Caroline Kepnes' frightening, twisted, and ever-popular television adaptation has long left its source material behind, but the fourth season of You continues to freshen up the nail-biting narrative we've come to expect. The setting has been reimagined by series star Penn Badgley's hopelessly romantic but murderous character, Joe Goldberg.
Season four of You, part one picks up where season three's climactic events left off. Joe, (who now goes by Jonathan Moore) has once again managed to avoid being investigated by the authorities. His relentless obsession with Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) takes him to Paris and London shortly thereafter, where he continues his search.
Joe get a shady new job teaching a literature course at a university. He also finds himself in the midst of what is perhaps the most terrifying and pretentious social circle yet, one that Badgley's other cast members (Charlotte Ritchie, Lukas Gage, and Ed Speelers, among others) execute superbly. Never before has Joe (who by this point has more than a few kills) been painted as the good guy.
As usual, the bodies of those closest to Joe start piling up. However, in a fresh twist, Joe discovers a mysterious individual who appears to know a thing or two about his past. Blood begins spraying as Joe tries to avoid sinking into his "old habits" of falling head over heels for the women around him.
As such, the first half of You's fourth season upturns what we've come to expect, and steers Joe from predator to prey, forever enrapting audiences. It's as macabre, sexy, and absurd as ever, with Joe continuing to encounter such ridiculous situations and conversations that you'll rarely forgive.
Joe spends much of his time investigating the genre he refuses to accept for himself and for the general public as he tries to determine the identity of his mysterious stalker. Fortunately, Joe's big reveal in the mid-season finale failed to shock him, instead choking the formulaic.
Although You has always embraced the absurdity of how Joe and his co-conspirators continue to commit murder, there are a few moments at which things become a bit too unbelievable and convenient. There are a number of character motivations and body disposal techniques contained in this episode that may lead to an audible, "Come on, please?" moment, but they don't diminish the show's overall charm, which has easily surpassed the most budget cinematic sequences so far.
The stakes have never been higher for Joe and his peers by the time the credits roll on the first half of the season. It will leave viewers titillated and aghast as to how exactly the charismatic killer will be able to worm his way out of his biggest and most prominent predicament so far. March cannot come soon enough.