyingly harmonious chemistry between Pedretti and Badgley in the last two seasons. I couldn’t help but feel some excitement when Love made a short reappearance in one of Joe’s hallucinations in the finale. 

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The acting performance by Gabrielle blew me away as she captured the pain of being kept from her daughter, who she had already lost once during a battle with drug addiction. 

In the second part of season four, which was released Mar. 9, Joe is coming to terms with the consequences of his mental episode, distinguishing what is real and grappling with the kind of person he has been and will be.  

After he decides he can never be good and makes his definitive jump from the bridge at the beginning of the last episode, I felt a sliver of hope that this might mean the end of his reign of terror. But in true Joe fashion, he escapes the hands of near death completely fine. Somehow, Kate is eager to remain in a relationship with him after learning about his violent and dark past — we’ve all ignored a couple red flags, right? 

Most disappointing of all, Joe manages to blame his student Nadia Farran (Amy Leigh-Hickson) for all the murders after discovering her leaving his house in part of her scheme to save Marienne from him. At least, unbeknownst to Joe, Marienne is able to escape due to her and Nadia’s cunning plan.  

Despite Nadia’s fate, my heart was warmed to see Lady Phoebe leaving Adam and pursuing a humble career teaching English to children in Thailand, finally seeming happy and truly free from her people-pleasing.  

After Joe heals from his suicide attempt, we come full circle — back to New York City — as he moves there with Kate to start a new life.

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