You Season 3 Twist Ending Explained: Every Question Answered

You season 3 has finally arrived on Netflix, giving its audience a twisted new definition of "happily ever after". Based on the novels by Caroline Kepnes, You was originally produced for Lifetime and was later added to Netflix's lineup of programing when the studio passed on a second season. The psychological thriller has gained a massive following, mainly because of its charismatic lead Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), who defies the conventions of a romantic hero and instead, manipulates his way into the lives of his obsessions. While the concept is not necessarily new in literature, the show has a disturbing take on justifying Joe’s motives for stalking and killing in order to manufacture an ideal romance. In the process, You deconstructs the typical behavior of male heroes by removing the rose-colored lens of romantic stories and presenting a realistic, albeit troubling, view of the boy-meets-girl storyline.

Throughout all three seasons, Joe’s obsessive and violent tendencies are the constant. In You season 1, he meets Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and what is supposedly a bookstore meet-cute rapidly escalates into a dangerous affair. Joe begins stalking his new target, both physically and through social media, before moving on to literally eliminating anything that could remotely obstruct their love. After a string of murders, Joe leaves New York and moves to Los Angeles in search of a fresh start. Armed with a new identity, he meets Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) and instantly falls back into his old patterns. Surprisingly, Love is no manic pixie dream girl herself—in fact, she's actually on par with Joe’s manipulative tendencies, and turns out to be a formidable killer in her own right. 

Related: Who Is Mark Blum? You Season 3 Episode 1 Dedication Explained

Finally, Joe is set on leaving Love and running away with Marienne (Tati Gabrielle) to France, but he still needs to tie some loose ends, which includes getting rid of their basement prisoners. Meanwhile, Love finds Joe’s blood-stained shirt and is furious that her husband is willing to kill for Marienne. Joe asks for a divorce and grabs a carving knife, preparing for the oncoming retaliation, but is left paralyzed on the floor as Love had covered the handle in aconite—the same substance she used to kill her first husband. 

Marianne arrives at the Quinn-Goldberg residence, and Love lures her in to discuss their situation. Initially planning to kill Marienne, Love is moved by the former’s words and kindness. After discerning that Joe is ultimately the problem, Love tells her to take her child and get as far away as possible, before returning to kill her husband. Joe reveals that he took an antidote, having suspected that Love would try the same thing twice, and kills his wife. With Love out of the picture, Joe stages her suicide, but not before planting his DNA at the scene and framing her for every death and capture the couple had been responsible for throughout You season 3. He sets the house on fire and leaves baby Henry with Dante, escaping to Paris in search of Marienne. 

You season 2 revealed that Joe shot and killed his mother's abuser at a very young age, and more of the character's childhood backstory is revealed through interspersed flashbacks in season 3. After being sent to a foster home, Joe trauma-bonds and grows close with Nurse Fiona (Sarah Jane MacKay), who also happens to be a survivor of abuse. This time, however, Joe avoids directly dealing with the situation and actively chooses not to push Fiona's abusive partner down the stairs when he has an opportunity, fearing a similar abandonment. When the nurse is presumably killed by her boyfriend, a damaged Joe seeks out his mother only to find out that she had started her life over with another family.

Related: You Season 3 Cast Guide: All New & Returning Characters

While it may be easy to infer that Joe has “mommy issues,” as he has identified himself, his patterns manifest because he deems himself fit to be a white knight. He is always chasing after his next obsession: someone who has problems and who would thank him for stepping in, unlike his mother, who shunned him. Carrying the weight of his failure to save Nurse Fiona, Joe is cursed with a lifetime of actively hunting such women. However, with Love and their cookie-cutter suburban life, Joe feels suffocated, restrained, and powerless. Instead of satisfying his need, he is cleaning up after Love and her impulsive messes. Plus, the discovery that his wife is just as disturbed and murderous as he is deeply bothers Joe, making the promise of a "happily ever after" never tantalizing enough. So, he falls back into his patterns, one victim after the other: Beck, Love, Natalie, and now, Marienne. 

In its final episode, You season 3 sees Joe poison Love with a lethal dose of aconite in order to fake a murder-suicide prior to burning down their home. Given the nature of You's storytelling anything is possible, but the show very explicitly gives the impression that Love has finally met her end. She would have also needed to digest an antidote against her own killing drug of choice, predict her husband's moves, and then somehow make it out of their burning house at the very last second.

Showrunner Sera Gamble recently confirmed in an interview with Newsweek that Love is dead, wanting to be clear about the character's ultimate outcome considering that You has toyed with fake deaths in the past. Additionally, investigators would have needed to find Love's remains in the aftermath of the house fire in order for Joe's plan to work, and as the show seemingly reveals in the final moments of the season, life in Madre Linda did roll on normally after his departure. 

 

As life goes on in Madre Linda, following the Mrs. Lovett-esque fate of the Quinn-Goldbergs, Joe leaves the suburbs and heads off to Paris. This time, he is armed with yet another identity, calling himself Nick. Fittingly, as Paris is a good choice for romance aficionados, he is there to look for Marienne, promising that he will comb the entire world to find her if it comes to that. In an earlier episode, Marienne had shared with him that she was born in Paris and her first language is French. It was her dream to run away with her daughter Juliette, so it's natural that Joe/Nick would start looking for her there. Whether or not she is actually in Paris remains to be seen, and possibly sets the stage for You season 4. During their conversation Love tells Marienne to go somewhere that Joe can never find them. Hopefully, for the sake of her and her child, she listened. 

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Throughout season 3, Joe’s primary motivation to be better is his son, Henry. He consciously avoids murdering people (except in one circumstance) because he does not want his son to grow up in the system and risk experiencing the same fate as him. While at this point, Henry could not yet comprehend what is going on, Joe cannot risk bringing his son with him and letting him bear witness to his future actions. This is further proof that despite his earlier qualms from the first episode of You season 3, Joe really tries his best to be a good father, even until the finale. So, instead, Joe decides to leave him in the good hands of Dante and Lansing. Because they have been trying to expand their family for years now, Joe knows that his child will be safe and taken care of. But, before leaving Henry, Joe promises that their separation will not be forever. This perhaps hints at him returning for Henry once he finds Marienne.

Despite the production delays brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, You season 3 does not shortchange its viewers, especially when dealing with its overarching themes. For starters, Madre Linda plays host to a group of influencers and health gurus, with its queen bee Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant) leading the pack and maintaining a well-curated social media presence. Later on, while she was stuck in Love’s basement with her husband Cary (Travis Van Winkle), she discloses that being a “momfluencer” gives her the ability to control what parts of her and her family other people can see. Sherry then manipulates her followers with carefully released information, allowing her to basically run the town. In real life, the influencer phenomenon is very much alive, especially as platforms like TikTok and Instagram can easily turn anyone into a star. However, behind the glamour and fame, these influencers are just regular people with the additional burden of being flawless constantly, as shown by Sherry.

On the other hand, You also touches on the concept of a successful relationship. Love’s constant complaint is that despite Penn Badgley’s Joe being attentive to her and Henry’s needs, she still feels undesired and, ultimately, unhappy. She firmly believes that Joe is her soulmate, but becomes doubtful as time passes by, and she sees no improvement in their marriage. Later on, Sherry gives her advice on how to make their relationship work by actually choosing their partner every day. After all, getting married only signals the start of the rest of their lives, which they should work for if they want to be happy. In the case of the Quinn-Goldbergs, however, that entails murders, cover-ups, and betrayal.

Within this marriage lies the seeming disparity between Joe’s and Love’s intentions for their murderous actions. Love argues earlier in You season 3 that when Joe kills the other You characters, his intentions should be deemed noble, but when she does the same act, she is seen as crazy and impulsive. While Joe’s remarks probably stem from his repulsion on Love being on the same level of disturbed as he is, that does not mean that they are valid. In fact, they are practically doing the same thing: murdering for love. It just happens that they are not doing it for each other.

Lastly, You discusses a subject not all shows have deliberately mentioned: COVID-19. The pandemic is first mentioned when Joe and Love attend a party at Sherry’s house. During a separate incident, the issue of vaccination (and anti-vaxxers) is talked about when Henry comes down sick with the measles. Although it turns out that Joe has been unvaccinated the whole time, as a result of negligent parenting, his son is put in danger by Gil (Mackenzie Astin) who does not believe in vaccines. As expected, this enrages Love who seeks revenge on him. These storylines, while seen as minimal amidst the greater plots of love and murder, are reflective of how the world changes—or indeed, stays the same—in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are then necessary to spread awareness and drive the audience of Netflix's You towards real-life action.

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