Cassondra Feltus is a St. Louis-based freelance writer best known…
Season 4 of Netflix’s hit psychological thriller You arrives just in time to make you want to cancel your Valentine’s Day plans. Writer-showrunner Sera Gamble (Supernatural) and co-writer Greg Berlanti (The Flash) bring us a brand new season of secrets, mysteries, awful people, obsession, and Joe Goldberg awkwardly staring at people while he narrates. But this time, it’s in Europe where the snobs aren’t mommy bloggers and tech geniuses, but rather royal-adjacent socialites.
Warning: Spoilers for Seasons 1–3
At the end of Season 3, Joe Quinn-Goldberg (Penn Badgley) murdered his wife Love (Victoria Pedretti), staged his own death, and framed her for it. Why? Because she had a dark side like him, a side of himself that he (allegedly) hates. She also impulsively killed a number of residents in Madre Linda, Joe’s suburban California prison, and almost killed his latest obsession Marienne Bellamy (Tati Gabrielle). Love attempted to kill him, too, but Joe came out on top, wrote a fake confession, left behind literal pieces of himself, and burned the house down. He delivered Henry to the doorstep of former library worker Dante (Ben Mehl) and his partner Lansing (Noel Arthur), a wise but devastating decision. The final scene shows the widower in Paris, temporarily going by the name Nick, looking for the one that (thankfully) got away.
That brings us to Season 4, where Mr. Quinn-Goldberg is now English literature Professor Jonathan Moore at a university in London, seemingly living his best academia-focused life. He stays away from socializing, choosing to spend time in his gorgeous flat among his vast book collection, proudly stating, “No love, no people, just books.”
Of course, that doesn’t last very long because he’s just too charming not to attract people. Malcolm (Stephen Hagan), a fellow (though comparatively lazy) professor, adopts Jonathan into his insufferable friend group of former classmates at Oxford. His girlfriend, or at least the main woman in his life, Kate (Charlotte Ritchie) is an art gallery director and incredibly unimpressed with Malcolm’s adoptee. Even though she’s ice cold and effortlessly rude, Kate becomes Joe’s love interest.
Another object of obsession this season is Joe himself, beginning with the instant adoration from Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper), a famous royal who might be the only genuinely kind person of the group. Her American entrepreneur boyfriend Adam (Lukas Gage) also takes to Joe/Jonathan. The same can’t be said for influencer Sophie Soo (Niccy Lin) and her artist brother Simon (Aidan Cheng), both of whom barely acknowledge the newbie.
As for Blessing (Ozioma Whenu), a Nigerian princess “working” in cryptocurrency, and Gemma (Eve Austin), a tone-deaf gossip-y socialite, they have no real interest either. The same goes for Connie (Dario Coates), who doesn’t have much of a personality other than consistently intoxicated gambler, and Roald (Ben Wiggins), the deceptively polite aristocrat.
Yes, there are a lot of new characters in Season 4, something that I thought would be distracting. However, their distinct personalities create an interesting mix of wealthy elites, each with their own brand of offensive. The only person who approaches Joe/Jonathan with any authenticity is Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers), an author who grew up in poverty, found his way into Oxford, and later wrote a best-selling memoir that launched a political career. Outside of the “aristo-brats,” as Joe calls them, is Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman), an aspiring genre writer and one of his students. She’s very blunt with the American professor and has no qualms about slightly insulting his taste in literature.
In this season of You, the central focus is on Joe’s relationship with himself. As seen in the trailer, he does catch up to Marienne and they have an intense confrontation. How he ends up a professor in London is too much of a spoiler to get into, but he’s a character who’s always trying to start fresh in a new city. He doesn’t succeed because it’s hard to resist his urge to spy on women through their windows and insert himself into their messy lives.
Badgely described the new installment as a slight shift in genre that maintains a similar tone to previous seasons. Every season is so entertaining that changes in setting, characters, and circumstances sound disappointing at first. But as Gamble and Berlanti proved so far, making Joe a fish out of water keeps the series fresh without drastically shifting gears.
The beautiful scenery of London is definitely an upgrade from Season 3. It’s nice seeing Joe back in an urban city setting surrounded by people too busy to chat, quite the contrast to the stuffiness of Madre Linda. London is also one of the places in the world that romanticizes literature and academia, a perfect fit for the former bookshop worker. His flat is a bibliophile’s dream with a permanent library ambience, fireplace and all. Joe even says, “Williamsburg could never.”
Joe’s internal monologue has always been my favorite part of the series because he’s so salty and judgmental. No matter where he goes, he has to deal with the types of people he hates — Beck’s rich friends in New York, Love’s uber-Cali healthnut friends in LA, and the fake perfectionists of Madre Linda. Now he’s around even more entitled individuals who casually insult him and his wardrobe in every exchange. Although, I think his new professor look — all bearded up with his curls out and donning a brownish palette of suits and sweaters — really suits him. He still keeps his trusty invisibility cloak, I mean his hat, because he frequently finds the opportunity to follow someone, though wearing a ball cap in Europe makes him stand out.
Other than Malcolm’s crew, someone else is fascinated by the mysterious American. Joe wakes up after a night out with his new pals to find a dead body in his flat with no recollection of killing them. Regardless, he’s back to cleaning up a crime scene, and you can tell he’s tired. Years of stalking, gaslighting, and murdering will do that to a person. After his expert disposal, anonymous texts start rolling in from the person trying to frame him for murder. Everyone in his new circle is a potential suspect as well as victim, leaving the amateur detective to decipher who is capable of murder and who’s just a sociopath with a drug problem.
Part 1 of You’s fourth season is an intriguing whodunnit in a classically English setting. The series writers have kept fans guessing with each installment, creating compelling and, at times, incredibly unlikeable characters who continue to catch the wandering eye of Joe Goldberg. Longtime fans may be weary of a genre shift but I assure you that the tone, biting dialogue, and themes are ever-present. Part 1 will leave you longing for the second act of Joe’s utterly chaotic little European holiday.
You Season 4 Part 1 premieres on Netflix on February 9, 2023, followed by Part 2 on March 9, 2023.
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Cassondra Feltus is a St. Louis-based freelance writer best known for film, television, and pop culture analysis which has appeared on Black Girl Nerds, WatchMojo, Mental Floss, and The Take. She loves naps, Paul Rudd, and binge-watching the latest series with her two gorgeous pups – Harry and DeVito.