YOU Season 4: All hope for Joe Goldberg’s redemption dies a cruel death

You season 4 makes for an absurd watch. It is audacious writing with plotholes galore and ridiculous amounts of “creative freedom”.

Is it still addictive? Hell yes.

Joe Goldberg is now a suave professor in London with a suitably convincing beard and even more convincing insights into contemporary literature. And soon enough, in a predictable pattern, his mysterious and sexy allure, makes him a favourite of people around him. A bunch of young and powerful socialites give him access to their supremely exclusive elite circle and consequently professor Jonathan Moore in a Dr Philesque way is solving their existential crisis, while inwardly judging their superficial existence. However just after the first murder, the power dynamic shifts away from Joe. He is not as smart as he thinks he is because this time around the stalker is being stalked, and Joe is being played, by his unknown nemesis who is always one step ahead.

The hook of the first half of this season lies undoubtedly in the grand reveal of who this super stalker is. Once that is out of the way, you would think the rest to be a straightforward battle of the giants. But there’s a plot twist. A la The Sixth Sense (where you realise Bruce Willis is never seen by anyone else at the end of the movie), it is revealed that Rhys Montrose, Joe’s nemesis, is a figment of his imagination. A multiple personality disorder makes Joe stalk himself, murder people to challenge his other self and basically play a mental game of chess, while real people are being killed. But the shock value does not quite do what it sets out to do. It’s shocking but not in a “oh it was right before my eyes all along” but ” omg that’s the best you could come up with?” way.

But anyway, this is how in season 4 Joe Goldberg is finally completely corrupted, with no hope of redemption and loses the emotional connection with viewers. For the first three seasons, the allure of the show, in combination with a captivating script and superb acting, lay in the strange fascination/obsession the audience had with Joe. Despite being a serial stalker and a killer, he somehow tugged at the collective heartstring of the “You” viewers across the globe. That was perhaps the USP, the secret recipe that made the show so popular among all ages and genders, despite being all about a dark subject. This hurts more because, through the first half of the season, the build-up towards redemption is very noticeable: Joe is successful in keeping his obsession with Kate in check. He rejects her, and steers himself away from all his compulsions. His insights about himself are remarkable and he is not trying to justify himself and recognises his toxicity and problems. You almost feel cheated when the second half of the season veers towards an MPD arc that reveals a completely remorseless sadistic version of himself who finally wins the mental battle.

It’s no secret that Joe Goldberg was written in a way as to be popular. Despite being a show with a fantastical premise, the speed with which all his victims and people around him fall hook line and sinker for him is quite realistic, given his effortless charm and mysterious introversion, among some other irresistible traits. He is super sweet when he falls in love, says the most amazing things, and is astute towards his love interests’ feelings with an ability to look into their soul. It’s only when the obsession kicks in, and he finds himself crossing lines and murdering people in cold blood, is when you realise he is a red flag. But you still can’t help but love Joe because all through the previous seasons, he is discovering himself with the audience. He is appalled, defensive, angry and disappointed in himself, just like his viewers are. He tries various things to cure/restrain himself and his heart seems to be in the right place. He has a touching affinity towards kids/young adults and for the most part, succeeds in protecting them from adversity.

People watched Joe because, like him, they had hope too. Would he be able to redeem himself? When and how? if this ever happens, how would his redemption be justified and how would the audience feel about it when it happened?

But with season 4, it all ends. All hope for Joe dies. And just when you think Joe jumping into a river because he realises he has no hope, will be a good bitter-sweet ending, the writers bring him back to life. Joe is back because even death wouldn’t have him and there ends his character. His remorse disappears with the new life and for the first time, you see him killing a young student and framing a young girl, who he shared a close bond with, for the murder. This is very unlike the Joe of previous seasons, who saved a young boy from his murderous psychotic ex-wife Love. With this the fascination with the protagonist and probably the show ends because it was never about seeing him caught, it was about seeing him absolved. But with season 4 declaring him just a madman with dangerous power and no remorse, there aren’t many layers left to explore. Yes, the season was engaging and addictive, but I am not sure a season 5 would be. It would be best to end it here unless Love Quinn resurrects herself to give Joe the end he truly deserves!


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