When you get four seasons into a series, it can be hard to keep the format feeling fresh – especially when that formulaic nature is part of the appeal. You, Netflix’s twist-filled, addictive serial killer drama, has always known exactly what it is, creating bingeable and often indulgent television full of tropes we’ve come to expect.
The first half of season 4 is no different, easing audiences into its familiar tone with Joe’s (Penn Badgley) twisted narration and a cast of characters heinous enough that you’ll be rooting for the killer offing them. However, while the tail end of season 3 had started to feel a little bit stuck in a corner, the latest episodes breathe new life (pardon the pun) into this killer drama thanks to a location change and an almost entirely new cast.
This time around, we’re in London. Fresh off the fiery season 3 finale where Joe killed Love (Victoria Pedretti) after framing her for his own murder, our favorite serial killer has reinvented himself yet again. He’s now posing as Jonathan Moore, an affable literature professor who’s just trying to enjoy his European holiday.
After saving his co-worker's girlfriend from an attack, Joe falls in with a crowd of entitled socialites who bring him into the privileged echelon of London society. He’s equally repulsed and intrigued by the new group as he tries to keep his identity hidden. However, when one of them winds up murdered, Joe finds out he’s got another problem: his own personal stalker intent on framing him for the crimes.
The premise shift from predator to prey really works, mostly thanks to Badgley’s magnetic performance as Joe. Once again, the Gossip Girl alum nails the vulnerability and complexity of a character who remains compelling despite the truly awful things he does. Yet, he also never skimps out on his violent, twisted nature. Indeed, any worries that You may be veering into sanitization are quickly squashed in the first episode, which features one of the show’s most grisly body disposals yet.
Part of the joy of the new season also lies in Joe’s chemistry with new character Kate (Charlotte Ritchie), a gallery owner and his neighbor (cue Joe's tendency to spy through the window). At first, she’s thoroughly unimpressed by him, cutting his inner monologue short and getting under his skin. Then, as the storyline develops, it’s a joy to watch the pair go toe-to-toe as they navigate what they really mean to one another. It also helps lighten the palpable absence of Love, who was the perfect psychotic foil to Joe in seasons 2 and 3.
Other strong introductions include Amy-Leigh Hickman as Nadia, a student with a secret in Joe’s class – although, it feels like we may only be just touching on her story in the first five episodes. Outlander’s Ed Speleers is also compelling as Rhys Montrose, whose similar background to Joe makes for an interesting connection between the pair.
Sadly, not all of the new cast work as well as in previous seasons, losing nuance for melodrama thanks to the pure awfulness of characters like Gemma and Roald. The dialogue also feels overwrought at times, leaning a bit too far into stereotypes that it jars you out of the story. These come hand-in-hand with some incredible plot holes (honestly, how on earth is Joe affording that central London apartment?).
But despite this, You season 4, part 1 manages to (mostly) keep just on the right side of being too ridiculous. Anchored by fantastic central performances, the show is best taken a bit tongue-in-cheek, savoring the fun of the drama rather than thinking about its storyline too deeply.
It also perfectly lends itself to the new format of splitting up into two parts, something Netflix has been experimenting with over the past few years with shows like Stranger Things and Money Heist. Rather than leaving you frustrated, we reach enough denouement at the end of episode 5 to feel satisfied with aspects of the storyline. But, importantly, as the credits roll on part 1, it seems like we're only scratching the surface of this mystery. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be counting down the days until You returns.
You season 4 part 1 is on Netflix now, while part 2 will be released on March 9. For what else to stream, check out our guides to the best Netflix shows and the best Netflix movies.