As YOU returns to the small screen, one major question looms: will Joe Goldberg ever actually get caught? The second season kicks off with Joe in LA on the run from Candace, the ex he thought he killed and buried, who knows the truth about his other killed and buried ex, Beck. It's a nesting doll of murder and deceit, adapted directly from Caroline Kepnes' novel Hidden Bodies. Though the show changes key details from Hidden Bodies, curious readers can still turn to the YOU Season 2 book ending to learn more about Joe's fate ahead of the finale. This post will obviously contain major spoilers, so consider yourself warned!
On the Closer Weekly podcast Classic TV, Kepnes said that while Joe's drive for coming to Los Angeles is different in the show, "it's the same Joe in the sense that he gets to LA and it doesn't feel like home." In the show, Joe chooses the much-despised LA because he thinks it's the last place Candace would expect him to be. In contrast, in Hidden Bodies, Joe heads west to pursue his ex-girlfriend Amy, who broke his heart and stole his rare books. In typical Joe fashion, he's not going to LA to win her back — he's going there to murder her.
His horrible plan gets derailed when he meets affluent twin siblings Love and Forty though, two central characters in YOU Season 2 whose parents own a chain of high-end grocery stores. Just like with Beck, he's instantly smitten with Love, who he first sees at a bar and thinks she's the most attractive girl he's ever met. He calls her "candy girl" because she has cotton candy pink hair, breasts like "two scoops of ice cream, soft and creamy" and legs like "caramel" — yes, Joe is a psychopathic creep in YOU but in Hidden Bodies he's a psychopathic creeeep.
Joe and Love become involved with each other, both falling deeper in love, with Joe promising he'd do anything to keep Love from harm — even if "harm" means her own family members, like the drug-addicted Forty. Joe also kicks off a successful writing career in LA and becomes an integral part of Love's rich family, which gives him some pretty nice fringe benefits. (Nothing covers up murder like money, right?)
Joe continues to rack up a murderous bodycount in the meantime, from a stand-up comedian, to a cop, to his next-door neighbor Delilah — who, in comparison to the show, he aggressively slut shames and derides all the way until the end.
Eventually, dealing with Forty's destructive nature becomes too much for Joe, who watches Love fret over her brother constantly. "I can't let him smother her anymore," Joe reasons. "I love her too much for that." So he drives Forty out to the deserts in Nevada, asks if he wants to go check out the local hot springs, and drowns him there.
Love never discovers that it was Joe who killed her brother, but she does learn about Joe's other murders and, no joke, accepts it. It all comes to a head when Love attempts to leave Joe because she hates that he keeps secrets from her. In response, he decides to tell her the truth. "I might kill us ... but maybe I can live with that because without her, I will die," Joe thinks.
He spills literally everything: about breaking into women's apartments, strangling Peach, and burying Beck's body upstate. He even tells her about that cursed mug of piss left in Peach's house, a major piece of evidence that still hasn't come into play. Joe expects Love to turn him in — the completely sane, reasonable response — but instead she essentially shrugs it off. The world is terrible anyway, she explains, so why not hang on to what you love? She also reveals she's pregnant with their baby, and just like that, Joe's bloody past is forgotten in a wave of daydreams about pastels and chubby cheeks.
This is all beyond bonkers, but don't worry, Joe gets some comeuppance in the end: some cops look into Dr. Nicky's tip about one suspicious, unnamed patient who he believes framed him for the murder of Beck. This leads them to Joe — who has since created a Facebook account for Love — and eventually all the pieces start to come together for the cops. The book ends with Joe in jail, with evidence mounting against him that he really and truly is a serial killer.
Yet all he thinks about is how he'll be free soon, and soon he'll see the face of Love and his new baby girl. It seems delusional, but with Love's rich family backing him, that might very unfortunately be the case. As Joe sits in jail, he muses, "I’m one of the rich people now, the untouchables. These f*ckers can't nail me."