‘You’ Season 4 Lands in London for More Creeping and Ludicrously Entertaining Murder

Netflix’s “You” returns as another example of a series that has settled into a comfortable enough format to please its longtime fans, while possibly attracting a few new viewers. By now all we can really expect from its protagonist is that he will find some new locale from which to creep on women and become embroiled in yet another archaic mystery. Because the show continues to be well-produced, with a strong lead in Penn Badgley, you can’t necessarily slam it. The writing finds a way to keep every season self-contained, with brief links to what came before. This time around, the series is also going for that sly trick of dividing a season into two parts. February will see the first part of season four premier and the second part begins streaming in March.

After getting into trouble in New York City, Los Angeles and American suburbia, Joe (Badgley) has now landed in London. You may recall Joe is quite the scumbag after having killed his wife, Love (Victoria Pedretti) and leaving an infant son behind. Somehow he has managed to snag a job as a college professor at Egham and lives comfortably in a Kensington flat under a new name, Jonathan Moore. Ever the snooper, Joe is aware of what professors are sleeping with which students and continues perfecting his social media stalking skills. He also gets pulled into an elitist circle of Oxford grads who gossip, drink, gossip and drink some more. Out of this bunch comes Joe’s new obsession, neighbor Kate (Charlotte Ritchie), who is the wife of Malcolm (Stephen Hagan), a much friendlier member of the whole snobby Oxford circle. Just as Joe starts doing his deep dive stalking, discovering Kate is icy and frustrated, a murder takes place that not only sets Joe on an investigative hunt, but leads to another stalker who might know about his dark past.

“You” is requiring ever more that one suspend disbelief. This was always one of those shows like “Dexter” where the appeal lay in its fantasy about an obviously deranged individual also turning into an “appealing” anti-hero. The writing teases us into rooting for Joe because he keeps getting himself entrapped by other unsavory personalities. Now he is harassed and hunted, although it is difficult to deny he very much deserves it. Here he’s in London spying on one woman while pining for another from previous seasons, Marienne (Tati Gabrielle), who is in Paris. Why didn’t Joe go to France? We get brief answers in saturated flashbacks. The writers then intentionally surround him with other people we might find even more unlikable, such as wealthy London elites with little perception of the real world. Adam (Lukas Gage of “The White Lotus”) is charmingly absurd as the toasting partner of heiress Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper), who becomes friends with Joe. Of course, as with the professorial profession in the U.S., viewers will wonder how someone with Joe’s salary in the U.K. even gets allowed near the cream of the crop.

Most of the tension in these first five episodes of the season revolves around Joe texting with his secret stalker, which becomes a back and forth full of clues, taunts and challenges. Yet more entertaining are flashes of biting satire, as when Joe attends a funeral and tries to assess which of the rich guests actually feel true remorse. We get inserts of how members of the Oxford circle use a tragedy to conveniently post over-the-top videos on social media raining crocodile tears. Terror spreads over the possibility of an “Eat the Rich” killer roaming about, with whispers of whether the elite should look into purchasing bulletproof vests. When Adam is warned that credit lenders need to be paid soon, he calms everyone down by assuring them he just needs to call his dad for the money.

“You” can’t necessarily be called “great” television. It’s a well-done schlock that will more than continue satisfying its fan base. Badgley still delivers his voiceovers with a rather masterful blend of subdued madness and focused thinking. It’s worth a chuckle when he observes rich Londoners using their servants like props and bemoaning they lack empathy when he’s the killer in hiding. There lies the lasting appeal of the show, in how it follows the trend of much superior titles like “Breaking Bad” and even “Dexter,” where we know we shouldn’t sympathize with the main character. Maybe we never truly sympathize but are entertained with morbid fascination, as implausible as the plot gets. For devoted viewers, this first half of the season offers enough to then patiently wait for the second round of stalking.

You” season 4 part 1 begins streaming Feb. 9 on Netflix.