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You season 4 review: A muddled British whodunit

Anyone who’s watched You knows that Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) can’t help but attract murderous drama. The man is drawn to it, whether he’s living in a New York City walkup, an affluent Los Angeles suburb with his family, or a spacious London loft by himself. He’ll always find someone to spy on, stalk, save, and slash while narrating his incredulous thoughts in a deep voice. It’s the show’s amusing selling point but also its repetitive downfall. Season four, which is divided into two parts, kicks off with five episodes that, while overstuffed, are engaging because of Badgley’s committed performance and the script’s dark humor.

You’s sharp commentary on Joe’s pathological behavior is relevant even as the mystery changes into a humdrum whodunit. The suspense is bland but binge-worthy, proving that You belongs on Netflix (although the streamer’s decision to split the season is a ridiculous choice), which brought new life to the Lifetime original after picking it up for season two in 2019. Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti’s psychological thriller, based on Caroline Kepnes’ novels, thrives on unpacking Joe’s toxic and terrible actions without defending them. He’s not a swoon-worthy anti-hero; he’s a straight-up villain.

The show also wisely attempts to deconstruct years of programming about who is considered a romantic lead. Joe seems like a disarming, considerate lover boy who can do no wrong, except he’s a stalker who dangerously projects his insecurities on the women he latches onto. Each season provides character development and backstory as he sincerely thinks he’s trying to improve. In seasons two and three this included Joe facing off against his unhinged match, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti, who is sorely missed in season four). Any growth by Joe is stunted because he still kills despite saying in voiceovers that he really, really doesn’t want to. (Blaming the universe for putting you in these positions isn’t actually being self-aware, Joe!)

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