Major spoilers ahead for You season 4.
Much to the chagrin of literary snob and serial killer Joe Goldberg, the fourth season of You has gone from thriller to full-on murder mystery. After trying (again) to make a fresh start in London as Professor Jonathan Moore, he gets pulled into a despicable circle of rich friends, who start ending up dead, one by one. What’s worse, he’s being framed for the murders by an anonymous texter—the real killer—who knows his true identity and all the dirty secrets of his past, from Candace to Love. Joe is no Agatha Christie fan, but it doesn’t take long for him to recognize the familiar tropes as they materialize: “Shit. I’m in a whodunit,” he sneers, “the lowest form of literature.”
Nevertheless, he tries to weed out the culprit after receiving some wisdom from his student, Nadia, about the mystery genre. “There is a formula; the formula is fun. It draws you in, it hides a social commentary,” she says. It’s a very meta wink to the show’s own attempts at skewering the upper class, a far from novel idea but one that will draw comparisons to its contemporaries in the satire-meets-murder lane, Knives Out and The White Lotus. (In this case, Joe is like if Benoit Blanc wore tweed jackets instead of pastel ascots, was a killer himself, and hated solving mysteries.) You makes its “eat the rich” themes clear with a literal Eat the Rich killer who rises to infamy after killing off a few members of Joe’s affluent clique: first Malcolm, his neighbor Kate’s sleazy boyfriend; then the artist Simon, who profited off of his assistant’s ideas; and then Gemma, who is unabashedly horrible to every working class person she meets. Hard to say they’ll be missed, but their brutal deaths do raise concern.
Who is the killer?
The murderer must be a member of his new friend group, someone on the inside, Joe deduces. How else would they have access to such VIP victims? Joe weighs out his suspects. Could it be Kate, Malcolm’s girlfriend? Maybe she knew about his affairs and plotted her revenge. What about Roald? He’s always been obsessed with Kate and possibly wanted Malcolm out of the picture. Was it Lady Phoebe? She might be too clueless to pull it off. Was it her security guard, Vic? He’s suspicious of Joe but is probably just protective of his boss and her friends. By the end of episode 5, the killer makes himself known: it’s beloved author Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers), another member of their posse.
It checks out: Rhys is “in Berlin” when Malcolm is killed, he’s not with the gang when they spend a weekend away at Hampsbridge House for Phoebe’s murder mystery party, and he’s always had a suspicious air about him. He even admitted to Joe that part of his bestselling memoir was fake, so he has no problem with lying. Of course, he has a vendetta for the one percent; as he wrote in his book (assuming this part is true), he was born into poverty and raised by an unstable single mother before growing up to find out his father is a duke. When he first meets Joe, he expresses his contempt for his ignorant friends, who were born with money and are completely oblivious to their privilege. “They’re dancing while the world burns. Barely notice it’s burning,” he says. Sounds like something the Eat the Rich killer would say.
On an even darker note, Rhys has done his research. He’s studied Joe’s past kills and admires how he’s been able to avoid getting caught, often by framing one of his own victims as the murderer. Now he wants to do the same thing. “It seems the best option that doesn’t rely on luck involves framing a dead person so they can’t protest their innocence,” he explains to Joe, after trapping him and Roald in a dungeon under Hampsbridge House.
The plan? Pin all the Eat the Rich murders on Roald; Joe will kill him while Rhys will craft the story with a fake suicide note and all. Even though Roald has just chased Joe through the woods with a shotgun, pushed him out a window, and was the least welcoming of Kate’s friends, Joe is hesitant to kill him. But Rhys, bitter as ever, eggs him on. “Think of the positive: one less vile, spoiled little shit on this earth,” he says. You really are the Eat the Rich Killer. You hate them, Joe replies in his internal monologue.
Rhys’ grand scheme goes beyond revenge killing; the orchestrated murders also benefit his ambitions of becoming mayor of London. By now, the Eat the Rich Killer has become a viral sensation, amplifying the frustrations of London’s citizens. With his newly announced mayoral campaign, Rhys can address those issues, and maybe even solve them, and emerge a hero. He highlights a problem under his alias, and aims to fix it as a politician. Classic.
Joe, however, will not let it slide. Now that he knows who Rhys truly is, he’s intent on stopping him from hurting anybody else. In a sense, Rhys is Joe’s newest obsession, and we all know how Joe can get when he has one of those. With five more episodes left of season 4, anything could happen next.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.