Last season, Joe (Penn Badgley) made some questionable decisions. However, his time had run out in the states, and he had to truly disappear. That left him with few options, and while Season 3 ended on a Parisian cliffhanger, Season 4 shifts our setting just a bit. Placing Joe at an elite college in London, we will have to see Joe come to grips with a different kind of wealth than the money enjoyed by Love (Victoria Pedretti) and her family. At the same time, Joe truly cannot help himself. The question is, will Agatha Christie be intrigued? Kicking us off with a murder and a mystery, “Joe Takes a Holiday” marks the exciting kickoff for You Season 4. John Scott directs and the teleplay is written by Sera Gamble & Leo Richardson.
The Recap – “Joe Takes a Holiday”
We open in London and on Oxford campus. We follow Nadia (Amy-Leigh Hickman) as she walks through the campus and joins a classroom. The course “American Iconoclasts of the Short Story” is taught by Joe (Penn Badgley). He pushes his students to discuss his selections, and the discussion takes a contentious tone as the students argue. At the end of class, Nadia asks why he chooses these books. He says the people who choose other stories are lazy. Nadia thinks that he’s surprising and offers up a book of her own by Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers).
Joe continues his narration telling Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) he misses her. As he walks through the campus, he runs into fellow professor Malcolm (Stephan Hagan). Joe strongly dislikes Malcolm, but the man also set him up with his new apartment. They live across a courtyard from each other, and Joe can see directly into Malcolm’s apartment.
Joe sees Kate Galvin (Charlotte Ritchie) through the window and immediately becomes interested. He begins snooping. Kate realizes she works hard, is the daughter of a model, and seems at odds with Malcolm. One night, Joe looks through the window and sees Kate pleasuring herself. He writes off his interest as “studying to avoid the circus.” Joe laments missing having someone to watch.
He pulls out a locket, which contains pictures of Marienne. We lash back to a few weeks earlier, and he walks through Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. He discovers that she is in Europe, attending an art festival in London.
Joe begins to leave his office and hears Kate and Malcolm fighting. He doesn’t want to be involved, but as he walks the same route home, Kate is attacked. Joe steps in to help, but when she calls the police, he asks her to leave him out of it. Joe tells us they drove home together and made small talk.
Malcolm comes over and thanks Joe for his help. While he goes on about being discriminated against for being wealthy, Malcolm invites Joe out to Adam Pratt’s Sundry house. The very exclusive club for the rich is full of Malcolm’s wealthy friends.
Out front of the club, they meet Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper), who is Kate’s best friend. Phoebe goes on to introduce Joe to the rest of the group. He meets tech giant Blessing (Ozioma Whenu), the successful artist Simon Soo (Aidan Cheng), his sister Sophie Soo (Niccy Lin), the wealthy Roald (Ben Wiggins), the boisterous Gemma (Eve Austin), and “the lunatic” Connie (Dario Coates). Finally, he’s then introduced to Adam (Lukas Gage), owner of the club and Lady Phoebe’s boyfriend.
Malcolm tells Joe to wait before leaving, and as he waits, Rhys Montrose arrives. Joe compliments Rhy’s book, and they bond over their shared background from non-wealthy upbringings. As Joe gets ready to leave, Phoebe runs up to him and hands him a glass of absinthe. Phoebe asks what brought Joe to London, guessing it was a woman.
Joe remembers seeing Marienne at the art fair, and she runs when she sees him.
Joe is too drunk to leave and soon finds himself stuck talking to Malcolm. He speaks badly of Marienne, and while Joe is upset, he accepts a second glass of absinthe. Malcolm offers to bring Joe home.
After realizing Malcolm got him home, Joe gets up and pours himself a cup of coffee. However, Malcolm is dead on his table, with a knife sticking out of his chest. Joe does not remember killing Malcolm and wonders if he did it for the bad things Malcolm said about Marienne. He observes the body is missing a finger and, out the window, sees the police speaking with Kate. Joe realizes that she has not reported Malcolm missing but instead is talking to them about the mugging. He wraps up Malcolm’s body in a rug and rushes it down to a car he can borrow.
As Joe sees himself in the mirror, he remembers Marienne again. After she spotted him, she ran away. Joe chased Marienne through the streets, eventually catching up to her in an abandoned building. She draws a knife on him, but he quickly disarms her. Marienne tells Joe that Juliette is waiting for her in Paris, asking him to let her see her daughter. She calls him a murderer, and in an effort to prove his worth, Joe allows her to leave. As Joe leaves the building, a man in the corner watches him go.
Back in the present, Joe brings Malcolm’s body to a warehouse with a buzz saw. Joe dismembers Malcolm, piece by piece. He also makes a joke about Malcolm’s Prince Albert. He reloads the pieces of the body back in the car.
Joe reminisces about how he got his new identity. After Marienne ran away from him, Joe wanted to drown his sorrows in a drink. Elliot (Adam James), a hitman hired by Love’s father, approaches him with an offer. Pay Elliott more money than Love’s family, and he’ll let Joe go. Elliott’s heart is not in killing Joe, so for Love’s money, he will wipe the slate. Elliott slides the “Jonathan” identity across the table. Before he leaves, he tells Joe to clean up loose ends. This means killing Marienne.
Joe dumps Malcolm’s body in parts of London and returns to Adam’s club. He returns a jacket from the night before and runs into Rhys while he was there. They discuss their low points, and Rhys jokes about the fact that changed his true story to make the book a better read. They continue to bond about their pasts before Rhys leaves the club.
In the past, Joe sneaks up on Marienne and steals her locket. He does not kill her, despite Elliott’s demand. Joe takes a picture of Marienne’s locket and sends the picture to Elliott. He hopes this will suffice and tells Elliott he killed her.
Joe runs into Kate, who invites him out to dinner. Phoebe is apparently obsessed with whatever Joe said to her. Kate berates him and threatens to make the world think Joe is responsible for making Phoebe cry. She also confirms she told the police nothing. That night, Joe gets ready to walk into the club but receives a text from an app he’s never used. The app, Evanesce, erases messages after they arrive. The person messaging Joe reveals they’re actually Malcolm’s killer. He realizes it must be somebody from the group waiting in the club inside.
The Breakdown – “Joe Takes a Holiday”
You feels like a show that skates on the knife’s edge between brilliant and difficult to watch. The gore, blood, and sex are one thing. The nihilistic, overly-written inner monologue is another. Yet there is something about Penn Badgley that is undeniably interesting to watch. The actor continues to draw us into his murderous story, even as the rest of the cast changes over from Season 3. Quite the flex by the showrunners and the writers.
However, this does force “Joe Takes a Holiday” to deliver a lot of information very quickly. There are a few too many exposition dumps, even for a reset like this one. The group of friends Joe finds himself with is quite large, so excuse any performers that did not get credited in the tags below. Considering Malcolm is already out of the game and the very high friend count in the show, expect to see more bodies pile up.
The new season bounces between two apparent love interests for Joe. You immediately stokes both fires. Will he actually follow through with rekindling the romance with Marienne? With an episode name like “Joe Takes a Holiday,” it seems plausible. However, casting Charlotte Ritchie is hard to ignore. One of the stars of Call the Midwife and the British Ghosts, Ritchie has quite the fanbase. The role is also a departure for her, making it an exciting choice for her future.
There’s also something to be said about Joe being caught in a murder mystery from the word go. Yes, the Brits love themselves an Agatha Christie story. At the same time, this shift almost immediately reframes Joe. This could be the point, as his psychotic side seems to take a back seat to his more “hero” side. That might be a questionable choice unless, of course, Joe does his Joe thing to screw everything up. More exciting, it seems that Joe has a worthy adversary who is ready to do his own dirty bidding. Are we looking at another killer-to-lover relationship (e.g. Season 2)? Or something far less sexual? Only time will tell.
Of note, You‘s expansive cast makes for quite the mystery. After all, there are many (many) potential murderers to choose from. In addition to backstory upon backstory, and we know Joe never finds himself in clean situations. This makes “Joe Takes a Holiday” something of a palette cleanser. It will only get messier from here, but we needed a breather before we go full-tilt batshit over the next five episodes.
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