We can all agree that the fourth season of You was by far the most chaotic in the twisted cinematic universe inhabited by our protagonist Joe (Penn Badgley). From methodically disassembling a human body while “I Like It” by Cardi B plays in the background to Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” becoming his self-proclaimed anthem, Joe has been ridiculously wild this season, managing to one-up himself as the crowned king of absolute mess. But while Season 4 of You strung us along with a series of mishaps, the finale was the ultimate cherry on top for this whirlwind whodunit.
If you’ve found yourself thinking, “Wait, what the hell just happened?!” fret not — we’re about to dive into that rollercoaster plot twist and what Season 4’s final shot means for Joe’s future.
Rhys was a red herring for a darker secret.
While Part 1 of You Season 4 led us to believe that Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers) was the eat-the-rich killer murdering London’s elite, Part 2 completely turned that revelation on its head with a Fight Club-esque twist. Although Rhys is actually a real person in the You-niverse, he’s never met Joe. The Rhys Joe’s been talking to this entire time is a hallucination, or more accurately, a manifestation of Joe’s murderous side.
Rhys is Joe. They’re two sides of the same person, with Rhys being the devil on Joe’s shoulder morphing into someone he can talk to. Joe’s actually the one doing all the killings. Not only that, but he’s imagined every conversation he had with Rhys, and he’s been blocking it out of his memory because, as imaginary Rhys puts it, he’s “full fat, extra sugar, deep-fried fucking insane.” Joe’s inability to accept that he’s a murderer has caused him to compartmentalize, splitting his bad side off into an entirely separate person to relieve himself of the guilt he feels. But why was he imagining Rhys and not someone he actually knows?
It turns out, Joe is real Rhys’s #1 fan. He’s read Rhys’s memoir over and over again. He’s listened to its audiobook version on repeat. He’s watched every Rhys interview available on the internet. He’s basically formed a parasocial relationship with the real Rhys where he’s conflated his obsessive knowledge of Rhys with actually knowing him. And when Joe finally kills the real Rhys, all the while thinking he’s putting a heroic end to the eat-the-rich killer, every bit of the facade he’s built comes crashing down. Joe was already a dangerous person, but now we see how deeply he’s in denial — which harrowingly explains what actually happened to Marienne (Tati Gabrielle).
Marienne was trapped in Joe’s box the entire time.
As part of Joe’s dangerous new habit of “accidentally” forgetting things, he’s also forgotten that he’s kidnapped Marienne. We all thought she was on a train to Paris in Part 1, but this is Joe’s world, and our reliably unreliable narrator seems to have omitted a whole week of his life. So, what really happened?
In Part 1, we all thought Joe followed Marienne to the train station and merely stole her locket before letting her go. But in Part 2 we see that along with his pickpocketing, he drugs Marienne’s drink and kidnaps her while she’s unconscious. It’s then that we see the return of Joe’s box of doom, in which he traps Marienne before completely forgetting she’s in there, thanks to the whole split-personality thing going on.
While Joe frolics around London with his new rich pals and talks to an imaginary friend, Marienne’s alone in an abandoned basement surviving off a limited food supply. And like an angel from above, Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman) serendipitously finds Marienne.
Nadia and Marienne team up for the biggest MVP moment in You‘s history.
Joe’s smartest student starts suspecting his involvement in all the murders. Like the Agatha Christie fan she is, Nadia puts her detective hat on and starts snooping. Her investigative trail leads her to the abandoned building where Marienne’s being kept hostage, and the two team up to figure out a way to get her out of there.
Nadia smartly suggests calling the police — perhaps the first time someone in You ever thought of doing that — but Marienne lets her know Joe isn’t such an easy foe to outsmart. So, they orchestrate a plan to fake Marienne’s death. Joe’s left a bunch of painkillers for Marienne, so they decide to stage a drug overdose. Joe thinks Marienne’s dead, which prompts him to take her body and leave it on a nearby bench in a park. However, Marienne’s actually taken a bunch of beta blockers; in excess, they can replicate the effects of an overdose but quickly be reversed through a shot of glucagon. Nadia follows Joe to the park and gives Marienne a shot as soon as he leaves, saving her life and ensuring her return to Paris, where she finally reunites with her daughter (yay, Marienne!!!!).
But Nadia’s big win ends there, because soon after, Joe finds her snooping around his house, where he menacingly tells her he’s about to frame her for everything he’s done. Part 2 wraps up with Joe unscathed and Nadia taking the blame for his crimes in London. Just in case you thought Joe had a chance at redemption, his final blow against Nadia reassures viewers that he remains the absolute worst.
Kate helps Joe cover up his tracks.
Joe’s winning streak continues when he finally tells his new girlfriend Kate (Charlotte Ritchie) who he actually is. Rather than leaving him, or, y’know, putting him behind bars, Kate decides to stay with Joe and help him become a better person. She uses her father’s many resources to spin a news story around Joe that details his return to society as a redeemed victim who unfortunately had to fake his death in order to escape the wrath of his ex-wife, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti).
By now, Joe has also killed Kate’s dad, so the pair have inherited practically everything from the mogul. With their new fat wad of cash, they move back to New York City and set up shop in a high-rise apartment overlooking Central Park. They decide to start their own organization: Kate wants to help the world, and Joe wants to help Kate any way he can — which, for Joe, usually means murder.
In Season 4’s final shot, we see a triumphant Joe who is officially unstoppable. He has every resource, both monetary and systemic, available to him. He has finally made peace with his darker side and has convinced himself that killing is a justified means to an end. He’s fully accepted and merged with “Rhys,” which means his murderous side is back in full swing. Joe won this season in ways we’ve never seen before. He’s at the top of the world, as we can see from his fancy new vantage point, and New York’s officially his playground again.
It’s safe to assume that we’re going to see an all-new kind of wrath in Joe next season. Maybe You will dip into Succession territory, with Joe killing his way up the ladder to become a powerful figure akin to Kate’s dad or Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Perhaps You has been exploring a twisted American dream this entire time, and is about to give us the most fucked-up rags-to-riches story ever. Whatever the outcome, I’m dreading what Joe has next in store.