You season 4 takes the Netflix series to places it's never been before and, by extension, antihero Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is pushed to his limits. Living in London under the alias Jonathan Moore, Joe finds himself as the pursued rather than the pursuer in season 4 as he becomes the target of anonymous text messages, sent by someone who's trying to frame him for crimes he didn't commit. We spoke to Badgley and the rest of the show's cast about the finale, the season's big twist, and what's next for Joe and co. As you might expect, there are major spoilers for You season 4 part 2 ahead, so proceed with caution if you're not up to date with the new episodes yet.
Of course, the season's big twist is that Joe is the one committing the crimes. After the reveal at the end of part 1 that Rhys Montrose is the Eat the Rich killer and Joe's stalker, we learn that Joe has had a psychotic break and the version of "Rhys" who murders people is the product of his imagination. It's Joe who's been killing people all along.
"I was very excited for it," Badgley says of the Jekyll and Hyde-esque twist. "Anytime that Joe is shown who he is past the threshold of his comfort, and especially when it's done by another man... It's not often done by another man. Obviously, the way he interacts with women is different. There's a level of objectification and manipulation that he's not interested in or capable of in the same way with men."
He adds: "It was, for me, also the only place [the show creators] could seemingly take [the show] without the concept collapsing on itself or becoming tired. It's a hard concept to reinvent. [Joe] is a hard character to keep fresh – if we're indeed doing that – and I think this is the right way to take it."
If Badgley's Joe is Dr. Jekyll then Ed Speleers is Mr. Hyde. He plays Rhys Montrose, the rags-to-riches Mayor of London candidate, and also Rhys Montrose, the manifestation of the darkest corners of Joe Goldberg's mind. "What's interesting these days is quite often when you're meeting for parts or taping or whatever it is, you don't get a huge amount of information. But [showrunner] Sera Gamble gave me as much as I could possibly ask for ahead of doing the role," Speleers says. "It was a real honor to take on a part like this because it was a challenge like I've never experienced before and it was pushing me in a new direction."
So, what was it like playing two characters: the real Rhys and the Rhys in Joe's head? "It's complicated on paper and I put up some walls initially about how on Earth I was going to tackle it," he says. "But actually, when you break it down, and you start assessing the script and what's going on, you just have to base it on the facts and the circumstances that are placed in front of you. What does the character want out of this scenario? Where do I feel he's operating from? What do I think his view of the world is? If you start like that and build it up gradually, then you're not necessarily getting bogged down in the idea of playing two people, you're just playing the truth of what's in front of you."
Someone that falls foul of Joe's actions in season 4 is his student Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman). A little too smart and savvy for her own good, she's finally cracked the case at the end of episode 10 – she got proof that Joe killed Rhys after she broke into Joe's apartment with her boyfriend Eddie (Brad Alexander) keeping watch outside. However, Eddie is nowhere to be found when she leaves the flat, and Joe corners her. He reveals that he's killed Eddie after framing him for Rhys' murder and Joe, in turn, frames Nadia for killing Eddie (keeping up?). The last we hear of her is that she's been sent to jail after refusing to speak in her own defense.
"I was just happy that she wasn't dead," Hickman says of her character's fate. "So I was actually a bit relieved because that would have been [like], 'Oh, my God, all of that effort' and if I was a viewer, I would have looked at [the finale] and just gone, 'Yeah, she's a goner. She's not gonna last.' So I was actually happy that it wasn't the worst thing, but also I was really gutted for her because of all of that hard work. She did really well, up until that very last minute." She adds: "I would like to see her and Marienne really get the justice that they actually deserve, and that they nearly had, and take [Joe] down."
Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) is a character who has a bit more luck in season 4. First introduced in season 3, she's the only one of Joe's former love interests to make it out alive – of not just one but two seasons. We asked Gabrielle why she thinks that is. "Marienne has got an incredible survival instinct," she says. "We see that even through season 3 – that she's willing to fight for herself and her child at all costs. On top of that, just the way that she grew up, the way that she was brought up in the world, that she's been forced to be hyper-aware, she's been forced to be cunning, and those traits have been what's kept her alive through being the kid of the system and jumping from country to country. Her survival instinct is unmatched."
We see Marienne go to extreme lengths – namely, faking her own death – to escape Joe's clutches, and season 4 saw Joe slip into a dark place that we've never seen him reach before. But will they have a long-lasting effect on him? Does Badgley think that his character is capable of changing or breaking his cycle of obsession? "No," he answers, deadpan.
"In a way, it's a very simple answer, but here's why. It's not that I don't think it's possible. It's [that] I don't think it's likely. Theoretically, all people are capable of change, just as a baseline. I don't think Joe is capable of changing the way he would need to in order to realize all that he's done. However, the weird thing is, is that he does manage to somehow come in touch with his true self while also remaining cut off from it. So that's a very strange thing with him that I'm never quite able to put my finger on."
So, if Joe will not – and cannot – change, how do you keep the series fresh? "As a show, it's willing to push certain boundaries," says Speleers. "It's pretty fearless in its formula and how it approaches things. There is a tongue-in-cheek quality to it as well. It owns the space it's in, but it allows room for humor to come into some very serious issues and things that we don't necessarily want to talk about on a daily basis in a much more severe way, but You allows us the space to just escape with it a little bit more. We're still tapping into those worlds, but we're just allowing ourselves a little bit more room to enjoy entertainment. We need the heavy-hitting stuff, but it's important for us as viewers and audience members to have that escapism."
All episodes of You season 4 are now on Netflix. For more on the show, check out our guide to the You season 4 part 2 ending explained and everything we know about a potential You season 5, as well as our interview with Charlotte Ritchie, Lukas Gage, and Tilly Keeper.