The internet’s favorite murderer is back with a vengeance (and a beard!) for a fourth season of his Netflix thriller. And this time, it’s a whole new YOU.
As revealed in Part 1, now streaming, the man formerly known as Joe Goldberg has fled Madre Linda for a quiet life across the pond. Reborn as English professor Jonathan Moore, the well-read sociopath is starting over in London, determined to avoid matters of the heart — be it stealing them or stopping them.
Despite Joe’s new persona, however, Penn Badgley insists that he’s “not playing a role.” Instead he’s “choosing to almost hide in plain sight and try to live a more honest life in a corner in which he’s not known,” the actor tells TVLine.
“When we set Joe on his journey this season, he’s not a guy looking for love, willing to do whatever it takes to whatever stands in his way,” showrunner Sera Gamble adds. “He’s someone who has experienced a lot of heartbreak and loss. He’s had a realization about some of the bad things he’s done, and he’s trying to do better.”
But is there really such a thing as “better” for a guy like Joe? That’s hard enough to say at the top of the hour, let alone by the end of it. Read on for a breakdown of the premiere’s biggest moments, plus intel from the team that made it happen…
Despite his best efforts to lay low, Joe reluctantly attends a gathering at Sundry House, an exclusive club where he befriends — or at least befrenemizes, which is totally a word — a fabulous crew of beautiful, rich garbage people.
Episode 1 introduces us to, among others, Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper), a well-meaning tabloid fixture who doesn’t think twice about serving Joe absinthe before telling him what it is; Adam (Lukas Gage), Phoebe’s walking red flag of a boyfriend; and Rhys (Ed Speleers), an author and aspiring politician, arguably one of the only new people Joe actually likes.
The old Joe would love to see any of these one-percenters get what’s coming to them, but as Gamble reminds us, he’s really trying this time. For real.
“In previous seasons, we introduced privileged a–holes that we got to enjoy, in a dark way, getting their comeuppance,” she says. “This time, we’re making Joe have to protect those people instead of doing what he might want to do.”
Speaking of protecting the rich, Joe only gains access to Sundry House because he saves his co-worker Malcolm’s girlfriend Kate (Charlotte Ritchie) from a mugging. And, honestly, it’s the least he could do after watching Kate pleasure herself from a distance — a nice callback to when Joe gave himself the business outside Beck’s apartment back in Season 1.
Because we all know how Joe operates at this point, it’s only a minor spoiler that he spends a lot more time with Kate as Part 1 progresses. And the chemistry is real.
“One of my favorite kinds of romantic comedies are the ones where they hate each other on sight, and that’s a story we hadn’t done yet,” Gamble says. “I think the romance novel community calls it enemies to lovers, like it’s a trope. Passion is passion. In an alternate universe in Season 1, where Joe was more Peach’s cup of tea, there might have been some hate banging happening there, too, right?”
As for what specifically draws Joe to Kate, Ritchie’s character is “formidable,” Gamble adds. “She really embraces the moniker of ‘bitch’ and all of that. It’s also interesting and kind of appealing to think of Joe with a challenging woman that makes him rise to her level. She represents the next level of maturity for him, potentially.”
Then there’s the Marienne of it all. We learn through flashbacks that Joe followed her from Paris to London, where he eventually tracked her down at an art fair.
“When she first sees him, for a second, she is excited,” Tati Gabrielle tells TVLine. “Then she starts to remember all of the things she was told by Love, and everything she probably read about what happened to Joe and Love. The fact that he’s standing in front of her, not dead, confirms all of the things she once feared.”
Marienne makes a run for it, but Joe soon corners her in an alley. He insists she’s wrong, that he isn’t a bad person (editor’s note: he’s lying!), vowing to prove that to her as he slinks back into the shadows.
“Her instinct to run and be frightened is just a survival instinct,” Gabrielle says. “We know this man has killed people. But it was still a hard thing for her to accept, because she did see the softer parts of this man, and she did love them.”
But Joe isn’t done with Marienne just yet! We soon learn that a man named Elliot has been paid by Love’s father to murder Joe. Fortunately, Elliot wants out of the killing game, so he agrees to fake Joe’s death if Joe takes out the only other person who knows he’s still alive. Unfortunately, that person is Marienne.
Cue the biggest twist of all: Joe, who has killed every woman he’s ever loved… actually spares Marienne’s life! After seeing Marienne off on a train back to Paris (from a distance, like the creep he is), Joe gives Elliot her stolen necklace, which serves as proof that the deed is done.
Maybe he really has changed!
Or maybe not.
Because when Joe awakens from his accidental absinthe bender, his buddy Malcolm is lying face up on the dining room table with a knife in his chest. Unable to remember anything from the night before, Joe assumes he must have slipped up and killed Malcolm, a mess he quickly cleans up. (Gee, it’s almost like he’s had to dispose of a body once or twice before.)
Joe is (somewhat) relieved to learn of his innocence after Malcolm’s real killer messages him on an app he doesn’t remember downloading. But that only begs another question: Whodunit?!
Any theories as to who killed Malcolm? Grade the Season 4 premiere in our poll below, then drop a comment with your best guess. (For those readers who have watched ahead, no spoilers!)
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