Does You Season 4 Remind Anyone Else of This Movie?
"You" Season 4's Twist Ending Copied From a Classic Movie Proves the Show Has Run Out of Ideas
Watch out! This post contains spoilers.
"You" season four styled itself after a murder mystery from its very first episode. Planting our antihero Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) in London — this time with only a beard and a fake name as his disguise — the show follows Joe as he tries to solve a series of murders committed, for once, by someone other than himself.
But it turns out that "You" season four was never a murder mystery. Instead, it was channeling another story the entire time. (A word of caution: If you haven't seen the show, this is the point where you should definitely stop reading, lest you lose out on the season's biggest twist.)
It seems "You" season four was nothing more than a knockoff of "Fight Club." Yes, it's true: the show seems to have copied its main twist directly from David Fincher's classic 1999 ode to angst and ennui. Just as "Fight Club"'s narrator (Edward Norton) believes he's been following the charismatic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) when he's really just been Durden the whole time, the person Joe thinks is the murderer has just been him all along.
In the first episode of "You," Joe meets Rhys Montrose (Ed Speelers), an ambitious yet humble politician with a past full of unnamed traumas. Rhys is the only other working-class person in the group of rich British socialites Joe falls into, and like Joe, while he seems disgusted by his friends' absurd wealth, he's oddly incapable of extricating himself from the group. Then the rich friends start dying, one by one, at the hands of a serial killer the press nicknames the Eat the Rich Killer. At the same time, Joe finds himself being taunted and blackmailed by an unknown person who sends him ominous texts that disappear into puffs of digital smoke.
At the end of season four, part one, Rhys reveals that he's been the killer and the person harassing Joe via text this whole time. Only at the end of the second part, which premiered on March 9, do we realize that Joe and Rhys are one and the same. Joe has been fully dissociating from his murderous tendencies by attributing them as an entirely separate person.
It's a pretty much exact replica of the twist at the heart of "Fight Club," which follows an unfulfilled, unnamed insomniac (Norton) who attends support groups for fun. The narrator resembles Joe in that he sees himself as a passive observer, swept along by the people around him and by forces beyond his control.
Everything changes for the narrator, though, when he meets Tyler Durden, a soap salesman who offers him a way out of the capitalistic trap he's caught in. The narrator and Tyler quickly start an underground fight club together, move into an abandoned old house, and eventually launch a nebulous plot called Project Mayhem that culminates in the destruction of a building full of credit card records. Of course, everything changes when the narrator discovers that Tyler — the embodiment of masculinity, chaos, rebellion, and everything else the narrator has always wanted to be but suppressed — has been him all along.
Unlike Tyler Durden, who is entirely a hallucination, there is a real person named Rhys Montrose in the "You" universe. He is an ambitious young politician, but he isn't a member of Joe's friend group and isn't responsible for any murders. Of course, before realizing he's been imagining a murderous version of Rhys, Joe kills the real Rhys anyway in one of the show's most brutal sequences.
"You" has always been bloody and darkly humorous, but by the time it reaches its "Fight Club" twist in season four, it's taken a turn for the totally absurd. The show's decision to reuse the "Fight Club" twist is possibly the season's most genuinely interesting moment, which is not exactly saying much. At this point, Joe's schtick has gotten predictable. We know that he's going to become obsessed with a woman, kill a lot of people, trap someone in a cage, and get off scot-free, all while convincing himself he's the good guy. The addition of the "Fight Club" twist added a breath of energy to a series that feels like it's just been going on for too long.
In truth, "You" season four is simply unable to replace Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), Joe's equally murderous wife who he manages to kill at the end of season three. After swearing off his newest obsession, Marianne (Tati Gabrielle), at the start of season four, Joe becomes infatuated with a new girl named Kate (Charlotte Richie). However, out of all of Joe's obsessions, Kate is definitely the least well-developed character. Coming so soon after the richly fascinating Love and far more compelling Merianne, Kate seems almost intentionally bland. She's yet another girl with a troubled relationship with her rich father, like most of Joe's other obsessions, but she's mostly unlikable and bitter during her time on screen, making it hard to see why Joe idealizes her or why she falls for him — and the show doesn't do enough with their relationship to make us truly care enough to figure out any of it.
"You" season four could have chosen to change things up here in several ways. For example, it could have made Joe obsessed with his hallucinated version of Rhys instead of a new love interest. It also could have chosen to keep Love alive instead of Joe, making her the protagonist of the next season, then it could have started along a new path, and maybe then a "Fight Club"-esque twist would have felt fresher. It's easy to imagine Love wrapped up in her delusions, imagining Joe still alive or following another woman around who kills the rich moms of Madre Linda and turns out to have been her the whole time.
Trying to compare "You" to "Fight Club" doesn't exactly work; they're very tonally different from each other. Still, they both satirize capitalism and wealth, and they both explore the idea of what would happen if one's inner violent nature was fully unleashed. There are a number of interpretations of "Fight Club," many at odds with one another. Some believe it's arguing that masculinity is inherently violent and has been suppressed by modern social norms, making it into a flashpoint for a certain kind of regressive sexism. Others believe it's really railing against capitalism and the way it harms every gender.
"You" season four probably lands closer to the first camp, and if the show does have a coherent message, it's that sometimes nice-guy exteriors can house true malice. Joe is someone who is so insane and evil that the twist — when applied to his story — lands us right back to where we started at the beginning of the series, instead of opening up the possibility of genuine growth and change like we see at the end of "Fight Club."
At the end of both "You" and "Fight Club," both characters attempt to kill their hallucinated doubles by killing themselves. In an effort to destroy Rhys, Joe jumps off a bridge. Similarly, at the end of "Fight Club," as The Pixies's "Where Is My Mind" plays, the narrator shoots himself in an effort to kill Tyler Durden once he realizes the ripple effect his journey into chaos is having.
Both Joe and the narrator survive, though Tyler Durden never comes back at all in the remainder of "Fight Club," whereas Rhys reappears to Joe in the final frames of "You" to the sound of Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero." At this point, it's clear that Joe's violence is static, and "You" has also become a static show, making the same point over and over. Joe continues to get off scot-free, his rich lover gets ever-richer, and "You" gets to continue to be as absurd as ever — though, of course, we can't look away.