Just Hear Me Out: Joe Goldberg In ‘You’ Is A Terrible Serial Killer
If you have not seen seasons one and two of Netflix series You, please excuse yourself from this article immediately. This is spoiler central.
We’re going to be talking about all of Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley/Gossip Girl’s natural conclusion) crimes to figure out if he’s as smart as he obviously thinks he is.
We posit that Goldberg isn’t some criminal mastermind. His crimes instead are based purely on circumstances and immediate self-interest. It’s all dumb luck. And even Penn Badgley himself knows it. Talking to Vogue earlier this month, he straight up admitted that Joe is a flawed murderer.
“He’s not a process-based serial killer. He doesn’t enjoy the process. He might enjoy controlling people, even when that means putting them in a box and torturing them, but actually I think death and loss really trouble him and he’s not able to see that about himself.”
Let’s assume you’re across what happened in season one: Joe killed heaps of people in New York, from his love interest Guinevere Beck, her ex-boyfriend, Benji, and her best mate, Peach. He also frames Beck’s therapist, Dr. Nicky, for murder, and loves to kidnap and keep people in plexiglass under a bookstore. Not small crimes.
Then in season two, three deaths in the final couple of episodes (we told you about the spoilers, please, chill) aren’t even the actions of Joe. Someone else does the killing for him, and they, intentionally or not, get him out of trouble.
Let’s go through Joe’s crimes in season two of You to see if he’s actually a criminal genius:
#1. Kidnapping Will Bettleheim
In the latest season, Joe is seemingly resolved to live a different, quieter life as Will Bettelheim, in Los Angeles. Except, by the end of the first episode, it’s already clear that he’s been stalking his new co-worker Love Quinn – and is keeping the real Will in a plexiglass cage in a storage locker. Classic Joe areas!
But is the crime of kidnapping Will a particularly skilful one? It just seems unnecessary. And over and over again, Joe reiterates that he has no idea what to do with Will. This is not a meticulously planned crime. He just did it because he didn’t have any other ideas.
Crime rating: 4/5. At least Will didn’t end up dead – just with Stockholm syndrome. The season’s true happy ending.
#2. Installing spyware on Ellie’s phone
Joe accidentally breaks his 15-year-old neighbour’s phone. So he replaces it – but he’s already put spyware on it, seemingly because he wants to protect her. This feeds into the whole saviour complex that seems to drive Joe’s every move.
And it’s deeply cooked, very illegal behaviour. Also what business did he have doing that? He literally had just met this girl. He didn’t know anything about her and Henderson at this point.
Crime rating: 3/5. Again, Ellie doesn’t die, but he ruins her life… just by chance. Get out of here.
#3. Murdering Jasper
The seemingly harmless middle manager, Jasper, arrives to get back $3000 the real Will nicked from the dark web. But then Jasper cuts off the tip of fake Will’s (aka Joe’s) finger, and makes him aware that Will actually stole $50,000. When it becomes clear that he will not be able to recoup that money, Joe takes Jasper to the real Will.
Joe does not know this person. What he knows is that Jasper is advancing on him, in lieu of the captive Will. So he does what his bloodlust demands and stabs this near-stranger Dexter-style, with a sheet of plastic awaiting his fall to keep the crime scene clean.
Crime rating: 3/5. Grisly, especially the cover-up. But could be argued as self-defence.
#4. Murdering Henderson
So many small crimes lead to this crime. Joe gets Will to hack Henderson’s computer, which is a crime. But to do the hacking, Joe has to steal that computer. He then breaks in to look for a sex dungeon, and then again, to drug him, tie him up and extract a confession. That’s too many crimes to keep track of, all to protect a 15-year-old girl he barely knows.
Joe then accidentally kills Henderson, after he falls down the stairs while trying to escape. What follows is nothing short of a disaster, as a Roomba messes up the crime scene — mixing Joe’s blood with his victim’s. This is not the work of a skilled murderer. It’s piss in a jar all over again!
Crime rating: 1/5. He’s a novice. Intending to just extract a confession, he instead did a murder. Whoops!
#5. Kidnapping and burying Candace alive in the woods
This occurred before the events of season one of You, but we get a clear picture of the crime during season two. It’s all deeply disturbing, not to mention the moment when a clearly traumatised Candace receives a hug from her former captor and is visibly distressed. #JusticeForCandace.
We find out Joe kidnapped and then tried to kill his then-girlfriend in a fit of pique, or by accident, after she tried to break up with him, and he didn’t even actually kill her. He buried her without making sure she was dead. It’s just another sign that Joe’s actually a shit criminal. Rubbish. Can’t even get the job done.
Crime rating: 1/5. Unsuccessful and deeply awful.
#6. Having sex outside with Delilah
Joe and Delilah go out drinking, because Joe accidentally gave her some good advice. They decide to fuck in an alleyway, which is an extremely cool thing to do. But they’re caught by police and taken to lock-up.
Public fornication does not compare to Joe’s other crimes and is equally unplanned, but at least no one gets murdered.
Crime rating: 5/5. This is the only crime of passion we will accept.
#7. Holding Delilah hostage for many, many hours
After her cop/sex friend Finch tips her off about Joe being suss, and possibly involved in Henderson’s murder, Delilah stumbles upon the secret storage locker, cage, and all Joe’s keepsakes from Beck’s murder in season one. She understandably asks WTF??? and starts snapping pics. But Joe finds her there, knocks her out, and keeps her trapped in the glass box.
He also uses her phone to make it look like she’s still alive, which is absolutely illegal. Yes, it’s a protective measure from Joe, in that he doesn’t want to get caught for all of his gruesome crimes. But it was pretty silly to spend all that time mucking around, all because he didn’t hide that damn storage locker key in a safe space. Rookie mistake!
Crime rating: 2/5. None of this was premeditated. It’s clumsy! Joe is clumsy at crime.
#8. Killing his abusive dad when he was nine
Flashbacks in season two reveal Joe’s tragic childhood story, his mother the victim of abuse at the hands of a man who is probably Joe’s father, but could be his mum’s boyfriend.
One brutal beating ends with Joe stepping out of a closet to shoot his father figure. It seems to explain why Joe is this way – loves to read, so deeply fucked up, so ready to murder as an act of perceived ‘justice’, desperately craving the love of a woman, any woman.
Crime rating: 5/5. Finally a truly righteous crime.
In conclusion, Joe Goldberg is yes, very hot – and that is very troubling for us all – but no, not good at crime, especially murder.