It’s been over a year since we have huddled together inside the human aquarium of Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), deep in the basement of his wife’s bakery, pondering the lengths to which any (in)sane person would go for True Love™. Netflix has divided the upcoming fourth season of You into two installments, the first of which will be released on February 9 — just in time for Valentine’s Day! If you’re thinking you can’t possibly recall what went down in Madre Linda and where we last left our deep-voiced, brooding psycho killer, fret not. As your You recapper, it is my sacred duty never to forget anything that happens to anyone on this deliciously deranged program. Read on so you can start season four totally up to speed on your manslaughters, murders, faked deaths, and more. And if you really don’t want to miss a thing, I’ve got your recap-of-the-recaps for seasons two and one.
Mazel tov to the new parents!
Joe and Love (Victoria Pedretti) have moved from Los Angeles to Madre Linda, California, a supposedly soulless suburb where their child, Henry, can theoretically one day attend great public schools and be close to his grandma Dottie (Saffron Burrows), who goes by “Glamma” and is a little bit sloshed all of the time. Joe hates everything about this because he did not want a boy for a child (boys are evil, damaged garbage people); he wanted a girl (girls are holy, purehearted sparkle-angels). But he is committed to making it work with the only woman, IMO, who will ever really understand him because she too has committed several homicides, and he doesn’t think he can abandon Henry. They are both trying to turn over some new leaves: Joe isn’t going to get obsessed with anyone, and Love isn’t going to do any murders.
Alas, Joe gets obsessed with someone
Natalie is the girl next door. When the season begins, she’s the “you” of You. She is the wife of a very powerful, rich tech guy, Matt, who has surveillance cameras basically everywhere, and the stepmom of a hot teen named Theo (Dylan Arnold). Joe mostly manages to keep his creepdom in check (he and Natalie have wine but not sex), but he does steal a pair of her underwear. He’s working on it, okay??? Love figures out that Joe is into Natalie, which means …
Natalie was trying to do a nice, normal thing (show Love a space to use as a bakery); little did she know our girl has a bad habit (inflicting blunt-force trauma in moments of passion). In related news, Love signs the three-year lease for the bakery. A woman in business! How exciting. She and Joe reconstruct their human aquarium in the basement, and unbeknownst to each other, they both hide a key inside. As I always say: All great relationships are built on a foundation of suspicion, distrust, and fear.
Joe and Love try to work things out by (1) hiding Natalie’s body together and (2) going to couples therapy. They also attempt to bond with the neighbors they haven’t killed. Unfortunately, this mingling exposes their child to Gil’s unvaccinated spawn, who gives Henry the measles. Upon realizing that this man’s anti-vaxx idiocy sent her son to the hospital, Love knocks him out with a rolling pin and shoves him into the human aquarium. Yes, she was trying not to do blunt-force traumas anymore, but she slipped! Relapse is part of recovery. And anyway, it’s not like he died or anything.
Okay, so technically, this wasn’t a “murder,” but …
Natalie is still missing; meanwhile, Gil is alive in the aquarium, causing Joe and Love a lot of problems. In the time it takes them to do some tracks covering and other important flirtations (Joe with Marienne the librarian, Love with Theo the cute teen), Gil hangs himself. So Joe and Love stage a scene in which Gil is having an affair with Natalie, kills her, and then kills himself. Problem solved! I can’t imagine any problems from here on out!
Is now a good time to tell you that Joe is obsessed with Marienne?
Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) is the librarian. At first, she does not like Joe, for conspicuously dumb reasons (he comes to the library a lot), but in time she realizes they are the same because he also grew up without money and understands struggle. She has an abusive ex with whom she co-parents her daughter, Juliet. Upon learning about the distress of this damsel, it does not take long for Joe to decide that he simply must rescue Marienne and Juliet from this nightmare and run away with them, along with his son — but not Love, who is unlikely to be onboard.
Six months later …
It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl have a romantic courtship and thrilling sexual escapades and commit a smattering of manslaughters. Boy and girl have a baby, settle down, buy a house in the suburbs, kill ONE more person on purpose and one more person by accident, but still, and then they pinky swear: NO MORE MURDERING. But alas, the spark goes out of their relationship. Sure, nobody around them is dying. But are boy and girl really living???
In an exciting twist for us all, Joe and Love are befriended by Sherry (Shalita Grant) and Cary (Travis Scott Van Winkle). Cary takes Joe on a very homoerotic trip to the woods with the men of the neighborhood. While he’s away, Love — who never really stopped texting Theo — caves and has sex with the hot, troubled teen next door.
Which brings us to the inevitable pregnancy scare
Is it Joe’s? Is it Theo’s? It ends up not mattering because Love gets her period. While Love is on a totally normal trip (hallucinating her dead brother while hanging out at her mom’s new winery), Joe stalks Marienne’s ex, who apparently never stopped using drugs and torments Marienne every day.
In more exciting news: Sherry tells Love about how to tap into her most sensual, sexual self; after a few misfires and misunderstandings, Sherry makes a more straightforward play. She and Cary want to be open with Joe and Love! Love reports this to Joe at quite the opportune moment: Right after Joe finds out from a very drunk Glamma that Love totally killed her first husband. We all knew there was no way that guy died of natural causes, and technically Glamma has no proof save for her “mother’s intuition,” but COME ON.
We also get more extremely on-the-nose information about Joe’s childhood
He spent a lot of time in what I call “The Queen’s Gambit Tranquilizer Den for Separating the Weak From the Merely Abandoned,” where he learned things like “if someone else is a bully and you decide they are bad, you should push them down the stairs, actually” and “it’s probably your fault that your favorite nurse was abused by her shitty boyfriend.” Probably you could’ve surmised as much from everything we’ve already seen in the present day, but You is not about subtext. You doesn’t believe in “show, don’t tell.” You believes in show and tell and tell us again via voice-over. More is more, baby!!
Meanwhile, at the house next door
Matthew, Natalie’s husband, employs a P.I. and a young coder with facial-recognition software to comb through the neighborhood footage to find Natalie’s killer. The Gil frame job does not convince him. This is important because Theo sneaks into his dad’s office and sees, among other unsettling things, some evidence that Joe is violent toward Love, which makes Theo all the more determined to rescue her from her dangerous husband. And eventually, Theo will be able to see what his dad missed in this footage: Joe moving Natalie’s body.
Cary and Sherry have a hot date planned with Joe and Love, and it’s all going swell until Love realizes that Joe is thinking about someone else (Marienne) while looking at her. Their argument builds to her shouting, “I KILLED NATALIE FOR YOU,” which, unfortunately for everyone involved, Cary and Sherry totally heard. This earns them a free, indefinite stay in the human aquarium in the bakery basement! This whole sequence is absolutely batshit, fantastic, and the best this show has ever been — a real high-water mark for everybody.
Okay, actually, Joe has to do just one more murder really quick
Marienne has a custody hearing that goes very poorly. Joe comforts her even though he has, like, one job (cleaning up after an attempted double homicide). Then, because he is convinced that his only path to happiness is with Marienne, he murders Ryan. (He stages this as a mugging.)
Literally, someone learn to drop a pin. I am begging you!
Theo takes his intel about Joe and goes straight to Love with it, which means he walks in on her keeping Cary and Sherry hostage in the aquarium. Not an ideal scenario. Love knocks him out with a fire extinguisher — old habits, you know — and then (accidentally?) drops him while trying to get him up the stairs. As far as she knows, she has killed her hot, troubled teen.
In the end …
Love really believes she and Joe can make a go of it now: Have another baby, kill Cary and Sherry, and make it look like another murder-suicide. The simple life! Joe pretends to go along with this, but Love finds out that he’s got other plans, and our finale is an excellent cat-and-mouse game between our two killers.
Joe tells Marienne that he and Love are separating, and she, in turn, invites him and Henry to get out of town with her and Juliet. He wants to “tie up a few loose ends,” by which he means “dispose of Theo’s body,” but — twist! — Theo is alive! In his great benevolence, Joe drops Theo off at a hospital.
Over a roast-chicken dinner, Love reveals to Joe that she did kill her first husband, but it was an accident — she overdosed him with this paralytic when really she just wanted to talk! Now she’s got it all figured out: She paralyzes Joe by putting the poison on a knife handle (brilliant!). When Marienne comes over, Love tells her that Joe killed Ryan and that the best thing she can do is get the hell out of there. Actually, great advice from a fully insane person … even a broken clock, you know?
Just as Love goes to slit Joe’s throat, Joe leaps up and injects her with this poison he was growing in their garden this whole time. Suburbia is death! He sends out a suicide note as Love to the Madre Linda HOA LISTSERV, taking responsibility for all the bad things they did (killing Gil and Natalie, kidnapping Cary and Sherry) and adds his own death to the list. Joe chops off two of his own toes and bakes them into a chicken pot pie, then burns their house down with Love inside it!!!!
His cover-up, he tells us via voice-over, totally worked: “There was just enough half-charred evidence, including two toes.” Joe leaves Henry (his son, whom you probably forgot about) with a neighbor and hightails it out of the U.S. He thinks Marienne went to Paris, and he just knows she’s waiting for him so they can start their new life as soulmates <3.
Cary + Sherry 4ever
Do they shoot each other while trapped in the aquarium? Yes, okay, but it was a really stressful time!! They make it out alive because they realize that Joe and Love don’t trust each other, which means there’s gotta be a key — and they’re right. They escape and live to go on what I hope is a lucrative and successful inspirational-speaker circuit, shilling “the Cube” as a means of intensive, amazing couples therapy. I would watch a spinoff about these two. I would watch Shalita Grant do anything. But in the meantime, I will watch Joe try to outrun his past by fleeing to Europe. See you there!!