Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers of the Netflix series You and is based on the writer’s personal opinion.
The Netflix series “You” is a psychological thriller that revolves around mysterious murders, toxic love, stalking and the struggles of Joe Goldberg, the main character- against his own subconscious mind. Does he want to commit these murders? Does he enjoy killing? Unfortunately, he can only do so much to control his deep-rooted desires.
By nature or nurture, do murderers come to be? In the case of Joe Goldberg, it was the consequences of dire and unfortunate circumstances that led to his murderous instincts beginning to grow. Joe grew up in a dysfunctional family, where both he and his mother were targets of abuse and neglect by his father. Joe’s first murder victim was his own father. Was it egregiously planned to be conducted? No. Joe was estimated to be nine years old at the time and shot his father when he was attacking his mother. It was his pure instinct, in addition to the readily available gun in their house. The events following this were no less pleasant for Joe, as he was later adopted and abused once again. Do all abused children have violent impulses to inflict harm? No, thus portraying that Joe has it in his biological nature to conduct these violent acts, whether consciously, or is being led by his subconscious mind.
After Joe accidentally-and sometimes mindfully commits numerous murders, for what he establishes to be for a good reason, Joe moves to London in an attempt to start a new life and also to find his former love interest, Marienne. Joe was beginning to hold back on his stalking instincts, making mindful decisions and enjoying his new job as an English Professor or, so it seemed. Malcolm, another professor who works with Joe, invites him for a dinner party with his friends, after Joe saves Malcolm’s girlfriend, Kate, from being mugged. During this party, Joe meets all of Malcolm’s friends, who happen to be rich and famous. Joe also happens to get intoxicated during this event and has no recollection of what happened for most of the night. The next day, he wakes up in his flat and finds Malcolm’s dead body on his table. To his utter shock and confusion, he has no idea who did this. He quite strongly believes that it couldn’t possibly be himself. He was turning over a new leaf and would have remembered if he had killed someone, right?
Following this, more and more of Malcolm’s friend group starts to mysteriously get murdered and gain the attention of the public. The killer remained unknown and was referred to as the “Eat-the-Rich Killer” because all of those being murdered were consistently incredibly wealthy. At the same time, Joe starts having a growing interest for Kate, who surprisingly remains alive, even when more of her friends were getting murdered. What was Joe doing throughout these murders? He was completely dedicated to finding this mysterious murderer. One day, Joe receives a cryptic message from who seemed to be the murderer and who has discovered all about Joe’s past life. This mysterious messenger threatens Joe to help him by getting rid of the bodies and more, so that he would not expose Joe. At one point, the messenger seems to have revealed himself to Joe, and Joe assumes the killer to be Rhys, another one of Malcolm’s friends.
Joe and Kate’s relationship continues to grow and he meets Kate’s father, Lockwood. Lockwood comes to discover Joe’s past and blackmails Joe to kill Rhys. Joe now had a solid motivation to kill Rhys, in addition to him believing that Rhys was a murderer. Thus, Joe decides to murder him.
What would be the result of killing Rhys, the man who was constantly showing up to threaten Joe to do things for him and to help him on his murder hunt? Well, the most obvious scenario would be Joe not seeing Rhys anymore, him being supposedly dead. However, Joe does see Rhys. Even while looking at the actual dead body of the supposed murderer, he sees another Rhys. The realisation hits him then. He was imagining this very real person, talking to him, interacting with him, feeling threatened and afraid of him, but it wasn’t the real Rhys. Joe had somehow created a whole separate alter-ego and did not even realise it.
All the murders that Joe thought were done by Rhys, were they actually committed by Rhys? No. From the very first murder victim, Malcolm, it had been Joe all along. Joe was the “Eat-the-Rich Killer”.
Being a self-aware evil murderer is a relatively different thing from believing you are a good person trying to do your best to make a change for the better, but not being aware that you were carrying out extremely well-planned murders. Joe’s subconscious mind might have led him to this point. Due to suppressing an urge that was so strong for him, it had to seep out in any possible way.
The subconscious mind is always working, even when we are not aware of it, gathering information from what we see, feel, smell, taste and think. Very often, our subconscious is what causes us to fall back into our old patterns when trying to start a new habit. Joe genuinely believed he was starting afresh with new goals and intentions. Sadly, a part of him had never allowed that.
The psychodynamic model focuses on what our deep-rooted desires are, while also considering what normal behaviour is and to what point it becomes abnormal. Based on Freud’s Psychoanalytical Theory, the unconscious mind takes up a relatively larger portion of our mind than the conscious mind. The unconscious mind is where everything that is felt as if it should not be in the conscious is pushed to, like awful experiences which want to be forgotten or impulses which need to be controlled. Suppressing such thoughts, memories, and feelings in an attempt to feel better and forget, is not always the best coping mechanism. When these subconscious thoughts remain there and are never brought forward to the conscious mind, it can often lead to not making the best decisions in behaviour, such as being lazy or, well committing murder.
The subconscious mind is extremely powerful and can truly make or break the way we live our life. Joe’s subconscious mind led him to carry out indescribably horrifying acts, which can obviously still be blamed on him. However, we do have the capability to control our subconscious to a certain extent and by being mindful, pushing the unconscious into the conscious. It would not have been impossible for Joe to not be a murderer if he had received adequate psychological help to better understand his schema of thought processes.
Catch the series on Netflix to dive into the full inner workings of Joe’s mind and his perpetuating inner monologues!
Written by: Celine
Edited by: Poorani