Putting Joe’s childhood flashbacks behind was the way to go

You found something special in how it orchestrated its fourth season. While the series got pretty formulaic in the first three chapters, the final season finally brought something new to the table. There were two seemingly distinct parts of Season 4’s 10-episode arc, including a suspenseful twist in the second half of the season that turned everything we knew from Part 1 on its head. By putting together and giving a new version of an old formula Penn Badgley a chance to show off his acting skills even more than usual, You achieved everything that was needed with Season 4. The fear of repetition was suppressed. After all, the main actor of the show had a few assignments to make. There was more to this story than just Joe Goldberg killing people because of his obsession with a woman.


When looking back You Season 4, one of the best creative changes, is something that may have flown under some fans’ radar: the removal of Joe’s childhood flashbacks that we’ve seen regularly in previous seasons. In addition to adding context to Joe’s upbringing and how he got to the point where we see him today, these flashbacks seemed to serve to make the audience identify with this twisted character. There is a growing interest in dark, evil trails dating back to the days of dexter. You doing what he can to make Joe as attractive as possible despite his heinous acts, and showing us flashbacks to Joe’s rough childhood is a tool to make us sympathize with him – and that’s exactly why Season 4 made the right decision met to drop them.

RELATED: ‘You’ Ends Season 5 — Good!

“Her early childhood flashbacks made us sympathize too much with Joe

Penn Badgley in you
Image via Netflix

In the early days of You, there was an interest in seeing how this violent persona came to be. We knew that Joe must have experienced something traumatic to get to this point in his life – the way he was able to navigate life as an innocent bookstore manager without ever being troubled by his horrific crimes was fascinating. So the decision to incorporate brief moments in the past into his younger self made sense. Interestingly, it seemed to give us a way to sympathize with this horrible person. Of course it was risky to go in this direction, but in the end it did the trick You to what it is today.

Similar to dexterby making the serial killer someone that viewers bond with and even sympathize with (sick as it may be to get to that point) – You was able to keep us engaged with every step Joe took. By using childhood flashbacks, You was able to create such a compelling protagonist that some fans cheered him on despite his serial killer ways. This is part of what was done You Work, but it’s also a big part of why cutting them out was the right decision for Season 4. Joe endured heartbreaking trauma as a child, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a serial killer who will stalk and murder anyone who gets in his way.

Also, after so many seasons, there comes a point where flashbacks become tiresome because they don’t necessarily add anything new to our understanding of a character. It was hard to see how Joe’s mother abandoned him as a child, how he sought her affections to the point where he would kill in her defense, and how every aspect of his life, even outside of his home, was quite murky. At some point, however, these flashbacks became unnecessary. We could tell his upbringing was brutal. We knew this was at the root of what he has become. There were moments in season 2 where the flashbacks felt overused, but in season 3 the school nurse storyline felt forced. Getting rid of them entirely in Season 4 only helped move the narrative along.

You Season 4 used flashbacks in a different, more effective way

Tati Gabrielle as Marienne in You Season 4
Image via Netflix

With the concept of You Season 4 would have been almost impossible to seamlessly recall Joe’s childhood in a really effective way. There was the fact that he had given up his old identity, so it would have felt out of place to rehash his past. Even more to make this grand revelation possible – that the Rhys (Ed Speleers) that we saw in Part 1 was really just Joe’s psyche – leaving little time for anything else to pay off.

To convey this twist, Part 2 spent much of Episode 8 flashbacking what really happened between Joe and Marienne (Taty Gabrielle, Season 4’s stealth MVP) through her perspective. This was a much better and necessary use of the show’s time. The final episode also saw a few flashbacks to fill in the gaps. While Joe and Kate (Charlotte Richie) were interviewed in the final scene, viewers had to wonder what happened to Nadia (Amy Leigh Hickman) and Edward (Brad Alexander). Not too long into this interaction we see a flashback of what happened to these two students, with one sadly experiencing his death and the other facing a murky outcome after being framed.

There was a lot of that this season You tries to achieve what makes it the most ambitious chapter of You to date. However, all the creative changes seemed to be paying off, including the omission of Joe’s childhood. The inner dialogue between Joe and himself – aka Rhys – was intriguing and took all the screen time he could get. The use of flashbacks was all justified this time around and added some much-needed context to this season’s storyline. It’s not that the glimpse into Joe’s childhood was unnecessary in previous seasons, he just ran his course once we got used to him and didn’t need further context of who he used to be. Even more important is the time this season of You It would have been better not to try to make us sympathize with Joe’s past or hope for his redemption, but to show us who he has really become in the present.

All four seasons of You stream now on Netflix.

https://collider.com/you-season-4-joe-childhood-flashbacks/ Putting Joe’s childhood flashbacks behind was the way to go

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: dustinhuang@24ssports.com.

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