What Happened to Joe Goldberg's Mom on 'You'?

It explains...some things.

(Image credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix)

Spoilers for You season 2 ahead, as well as a trigger warning: violence against men and women. In the second season of Netflix's You, we learn a little more about Joe Goldberg's past and what contributed to Joe becoming, um, a serial murderer and stalker of women. The flashbacks come in bits and pieces, and there are plenty of aspects that aren't super clear—Joe gets flashes throughout the season, so there isn't one scene where all is suddenly revealed. But, one way or another, we do learn a lot about Joe's painful childhood relationship with his mom.

She's certainly not as troubled as his dad, who's seen beating his mom and using a cigarette to burn Joe's arm (his dad is a full-on villain). But Joe's mom has a complex relationship to her son as well. Sometimes she abandons him in favor of anonymous sexual encounters—she may also be doing drugs? It's unclear!—but then she shows praise and love to her son, protecting him when her husband turns violent. At one point, she promises Joe they'll leave his dad and it'll just be the two of them, which is all young Joe wants...but then she shows up with a new boyfriend.

Young Joe kills his dad with his mom's revolver while trying to defend her from his violent father. His mom immediately reassures him, saying that he was doing what he needed to do to protect her. (Sounds familiar!) Not long after, his mom gives him up to foster care, saying she can't take care of him.

One of the most interesting aspects here is that we are put into Joe's shoes: We're not sure, exactly, why his mom behaves the way she does. It's this back and forth that's compelling here—she sometimes withholds her love, and sometimes she doesn't—that's actually pretty common in child abuse and, in my opinion, really well done. It kind of explains, in a made-for-TV kind of way, why Joe would go back and forth between idealizing a woman and then being bitterly disappointed when they don't live up to his expectations and/or abandon him.

One of the intriguing things about Joe's memories is that it's not made totally clear what happens to his mom. After he's taken away, that's the last we hear about her (I was actually expecting her to turn up later in the season, but no dice).

You know that old TV/movie saying—if there's no body, the person's not dead? (Remember, there was a body for Beck, who is very much dead.) So, if there's a season 3, and I hope there is, one of the plot points could be whether she's still around. Can you imagine how messy that would be?

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(Image credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix)
Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.