You Season 4 Proves Two-Part Seasons Don’t Always Work
Hello, you. Did you enjoy the show?
Recently, Netflix has decided to release new seasons of popular original series in two parts with a one-month separation. This worked for Stranger Things, which became the hot topic of the summer, and left viewers eager to see how the gang defeats the big boss of the Upside Down. But this isn’t the case for You. Netflix’s psychological thriller strayed from its original formula using a borrowed concept that didn’t work with a two-part release schedule.
The newest season consists of 10 episodes total, with five episodes released as Part 1 with Part 2 following the next month. With Part 1 not revealing the big plot twist of the season, the lull while waiting for its conclusion left audiences plenty of time to theorize what might happen. Far too much time, as it turned out. One theory became very prominent amongst the community; so much so, that it went from popular consensus to more or less fully accepted as canon on Reddit. The theory was that Rhys was not real and that the killer was actually Joe.
The first five episodes give obvious clues that confirm this theory. There are multiple conversations between Joe and Rhys, but Rhys never interacts with anyone else at public events. He mostly remains silent, and only addresses Joe when they move to a more private area like a balcony. And yet, there is one slip that gives it all away. Joe responds to Rhys during the dinner party at Lady Phoebe’s estate, and Adam responds with “what was that?” This confirms that Adam only heard Joe’s voice, and not Rhys. Even with other details that cast a shadow of a doubt, the evidence is overwhelming, especially when fans have a month to re-watch and dissect these episodes.
Other speculations gained traction due to casting information and teasers for Part 2. For example, Marienne Bellamy, played by Tati Gabrielle, hardly appears in the first half of the season, but Gabrielle is listed as a main character for season 4. Therefore, many fans believed that Joe had had her locked in a cage the entire time.
Now, you may be asking yourself why this is a problem. Well, when these popular theories came to fruition on all of our screens on March 9, they had been so accurate that the joy of actually watching it all unfold went out the window. The season played out exactly as predicted, which caused it to feel like a re-watch instead of a first binge.
Prior to March 9, I counted down the days barely able to contain my excitement. Waking up, I eagerly put on my favorite show awaiting the satisfaction that You always delivered. But, my heart sank when the real Rhys opened the door unaware of Joe’s identity which then confirmed that Rhys was his “Tyler Durden” — as in, the character from Fight Club, which predates You by more than two decades. Then, after seeing Marienne in the cage, the immersive experience I had hoped for had completely depleted; nothing shocked me.
It’s worth noting that Fight Club popularized the split-consciousness twist that You essentially copies in shameless fashion. That iconic movie is fondly remembered as the most accomplished of its kind, and it has been dissected by countless experts and fans ever since for its clever use of those techniques. As a result, it’s a narrative trick that wasn’t ever likely to go unnoticed in the case of You when audiences had so much time to put two and two together. After all, consider Mr. Robot, which follows another unreliable narrator and received criticism for feeling like a copycat for the same reasons.
This plot twist could have functioned for You, but the only way to protect it would have been to release the season all at once. You has just enough differences that it may have blindsided fans. This season was not meant to be divided into two parts, though. To work, the writing would have needed to change to accommodate the different release schedule (i.e. including the big reveal in Part 1).
Netflix’s binge-watching platform has worked well in the past for You because its signature pacing includes a lot of build-up leading to a shocking moment in the final episodes. Season 2, for example, caught us all by surprise in the final 2 episodes when Love Quinn kills Candace and confesses her previous kills. This formula does not work with a two-part release schedule, especially if there are enough context clues to ruin the surprise for analytical fans.
With You’s popularity, I can see why, financially speaking, it would make sense that Netflix would choose to split the release into two parts. It’s likely that encouraging subscribers not to cancel their subscription in anticipation of Part 2 was the publisher’s intent. After all, it did work for Stranger Things. But for You, that decision ruined what could have been a compelling season, but one that has instead quickly become known as its worst season yet by fans who have voiced concern on social media.
For any show, a huge part of its success hinges on its audience remaining locked into uncovering what’s around the next corner. Without that, the interest fizzles out and audiences are left with a sour taste in their mouths. With that being said, there is hope for a better fifth season with Joe returning to his hometown under his own identity, which opens up for more compelling storyline. But, let’s hope that Netflix comes to its senses and sticks to a full release schedule moving forward.
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