[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for You Season 4 Part 1 (Episodes 1-5).]
The tables have turned on Penn Badgley‘s Joe Goldberg in You Season 4 Part 1, streaming now on Netflix. After murdering his wife, Love (Victoria Pedretti), and leaving their baby, Henry, behind, Joe is living in London disguised as Jonathan Moore, an American literature professor at a university in the city. Externally, he’s keeping up appearances.
Internally, he’s convincing himself he’s a good person and that all of his killings were necessary last resorts. The delusion is strong with this one. But there’s a new threat to Joe’s pursuit of peace: the Eat the Rich Killer. This anonymous villain knows Jonathan’s real name and his deadly past. They text Joe threatening notes through an encrypted app where messages (conveniently) disappear upon reading.
The killer murders Malcolm (Stephen Hagan), Joe’s colleague and Kate’s (Charlotte Ritchie) live-in partner (their windows are seen from Joe’s, making for eerily perfect stalker fodder), and plants the body in Joe’s living room after a rowdy night out.
Determined to identify the Eat the Rich Killer (who continues on their murder spree, offing this group one by one), Joe sticks around Kate and her friends in the whodunnit-style Part 1. The beginnings of another obsession starts to show with Kate. Repressing his initial attraction to her, Joe finds himself connecting most with Ed Speleers‘ Rhys Montrose.
Rhys is like Joe, in that they both grew up in poverty and changed their circumstances. Rhys is a politician with genuine intentions who has his sights set on becoming London’s next mayor. Kate and Malcolm’s crowd are his friends from Oxford who he seemingly loves.
To escape the stress of the killer’s looming threat, the crew goes to Phoebe’s decadent, centuries old Hampsie country estate for a murder mystery weekend fueled by drugs and alcohol. But the Eat the Rich Killer follows them there, murdering Gemma (Eve Austin) and making Roald (Ben Wiggins), Adam (Lukas Gage), and the others believe Jonathan is the murderer, resulting in Roald going “peasant hunting” with Jonathan as prey. (Did we mention these people are horrible?)
Joe wins the fight, only to be knocked out by Rhys, who hadn’t been part of the weekend getaway. This reveals Rhys as the Eat the Rich Killer, and Part 1 ends after Joe and Roald (with help from Kate) escape a burning dungeon and return to London, where Rhys announces his mayoral campaign. Rhys had chained the men to the dungeon walls, proposing that Joe join him in his deadly exploits. Rhys was to pin all of the killings on Roald, but wanted Joe to kill him and make it look like a suicide.
Of course, murder is only OK when it’s Joe’s idea! When he lies about committing to that plan, Rhys sets the dungeon ablaze, saying if Joe was “clever enough” to escape, he would see him in London. Here, Speleers tells TV Insider all about the real Rhys and what to expect from him in Part 2.
Speleers’ last TV role was another villain — one of Outlander‘s biggest bad guys, the pirate Stephen Bonnet. This new antagonist appealed to Speleers because “Rhys is another very complex human.”
“The opportunity to be a part of a show like You was a huge drawing card, but it had to be decided by the part,” Speleers explains. “And I feel that what I got to embody with Rhys, or got to try and take on, was the idea of someone balancing himself between two walks of society, two walks of life, and actually as a result struggling with what his existence was growing up. But then owning who he was, owning his mixed upbringing and his sense of not really knowing where he belonged, and then being able to confront his demons and handle that and push forward. That was sort of the early stages of understanding Rhys.”
“Then to go further and really uncover what he’s all about in relation to the show, and that actually is much beyond how we first see him and even how he unravels later on,” he continues. “He’s almost like a puppeteer pulling strings, but he does it in — well, I hope he does it, he did it on the page — in such a way that is almost like a lightness of touch sometimes and just trying to find humor in things. I suppose he’s almost nonchalant to the situation, or maybe not nonchalant, but definitely no fear in what he says and what he stands for.”
It’s true. Another thing Rhys and Joe share is an ability to convince themselves their killings are justified. The key difference is that Rhys believes his victims needed to die for the good of the world, and Joe believes he regrettably had no other choice but to take these many lives.
“He’s the other side to Joe, I suppose,” Speleers says. “He tries to open up Joe’s eyes to another way of thinking and understanding, and he’s very persuasive.”
Creating this killer-on-killer dynamic with Badgley was the top task for Speleers, who says “It was one of the big things I talked through with [creator and showrunner] Sera Gamble before starting.”
“I knew that we were going to be creating something that was going to be refreshing for the series,” he says, “and it was going have an interesting take on it, which I think Penn actually was enjoying, because although people love him for being that character, I think it’s a lot for him to take on mentally and emotionally.”
To be able to play Rhys realistically, Speleers had to see the good in him. And he says that good is found in his belief in the good of others.
“What I love about the real Rhys is that he does try to find the good in people,” the actor shares. “I think because he’s been brought up in quite a volatile situation and he’s had to tread the line between different walks of society, he knows how to communicate with all people. That’s a real skill and a real quality to have. And that’s why I suppose he gets billed as ‘the man of the people,’ because he knows how to conduct himself in any social situation. And I feel that he will always try and look for the good in people.”
Speleers and Badgley had to keep this Eat the Rich Killer twist secret on set, saying it “was quite funny” testing the waters to see who knew and who didn’t.
“You’d be talking to cast members, saying, ‘Do you know what’s going on…?’ Some people did, some people didn’t. I’d be like, ‘OK, I’m just keeping very quiet about it,’” he says with a laugh. “I couldn’t have taken on this part if I didn’t know what was in store.”
Part 1’s cliffhanger leaves much to be learned about Rhys Montrose. Has Joe Goldberg finally met his match?
You, Season 4 Part 1, Streaming Now, Part 2 Premieres Thursday, March 9, Netflix