You reinvents itself as a murder mystery to mostly positive results

The predator becomes the prey in You season four. The move from the US to London comes with a dramatic shift in character dynamics, dropping Joe (Penn Badgley) in the middle of a murder mystery. When his newfound life as a teacher is threatened, he’s forced to become the resident Sherlock Holmes and crack the case.

My experience with You in the past has been a rollercoaster to say the least. Each of the three prior seasons has kicked off really well, but there’s always a drop in quality towards the end or middle of the season which really holds things back. I went into this season expecting the same outcome, and that’s more or less what I got. Despite this, I believe this season is the strongest overall, edging out the others ever so slightly. Right from the get-go it’s clear this is going to be an entirely different beast. A brand new slate of wealthy characters are introduced in a new city, with Joe adopting a new name and identity. On top of this, it’s revealed that (at least at the beginning) this season is going to be a murder mystery – a far cry from the stalker thriller vibe of the season’s passed.

As a lover of the murder mystery genre, this shift had me genuinely excited for the rest of the season. Although, I must admit there was still part of me that worried the vibe and pace of You wouldn’t mesh with this new approach. For the first few episodes at least, the shift really worked. Getting to see Joe on the receiving end of a mysterious stalker/killer for once was a nice change of pace – it created an interesting dynamic that felt fresh. By no means was it an exceptionally unique murder mystery, but it was fun.

Then the fourth episode arrived and I got even more excited. It looked like it was about to shift into an Agatha Christie murder mystery… only I couldn’t have been more wrong. The subsequent few episodes were poorly written, messy and dull. The opportunity for truly tense storytelling was right there – all our characters and suspects in one location – but it’s wasted. It’s slow, bleak and full of cliche’s that are lazily written and poorly executed – plus the tension and urgency of the early episodes is completely gone.

It’s not a You season without a sudden dip in quality, so I could finally tick that off. Unfortunately it remained that way until the seventh episode – this is where it began to pick back up in terms of thrilling tension and mystery. The first three episodes were fresh, tense and great fun, but the game-changing twists and riveting storytelling in the final four episodes save the season from disaster. Interesting character dynamics are reintroduced and the sense of chilling suspense is wonderfully reintegrated. These final four episodes are some of the show’s best, elevating the narrative beyond anything I could have imagined for the season. It all builds towards a thrilling climax, ending strongly and redeeming itself after meandering through the middle of the season.

Character-wise this season is a very mixed bag. I didn’t care for many of the new ‘rich’ folk that Joe interacts with. Most of them felt like hollow shells or cliches, like Adam (Lukas Gage) and Roald (Ben Wiggins) who periodically appear with barely any intriguing qualities. The only two I did like were Kate (Charlotte Ritchie) and Rhys (Ed Speleers), and occasionally Phoebe (Tilly Keeper), who each bring a great dose of charisma to the season and had me invested in their respective arcs. My favourite new character has to be Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman), one of Joe’s students who is very likeable and easy to root for over the course of the season. Overall it’s a pretty decent lineup of characters, some of which are more interesting than others.

Penn Badgley is obviously still the star of the show, with his signature voiceover narrating his character’s every thought and guiding us through this new murder mystery. He plays the role of Joe in a way that’s deeply captivating in every moment. He can make a simple trip to the local market thrilling with the way he interacts with the world around him. By this point in the series we have a strong grasp on what makes the character tick, but Penn still finds ways to further flesh out Joe and add more depth. No supporting role can rival what Victoria Pedretti bought to the series, but Charlotte Richie gets close. She puts in an engaging and emotionally strong performance that had me hooked whenever she’s on screen. Any scenes she shares with Penn would have to be my favourites of the series.

In the end, You made the bold choice to do something completely different in its fourth season and it’s mostly paid off. The narrative starts off strong before dipping into a deep lull I didn’t think it would pull itself out of. Thankfully it does, delivering some thrilling episodes full of brilliant twists in the lead-up to the finale, which excels in capping off this season’s journey. There’s some subpar characters and misguided narrative decisions, but overall it’s a great season that takes the top spot over season two ever so slightly.



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