For three seasons, you've watched Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) stalk and infiltrate the lives of women he doesn't really know but claims to be in love (or at least enamored) with. And because he doesn't really know them but will do anything to hold onto a relationship with them, he ends up doing a lot of bad things — namely murder, even of those women. But the fourth season of You on Netflix is breaking his pattern and therefore the show's as well. Season 4 is split into two parts and is a whodunnit.
"I feel like we need to switch it up every season because just putting Joe in a very similar situation with a different woman and a different city, I think you'd get bored pretty fast. Within the huge idea of love and obsession, there are a lot of kinds of stories to tell — and also within the idea of a thriller, there are many, many kinds," creator and showrunner Sera Gamble tells Metacritic.
The whodunnit nature was born out of a discussion Gamble and executive producer Greg Berlanti had. Ahead of breaking each season, the two have dinner, and this time they "were talking about Europe and we were talking about spending time in London and he was like, 'How about a murder mystery?' So I really have to give him credit for, somehow, every season coming up with a great one-line take about what kind of problem to throw Joe into," Gamble shares.
But when thinking about it further, she realized that the classic storytelling structure would "dovetail really nicely with what we see as one of the themes of the season, which is that Joe wants to redeem himself, he feels like he's on a path to redemption, and a lot of the questions that the season is raising are about that."
"What better way to explore that than to put him in a situation where he feels like he is the only one who can save those people from someone even worse than he's ever been?" she continues.
Whether the new killer is really worse than Joe may be debatable, Gamble acknowledges. "The thread that ties everything together from season to season is constantly challenge who this character is to us and how he makes us feel," she says of her protagonist.
And if you know Joe well (and after three seasons, how could you not!?), you know he won't be able to avoid falling for some new woman in his new city, which will further complicate your feelings about him when you remember that his good intentions now cannot negate all of the bad things he has done in the very recent past.
Although he faked his death at the end of Season 3 and fled the California suburbs to follow Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) to Paris, he doesn't stay in France long. Season 4 is set in London, as Gamble teases above, with the protagonist adopting a new name (Jonathan Moore), a new profession (professor), and a new mission (to redeem himself, sure, but also to get to the bottom of who is killing those around him because for once it is not him personally).
"I think part of the fun of the season is we're even really playing with the idea of who the 'you' is. The 'you' that he is thinking about and speaking to is this mysterious person who is f---ing with him. So, that relationship between him and this other killer is something that we talked about as much as we talked about his romantic relationships this season," Gamble says.
You Season 4 Part 1 premieres Feb. 9 on Netflix.