“You” has already gotten a lot of mileage out of its idea, causing viewers to sympathize with, if not necessarily support, a stylish murdering stalker. The Netflix sensation feels dangerously close to jumping the shark by the time the fourth season is through because it has gotten a little too charming for its (or your, if you prefer) own good. However, the fourth season opens in a traditionally convoluted manner.
Narrator/stalker/killer Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) had faked his own death and moved to Europe when the most recent arc begins, adopting a new name, and working as a professor at a nearby college, as the season three finale hinted.
There, he manages to fit in, if you can call it that, while making friends with a gang of affluent and snobby jet-setting socialites and influencers, who are sufficiently revolting that you’re not supposed to feel too bad when one (or more) of them dies.
This time, Joe finds himself in a situation that plays out like a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious adversary who seems to be one step ahead of him, which causes him to have a lot of those rat-a-tat internal monologues for which he is known.
The mystery surrounding that and the concerns of who might be responsible for those troubling text messages develop at a nice speed, initially with a “Knives Out”-like vibe, against opulent European settings that naturally evoke comparisons to “Downton Abbey.”
Similar to “Stranger Things,” Netflix knows a hit when it sees one and will release half of the season in February and the remaining content a month later to spread the “You” wealth a little farther. Unfortunately, the tale starts to lose its way in the second half as the writers unleash twists that undercut the intriguing position where the midseason break left off.
Ad Feedback Badgley is still hilarious as the cunning psychopath who makes a mess of himself for love and occasionally commits murder, bumbling from one dangerous scenario to the next.
However, the unexpected success of “You” (which, as some may recall, initially debuted on Lifetime before Netflix swooped in and helped the program blow up) has undoubtedly increased pressure to keep the money machine running, which is always a difficulty with this kind of creative highwire performance.
Even though “You” made it through its fourth season, the rope now appears to be dangerously frayed. While Joe has defied the odds thus far, reinventing himself as a stalker, new father, and international man of mystery, it feels like it’s time for him to have a heart-to-heart with himself about how to get out of this narrative while the getting’s good.
The fourth season of “You” premieres on Netflix on February 9.