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People Are Still Shipping Joe and Rhys After ‘You’s Big Twist, and I’m Into It

Goldrose. Yes, you read that right.

Rhys and Joe staring at each other pretty intensely in You season 4 part 2

Shipping isn’t a new concept by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just more prominent now as we embrace fandom life. We sometimes see characters differently when we pair them with someone else, even if they never get into a relationship with the character (or characters) we’re imagining them with. In terms of You, I never used to be someone who hardcore shipped Joe (Penn Badgley) with anyone. He’s a deeply flawed character. On top of stalking and murdering his obsessions. But season 4 changed my mind in a way that I didn’t anticipate. Yes, even after the twist, I still ship Joe and Rhys (Ed Speleers).

You season 4 went in a direction that a majority of the fandom expected. The Rhys that Joe was interacting with wasn’t the real Rhys. Though the obsession that Joe had for the man was very real, and there was a box. (I’m sorry, but I especially can’t get over the sweaty gym towel and toenails.) What I didn’t expect was for so many folks to also ship Joe and Rhys to this capacity.

Why this pairing is so appealing

Spoilers for You season 4 below!

Goldrose (Joe and Rhys’ primary ship name) has surpassed every You pairing on AO3 (not revealing my username) and has countless TikTok edits for them. The fandom is still going strong. One could ask what, exactly, is the appeal for this pairing, considering Rhys is in Joe’s head, and ultimately Joe killed the real Rhys in a violent fashion. The answer will vary for everyone. Of course, Penn Badgley and Ed Speleers’ phenomenal chemistry contributes to the whole thing. But it also comes down to how it makes sense, despite seeming nonsensical to the wider fandom. I mean, the angst is very real.

There’s something so angsty about a pairing that can’t really be together. Joe was imagining all those tender moments with Rhys prior to “The Fox and the Hound” (Season 4 episode 5). There was a genuine sense of understanding. Despite his similarities with Love (Victoria Pedretti), she was never going to fully understand the life he lived prior to her. The scenes were very idealistic and more in tune with how the real Rhys would’ve been towards Joe. The turn in Rhys’ behavior after episode 5 was a result of Joe’s rejection of himself (and his mental instability). It led to him murdering a very naked Rhys Montrose in a shed.

Season 4 Part 2 may have forced us to watch scenes between Joe and Kate (Charlotte Ritchie). But in reality, Joe’s scenes with Rhys were the best parts. Joe wrestling with the part of him that appears in the form of a man he becomes obsessed with? Chef’s kiss. It’s also important to note that Rhys was Joe’s You for the season, and that switch-up only contributes to the shipping. Trust me on that. If they were merely characters that barely interacted and had no chemistry, we’d be having a different discussion right now.

I could talk endlessly about the funny scenes and the other moments that are straight out of fanfiction. But to get a love confession (it’s essentially self love, but it’s still romantic, alright?) that would’ve been even more profound if Rhys wasn’t in Joe’s head is too heart wrenching. Moments like that are what make queer ships in particular so warm (and really heartbreaking). There’s a sense of unity in fandoms like this, and it’s nice to indulge in—as well as run with—content. Do I have any shame about shipping them? No, I really don’t.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.