The 'You' Season 3 Ending, Explained (Aka A Lesson In Botany)

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The 'You' Season 3 Ending, Explained (Aka A Lesson In Botany)

Say what you will about Joe Goldberg, but the man knows how to play the long game. (Warning: Spoilers for You Season 3 in... 3... 2... 1...) In the final moments of You Season 3, the book-loving serial killer carefully set the stage for Love to become the ultimate villain of Madre Linda's sordid tale, complete with a chicken pot pie flavored with one of his own toes. It was clear from the amount of detail he poured into the execution of his plan that Joe had put quite a lot of thought into murdering his wife — even if the actual wheels weren't set in motion until the final few moments of the season. But even though the whole wolf's bane development and subsequent fallout seemed sudden, the ending of You Season 3 was actually pretty genius.

In fact, Joe's big fake-out was foreshadowed way back in the first episode, when both he and Love separately hid keys in the cage in the bakery's basement. That one scene illustrated just how similar the two characters are, and how little they actually trusted one another. Seeing them both plant keys as a backup plan just in case they turned on each other made the final twist, which saw Joe anticipating Love poisoning him and taking adrenaline to ward off the affects of aconite, totally believable.

But how could Joe have been sure Love was going to make her move on that fateful night? The answer to that question is just the right mix of knowing his wife almost better than she knew herself and a nice big helping of dumb luck.

Dottie's Big Reveal Helped Joe Set His Plan In Motion

Joe was already looking for an escape plan from his marriage when Dottie dropped the bombshell that she suspected Love killed her first husband, James. Prior to hearing her suspicions, Joe believed James died of cancer, and since everyone else assumed the same thing, then he no doubt inferred Love had poisoned him since no one expected foul play, aside from her mom. At this stage, the show had already revealed Joe observing his wife's gardening habits, so Dottie's story likely gave him the push he needed to investigate what was in the garden — and to subsequently search the cabinets for possible hiding places for the aconite when he discovered she was tending to a bed of wolf's bane.

Cary's Bag Of Pharmaceuticals Offered Joe A Last Minute Antidote

Now, had Cary and Sherry not turned up for a swingers party with a bag full of performance enhancement drugs, Joe may not have been prepared for Love when she put aconite on the knife at the dinner table. But from the moment Cary offered Joe a hit of adrenaline to keep his stamina up during their night of partner-swapping fun, the wheels were surely turning.

Joe now had access to one of the few drugs that could counteract wolf's bane — at least a small dose of it. And he wisely kept one of the pills on him just in case he found himself in a situation where he would need it.

Divorce Is Love's Trigger Word

Dottie gave Joe one more hint about Love's poisoner past: she really doesn't like it when her husbands ask for a divorce. As her mom told Joe, it wasn't until James asked for a divorce that his condition suddenly took a turn for the worse. Which means Joe could guess if he also asked for a divorce — which he does at the dinner table — he could force Love into playing her hand.

His gambit worked. After figuring out Joe killed Marianne's ex-husband, Love was already on red alert when they sat down for dinner, but she was giving her husband a chance to assuage her fears. If he didn't reach for the knife the minute she walked out of the room, then he would never have come into contact with the aconite. But it's important to remember Love knows Joe just as well as he knows her — she just didn't realize he knew about the whole poisoned ex situation and had prepared accordingly.

Joe's Plan Only Worked Because Love Underestimated Him

Had Love not, well, loved Joe so much, she may have realized he was even more duplicitous than she is. The thing about Love is, she's impulsive. She rarely plans her murders, she just snaps. Joe on the other hand is all about the planning, and the minute he became infatuated with Marianne, then Love became a problem to be solved.

Because he was looking for a way out, he was primed to pay close attention to Dottie's story and every move Love made. This in turn gave him a chance to prepare for her demise. In addition to researching wolf's bane, he also assembled a box of trophies that would pin all of the murders in Madre Linda on her (although to be fair, she did commit pretty much all of those murders). From there, it was as simple as setting the stage for a compelling story, including cutting off two of his own toes to ensure the world believed Joe Goldberg was dead, too.

In The End, Joe Did Take Love's Final Words To Heart

As Love so eloquently put it, she and Joe were perfect for each other, but they were terrible for Henry. Ultimately, Joe realized she was right, and because he actually loved Henry, he left the baby with Dante and Lansing to raise — which in turn, gives his son the chance to have a normal, healthy childhood unencumbered by his psychopath parents' baggage. But in choosing to leave his son behind the show also highlighted something major about Joe: Henry is the first person he has ever truly, selflessly loved.

Beck, Love, Marianne — his infatuations with them were toxic and selfish, fueled by his own desire to be understood and loved by women because of his mother's rejection. As a result, he refuses to let them go, which has so far led to him murdering them all except for Marianne, who has escaped for now. In the end, Love pushed him to realize he's no good for their son, which in turn set him free to return to being the calculating monster he was before Henry came into his life.

It also means, the end of You Season 3 pretty much guarantees Joe's attempts at being a good man have officially come to an end.

Images: John P. Fleenor/Netflix; Netflix

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