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Taylor Swift, Again, Does a Lot of Heavy Lifting for Joe’s ‘Character Development’ in ‘You’ Season 4

It's Joe, hi. He's the problem. It's him.

Joe looking brooding in Netflix's You season 4 part 2.

So. You season 4 part 2 wasn’t that great, was it? I was open to a less-horny-on-main version of the show, and honestly, that wasn’t what was lacking from this season. Maybe in a time of historic wealth inequality, it’s deeply unsatisfying to watch rich people murder with abandon and face no repercussions, all the while being portrayed in a sympathetic light.

Warning, spoilers for season 4 part 2 of You below:

This season felt choppy, thin on plot, and the ending rushed after the big reveal that all of Joe’s growth was in his head and that he was the murderer after all. The only saving grace, for me, was the unexpected (but delightful) inclusion of Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” in the last episode, to reiterate to the audience that Joe is in fact, the show’s anti-hero.

My girl TayTay did a lot of heavy lifting for the show this season, tying the entire character “growth” of Joe for the season in a nice little bow.

It’s me, hi (hi), I’m the problem, it’s me (I’m the problem, it’s me)
At tea (tea) time (time), everybody agrees (everybody agrees)
I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror
It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero

Joe is the problem, always, and just when we thought he had turned it around, quit being a creepy stalker, and stopped killing people, it turned out he had fully leaned into all of those things. The montage is particularly mocking because it comes directly after he sinks his hooks into Nadia, leading up to the grand reveal at the end of the episode that he has framed her for the murder of her friend Eddie. Oh, Joe, you anti-hero, you!

During the montage, we also get a quick gloss over of where all the rich monsters (and Marianne) end up, and I genuinely believe none of this would have worked on any level without “Anti-Hero” playing in the background. It’s essentially a shortcut to exposition because it’s a well-known banger with a very catchy (on-the-nose) chorus that is repeated constantly during the scene. You owes Taylor a big fat thank you for this one.

“Anti-Hero” also has a personal significance to You star Penn Badgley. Per Variety:

“Anti-Hero,” of course, is significant in Badgley’s world as the song that he used for his first TikTok, in which he plays two versions of himself. (Perhaps a nod to Joe’s split personality in Season 4.) Badgley filmed that TikTok — which went viral, and was endorsed by Swift herself with an “OMG!!!!?” in the comments — in late October, the week her album “Midnights” came out.

In retrospect, that post was probably an easter egg for You season 4, but I will reiterate the song is great, so who can really know? Swifties come from all walks of life. Speaking of which …

You is no stranger to Swift. Last season, it employed “Exile” to much better effect in the final episode, wherein Joe kills Love, frames her for his murder, and burns their house down in the process.

It might be that I enjoyed that season more, or that at least Joe lost something of value for his f*ckery (he had to cut off some toes to get out of that one), but I thought the song complimented the scene instead of entirely making it. Both “Exile” and “Anti-Hero” are great songs, though.

I’m convinced someone high up at You is a Swiftie, because there was another Swift reference in the penultimate episode that only the most hardcore of Swifties would have realized. The code to the cage Marianne was locked in was Taylor Swift’s birthday:

That is a very deep cut, right there. I consider myself a fan, and that one went over my head on my watch. The tweet is wrong about one thing, though. Badgley has said that Joe would be Anti-Swift, with some very sound points. Per Variety:

“I think, unfortunately, he would despise her,” Badgley said. “Because she’s successful and blond, maybe? I don’t know, but I think he would.”

I’m with Badgley on this one; the Netflix Twitter account is wrong. The good news is that Joe is a fictional character, so it doesn’t really matter. Here’s hoping we can continue the tradition and get a Swift song to cap out season 5 of You.


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