A new season of Netflix You is there, and Joe (Penn Badgley) has found himself right in the middle of a mystery. Unfortunately for all of us, this season is split into two parts, so we have a month until Part 2 drops on Netflix for more answers. But, in happier news, there’s a giant clue hidden in those first five episodes indicating what’s to come next.
As part of his The era of girlboss in London, Joe is now an English professor at a university where he teaches a course in American short fiction. And unsurprisingly, his curriculum includes many books on love, obsession, and even bullying. But there is one little story of Joe’s teaching that particularly stands out: “Man of the Crowd” by Edgar Allan Poe.(Opens in a new tab)
Now we know this season of You has the form of a good old-fashioned thriller. And if we’ve learned anything from Benoit Blanc, it’s that these kinds of stories love to plant an obvious clue. right in the heart of an onion, you can clearly see through it. So, I put on my signature Benoit Ascot and proclaim that there are clues in Poe’s prose that we should all pay more attention to. Here’s why.
What is “Man of the Crowd” about?
Here’s to you Poe.
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Poe’s story begins with an unnamed narrator sitting in a cafe(Opens in a new tab) and the bustling London crowd. All we know about him is that he’s recovering from illness and likes to categorize people based on their little quirks. It’s a bit like judging someone because they’re wearing something from sheinor more darkly, a bit like the way Joe nitpicks everyone around him – but I get ahead of myself.
The narrator proceeds to spot an old stranger in the crowd and becomes completely smitten with him. Poe notes that this instant infatuation is partly due to the stranger hiding a dagger under his coat. This is the first thing the narrator sees and he begins to wonder what this stranger is hiding. So he starts following the stranger and becomes more and more obsessed with him with every step.
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As he follows the stranger through the many streets of London, the narrator keeps wondering who this stranger is. Why can’t he pin it in one of his categories? What is he hiding? The narrator follows the stranger throughout the night and into the next day, but eventually grows tired. He gives up and proclaims, “This old man…is the type and genius of deep crime.” He refuses to be alone. He is the man of the crowd. no more of him, nor of his actions.” The stranger never realizes that he is being followed, and the story ends there.
Alright, but what is it all This mean?
Fasten our seatbelts for a little English 101, because the course is officially in session. At first glance, Poe’s story unravels an increasingly industrialized London and its changing cityscape that includes larger crowds. Poe questions what it means to be an individual during the boom of capitalism, coming to the conclusion that we all simply exist as members of the crowd and maybe we should start accepting that.
But there are more analyzes of Poe’s story that delve into darker themes. We know the crowned king of goth loves psychological thrillers, so it’s been argued that “The Man of the Crowd” is the story of a narrator haunted by his own subconscious. Another possible interpretation is that the narrator of ‘The Man of the Crowd’ is unaware that his illness is affecting the way he sees things(Opens in a new tab) — and for that — his perception of the foreigner himself.
A popular analysis of Poe’s story suggests that the narrator and the stranger are two sides of the same person(Opens in a new tab)kinda Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in fight club. The stranger is in fact the double of the narrator. He could be an older version of him. He could be the embodiment of someone he’s afraid to turn into. Or, if we keep the dagger in mind, it could be a manifestation of the narrator’s mysterious past haunting him. Now how does all of this play into You?
The narrator and the stranger are parallels for Joe and Rhys.
Like the narrator, Joe is a obsessive observer who confuses infatuation with love. And like the narrator, Joe pursues a stranger with a big secret – the rich-eating killer who turns out to be Rhys (Ed Speleers). Here’s the first obvious parallel to Poe’s story: Joe is our narrator following and trying to figure out Rhys, the murderous stranger. But things are a bit more complicated than that.
Because of their constant cat-and-mouse game, it’s harder to answer the questions of who the narrator is and who the stranger in Joe and Rhys’ relationship is. Rhys is also obsessed with Joe and sees him as a genius he is trying to unravel. Rhys even stalks Joe right away. With that in mind, Rhys could probably be the narrator in this case and Joe (also a murderous stranger) the person he’s chasing.
But the parallels between Poe and Joe and Rhys’ story don’t end there, as our anti-hero and protagonist are surprisingly similar and oddly related to each other. There is a deep-rooted and dangerous mutual adoration between Joe and Rhys, like the narrator’s (albeit one-sided) adoration of the stranger. They both spend the majority of this season breaking up, trying to figure out who the other one really is deep down, and even almost joining forces. It’s safe to assume that Poe’s story is a skeleton of their relationship based on mutual obsession.
Why is this important?
We’ve established that Joe and Rhys are interchangeable parallels to characters in Poe’s story, making the analysis of “The Man of the Crowd” a possible clue to what happens next. If the stranger is the narrator’s double, that could mean that Joe and Rhys are also doubles or two sides of the same coin. But what does that even mean?
Maybe we’re about to obtain a fight club situation where it will be revealed that, like the narrator in Poe’s story, Joe has an illness that affects his perception and that Rhys is not real. We only ever saw Joe talk to Rhys in private, but we also saw Rhys interacting with Joe’s friends. Then again, Joe constantly talking to himself at parties would be a concern for onlookers, so the fight club the theory may be a bit far-fetched.
On the other hand, the doubles theory might suggest that Joe has been indirectly helping Rhys all this time. Maybe Rhys took inspiration from Joe’s past kills and replicated them, or maybe Joe committed some of the murders himself and we’re about to get some giant plot via voiceover .
The most plausible theory is that Rhys could be a manifestation of what Joe is about to become. Like the stranger in Poe’s story, Rhys could be a reflection of Joe’s old ways that he’s able to slip back into and a cautionary tale of what might happen next. Joe has been relatively tame this season so far. We didn’t see the return of its doomed memory box, for example, but with five remaining episodes that could easily change. Whatever the outcome, we’ll have to wait for Part 2 to finally figure things out.
With all of these parallels between Poe’s story and the couple’s relationship, the answer may be hiding in plain sight. Do you have something to tell us, Joe?
You Season 4 Part 1 is now streaming on Netflix(Opens in a new tab).