A fitting conclusion. Penn Badgley is far from Joe Goldberg’s biggest fan — and the actor has often expressed his interest in watching the fictional character’s story come to an end.
You, which originally debuted on Lifetime in 2018, explored the serial killer as his obsession for a girl grew to terrifying heights. Based off books by Caroline Kepnes, the series found larger success after it moved to Netflix in its sophomore season.
As a new audience found the show, Badgley candidly addressed his mixed feelings toward his role. “Joe is not actually looking for true love,” the Gossip Girl alum told Entertainment Weekly in 2019. “He’s not actually a person who just needs somebody who loves him. He’s a murderer! He’s a sociopath. He’s abusive. He’s delusional. And he’s self-obsessed.”
At the time, the Netflix star applauded the show for not allowing Joe to have a happy ending with a love interest.
“This is the way it has to be because he has an irrefutable problem and if it was just like, ‘They were made for each other, all he needed to find was somebody who kills people too,’ that’s not justice,” he added, referring to the season 3 arc between Joe and Victoria Pedretti‘s character, Love Quinn. “I think it’s reflective of reality because I don’t think people who kill are like, ‘I just need somebody who can do the same.’”
Badgley later weighed in on the widespread fascination that fans had with his character. “There are times where Joe is so impossibly sympathetic and even honest and brave. Sometimes he’s the exact perfect balance between chivalrous and allowing his partner to be autonomous and empowered,” the John Tucker Must Die star explained to InStyle in January 2020. “He’s actually in some ways made to be the perfect guy that does this really — to even say it’s terrible is kind of an understatement — thing.”
In response to Badgley’s public dislike of Joe, creator Sera Gamble revealed that she often gets questioned about where the lead character will end up.
During an interview with Bustle in 2021, the screenwriter noted that Badgley “checks in” every season to make sure Joe won’t get a happy ending. “I say ‘No …’ and he goes, ‘Good, just making sure,’” Gamble recalled.
According to the Independent Spirit Award winner, it has been important for the show’s message to remain the same.
“If you’ve done things that Joe has done, change would mean reconciling in yourself that you have murdered more people than you can count readily on one hand,” he explained to Salon in February 2023 about Joe’s situation. “If you’re really there, I think what would require your reconciliation, let alone that with any kind of judgment in society, is more than you’ve indicated at this point you’re capable of, because you’ve done those things.”
Badgley referred to a potential redemption arc as a “catch-22,” adding, “The show is never a clinical portrait of either a serial killer or a man with mental illness. So the fun that we’re able to have when we do all of this is that this is not meant to be real. And to me, that doesn’t take anything away from it. It’s meant to be an exploration, an exercise. There’s an element of fantasy and camp to it that lets us do a lot of things, and, again, I think we benefit from it.”
Sign up for Us Weekly's free, daily newsletter and never miss breaking news or exclusive stories about your favorite celebrities, TV shows and more!
Scroll down for everything Badgley has said about Joe Goldberg’s eventual conclusion on You: