You Season 3 Ending Explained: Joe's Marriage Goes Down In Flames

Suburbia isn't all it's cracked up to be. When "You" ended its sophomore season by shipping its serial-killing romantic off to the shiny California suburb of Madre Linda, we all knew it wouldn't last. Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) may have stalked his way into Love Quinn's (Victoria Pedretti) life, but the second he saw the real her, his love faded away. If not for the birth of their son, he might've already buried his latest love, but in the hopes of being a good father, he tries to make their "happily ever after" work. Spoiler alert — it really, really doesn't.

The Quinn-Goldberg marriage derailed into deranged arguments and bloody burials before the first episode of season 3 drew to a close — and things only got crazier from there. So if you're fresh off your binge watch and still reeling from the absolute insanity of the season finale, then worry not. This is an ending worthy of some detailed unpacking, especially with season 4 of "You" already on the way. It's time to take a stab at some very big questions — what just happened? And what's next for Joe Goldberg?

Spoilers ahead for season 3 of "You."

Love Never Lasts

Early in the season finale, Love declares that she and Joe should try for another baby. Since their first whirl at raising a child is going so well (Henry saw them bury a body but technically he has no depth perception yet, so it's cool), why not go for a second? Love needs to hear Joe say yes, so he obliges, telling her there's nothing he wants more in the world. Sans a tiny voice in the back of her head, she believes him. Because she must. Despite how terribly things have gone up until now, she still longs for the fairytale ending she was promised when they settled down in Madre Linda — and she still believes it possible. So she fights for their marriage, putting an end to her affair by murdering their college-aged neighbor Theo (Dylan Arnold), despite her growing affection for him. We'll later learn that her murder attempt failed, but Love believes the deed has been done.

Distracted by Theo, and the married couple she's holding hostage in her bakery, Love fails to see that Joe is plotting his grand escape. Having promised Marienne (Tati Gabrielle), his latest obsession, that his marriage is coming to an end, Joe plots an ending where they escape into the sunset. But he fails to account for two things: his wife is very clever, and neighborhood gossip is incredibly powerful. Love finds Joe's bloodstained shirt in the bottom of the trash and later learns that local reporter Ryan Goodwin (Scott Michael Foster) has been killed. Connecting the dots, she comes to an awful realization: Joe is murdering people for another woman.

Yup, after declaring himself a better, reformed man, Joe stabs someone to death. And upon finding out, his wife doesn't care about the crime — she's upset that it wasn't for her. What does Joe want, if not this? In Love, he has a woman who accepts the worst parts of him and even seems happy to coexist with his crazy. They mirror each other in their deranged logic — arguing that they kill in the name of love. Joe, if anyone, should understand Love's many "passionate" reactions to discovering she may lose him. She murders anyone that threatens their family because she believes she must; it's nothing we haven't seen Joe do a million times before. But when Love buries an axe in Natalie's back or whacks Gil with a rolling pin, he declares her unhinged. He's not wrong, but it's a pretty wild accusation coming from the man who owns a giant cage for the sole purpose of holding people captive.

So Love makes a level headed call. Her hypocritical husband spent half the season upset about the murders she committed to protect their family, then stabbed a man for someone else? Time to inject him with poison.

Love's Fairy Tale Ending

After using a paralytic on her husband, Love takes a moment to confirm a long-suspected fan theory: she was behind the death of her first husband, James. That time it was an accident — she only meant to paralyze him long enough to talk things through, but overdid the dosage. But Joe need not worry, because now she knows to let it absorb through the skin. So while Joe crashes to the ground, Love calls Marienne over to finally eliminate the woman threatening her marriage. As if that's the only reason things aren't working out.

When Marienne arrives, the presence of her young daughter saves her life. Love has killed parents earlier in the season (and even has two locked in a cage in her bakery) but this is different. Marienne's daughter is real, adorable, and clutching a teddy bear in Love's living room. Even serial killers have their limits. So instead, Love tells Marienne to run — warning her that Joe is dangerous. In turn, Marienne helps Love come to a crucial realization: Joe doesn't deserve her either. So Love decides to finally listen to the little voice in the back of her head and escape this doomed marriage while she still can. The Quinn-Goldbergs spent half the season wondering if their partner could murder them and Love finally decides that Joe could. So she needs to make the first move. Once Marienne leaves, Love takes a knife to Joe's neck and very nearly kills him. Unfortunately, he was still one step ahead.

Joe figured out what Love was up to earlier in the season, when he googled her suspicious plant. Once he knew her poison, all he had to do was keep adrenaline close to combat the paralytic — and thanks to Cary (Travis Van Winkle), he had plenty. Taking things a step forward, he prepared a killer dose of poison just for Love, and jams it into her bloodstream before she finishes the kill. It's a pretty extreme way of filing for divorce, but fitting for this particular pair. The Quinn-Goldberg marriage was always destined to go down in flames — but I never imagined it quite so literal. Joe pins all the Madre Linda disasters on Love — two murders she did commit and one she didn't — and fakes a suicide letter (via mass email) that makes her look like a crazed, murderous housewife. In the process, he kills himself off, chopping off two of his toes to leave behind as evidence of his "death."

Tying Up Loose Ends

The best parenting performed by the Quinn-Goldbergs comes when Joe realizes he has to leave Henry behind. Love's final words to him are shockingly effective: she proclaims they are made for each other, but "bad for Henry." Recognizing that he is in no state to parent, Joe leaves his infant son with Dante (Ben Mehl) and his husband, the couple who spent half the season babysitting him while Joe stalked his new lover. They mentioned early in the season that they were struggling to adopt, making the prospect of them keeping henry pretty obvious, but it's still a shock to see Joe accept what a terrible father he'd be.

Elsewhere, the true power couple of the season, Cary and Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant) escape their cage by coming to a hilarious realization: the Quinn-Goldbergs have a terrible marriage. They don't trust each other, so there must be a key hidden somewhere in their murder cage. Eventually they find it, but not before going through some relationship trials themselves.

Sherry and Cary have quite a cage adventure, trapped after trying to engage the Quinn-Goldbergs in some relationship swinging. Once they're locked away, Love gives them a gun and promises to release whoever shoots the other, wanting to watch someone else's relationship crumble for a change. It almost works — Cary tires to shoot the lock and accidentally shoots his wife's ear off. He tries to apologize, sort of, but mostly argues that he only grazed her and hysterically exclaims, "I AM A FEMINIST." Understandably upset, Sherry shoots him to make things even. But her shot is a brutal, blood-gushing leg shot that very nearly kills him. Still, somehow, their marriage survives. The confrontation builds up to a beautiful conversation, where Cary insists that he loves "every version" of his wife, and they renew their dedication to the marriage. If only Love and Joe shared this level of passion, perhaps their love would've lasted.

The (Love) Story Continues...

After leaving behind Love's fake suicide note and baking his toe into a pie, Joe burns his house down. It's an epic farewell to his time in suburbia. As the epilogue lets us know, Love becomes "a bit of a folk hero," apparently more famous than Joe's previously murdered amour, Guinevere Beck. Theo survives, Henry is being raised by two sane adults and Joe... Well Joe is back up to his old tricks. We catch him buying coffee in a beautiful city revealed to be Paris. Sadly, this isn't the start of an "Emily in Paris" crossover (though Netflix should definitely consider the possibility), it's Joe chasing after Marienne. 

Earlier in the season, she shared her fantasies of whisking her daughter away to Paris so naturally, that's where he goes to begin anew. It seems unlikely that he'll find her in a city of millions, but then again, Joe is a very experienced stalker. The bigger concern is what will happen when he does. Unlike previous occasions, this isn't a fresh start: Joe Goldberg is dead, according to public records. He was murdered by his wife. And after her conversation with Love, Marianna has reason to suspect Joe murdered her ex-husband — and even if she buys that Love was the culprit, she'll probably think it strange if Joe returns, alive and having tracked her down across the world. She was always suspicious of his charms but after everything that's happened, it's hard to imagine Marianne being fooled once more. And on the off chance that she is... what then? 

Settling down for a happily ever after has already failed for Joe. Once his fantasy of a woman comes undone, he loses interest. So if he can't settle down and be happy, and he certainly can't stop burying bodies, how does his search for love end? Season 4 might be about more than the typical stalker-murderer routine, Joe might have to do some actual soul searching.