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You season 4, part 1’s ending explained

When we left Joe Goldberg at the end of season 3 of the hit Netflix series You, he was in an explosive situation, literally. He had killed his wife, Love, set his house on fire, and cut off his own toes to suggest he had perished in the blaze. Joe was determined to turn his life around, especially after running into Marienne and seeing the terror on her face over who he was and what he had done. He then escaped to start anew in a different country.

In season 4, it’s revealed that Joe headed to Paris in search of the woman he believed he was meant to be with, Marienne. That led him to London, where he assumed the new identity of a man named Jonathan and began working as a professor teaching a literature class.

Joe teaching a class in season 4 of You.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Joe desperately tries to be good

With a seemingly new lease on life and a sense of restraint, Joe might finally be reinventing himself. He decided not to kill Marienne, after all, which showed progress, right? And he stopped himself when he caught a glimpse of the stunning woman in the flat across the way. He’s not going to do that again, he told himself via his signature internal monologue.

But where Joe goes, trouble follows. A fellow scholar at the university, a pompous, entitled young man named Malcolm, consistently inserts himself into Joe’s business and insists he attend a fancy party. Joe eventually gives in and ends up, once again, commiserating with the very types of people he hates: elitist, entitled snobs with no talent nor direction, but bursting bank accounts. From princesses to painters, social media mavens to a socialite who deems herself a “lady,” Joe finds it all revolting.

The one diamond amid the vile humans, however, is an author with political aspirations named Rhys. Rhys intrigues Joe with a similar life story of a sordid childhood and a rise from the ashes. He’s a refreshing departure from the vapid others with whom Joe was forced to converse at the soiree.

After unknowingly imbibing one too many drinks laced with drugs, Joe blacks out and awakens back at his flat with a dead Malcolm lying on his kitchen table. Quickly springing to action (Joe isn’t new to such scenes, after all), he disposes of the body while wondering if he committed the murder — he doesn’t remember.

Joe from You looking at a collage of old newspaper articles on his wall in season 4.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Joe becomes the hunted

Joe’s concerns are quickly squashed when he receives a text message taunting him. It’s the real killer and they know what he did. But seeing how Joe reacted, they’re intrigued. In an ironic twist, this killer is watching Joe’s every move.

Wanting to prevent more bloodshed, Joe enlists the help of a student named Nadia, who has  a vast knowledge for murder mysteries. She knows their tropes in and out and is happy to help him research the topic for a book he’s writing. Of course, there is no such book: Joe is hunting a real killer and wants to stay a step ahead.

Next to die is the snobby (and thieving) artist Simon, and by now, the killer is on to Joe’s true identity. They have papered his walls with old articles about the death and destruction from a man named Joe Goldberg. The killer’s playing games, and Joe doesn’t like being at the receiving end of it.

What’s more, the killer implies that his next victim is Kate, the stunning woman from across the way who Joe realizes is the only one among her friends with any empathy As he grows closer to her, despite her initially ice-cold reception to him, he’s desperate to protect her from this unseen menace.

Roald from season 4 of You looking angry.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It all comes to a head at the big party

Joe continues to be invited to the elite parties thanks to Kate’s best friend, Phoebe, who has seemingly taking a liking to him and views him as a sort of pet project. And the next big event is a soiree at her family’s massive estate in the country. Joe has to go, of course, because he must protect Kate. Plus, he strongly believes the killer is among them.

Upon arrival, Joe spends his days and nights running an internal investigation, going back and forth about each person, trying to determine who the killer might be. Every one of them has secrets, troubles, conflict, and motive. They could all get away with it, but most of them aren’t smart (or lucid) enough to actually pull off the murders.

Trouble continues to follow when he comes upon Kate, who has discovered the dead body of fellow partygoer and friend Gemma on the floor in her room. Joe agrees to help Kate get rid of the body to avoid the information getting to her abhorrent, wealthy father, revealing private details about his life in the process. He also tells her the true story about Malcolm and the killer’s messages to him.

They almost get away with hiding the body until the creepy Roald overhears parts of the conversation and holds Joe hostage in front of everyone, gun in his hand, believing Joe to be the killer. The sick, twisted man decides to make a game of his revenge, partly fueled by his own narcissism and partly because he’s drunk and high on numerous drugs. Roald then chases Joe through the woods. Joe finally manages to knock Roald out, only to look up and see someone staring down at him before he’s knocked out, too.

Rhys standing on a balcony talking to Joe in a scene from You season 4.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What happens at the end of You season 4, part 1?

For some, it was a predictable end: Rhys, it turns out, never really got over his anger, jealousy, and troubled childhood. He has made a sport of ridding the world of the awful people he once called friends. With Joe and Roald chained up, he tells Joe he only intended to frame him for Malcolm’s murder, but was in for a surprise when instead, he discovered a criminal comrade.

He orders Joe to kill Roald if he wants to save himself. But when he returns and the job is not done, Rhys leaves Joe and Roald to die, knocking over a candle to set the place on fire before he walks out the door. Joe frantically manages to escape and, unlike his old self, saves Roald in the process.

Fast -orward to back home and it’s clear Joe has not reported Rhys to the authorities, nor revealed the identity of the killer to the others. He wants Rhys all to himself. Watching Rhys on the television screen declaring his run for mayor of London, the light recedes from Joe’s eyes. He’s preparing to feed the obsession that has now bubbled back to the surface in a way he never had before: to hunt for a killer and, oddly, a kindred spirit.

Joe is so fixated on this task that he rebuffs Kate’s romantic advances. The old Joe might have made Kate his next obsession. But Joe has changed. He doesn’t have time for romance or love right now. At least not while “you” are still out there.

You season 4, part 2 premieres on Netflix March 9.

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Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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