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Sometimes, we do bad things for the people we love. It doesn't mean it's right, it means love is more important.
~ Joe explaining his worldview to Paco.
Hello, you.
~ Joe Goldberg's phrase when he finds the next woman he sees as the one.

Joseph "Joe" Goldberg is the main villainous protagonist of the Netflix thriller series You, which is based on the novel of the same name by Caroline Kepnes.

He is portrayed by Penn Badgley. He was also portrayed by Gianni Ciardiello, Aidan Wallace and Jack Fisher as a youth.


In his childhood, he was subject to neglect and abuse by his father. Eventually, when he was nine years old, he heard his father attacking his mother, as he thought she had been cheating on him (which she was). Joe found a gun in the cupboard and shot his father. His mother taking the blame, Joe was put in a group home and adopted a few years later by Ivan Mooney, the owner of a bookstore in Manhattan. Mooney would physically beat him and lock him in the basement in order to teach him a sick lesson, scarring the boy, warping his mind, and destroying whatever real sanity he had left. Eventually he took over the bookstore.

Sometime before the story begins, Joe was dating a woman named Candace. The relationship seemed happy enough, but Joe caught Candace cheating on him. Driven further into insanity, Joe killed the man and Candace disappeared shortly after that.

One day a young woman named Beck caught Joe's eye. Instantly obsessed, Joe begins stalking her while plotting the best way to enter her life and be her ideal boyfriend. He lies, steals, assaults, kidnaps and even murders in order to form his idealised relationship with Beck. Eventually, Beck finds out that Joe has been stalking her, which leads to Joe turning on the very woman he claimed to love and eventually killing her.

In season two, Joe had become a bookstore clerk at the Anavrin, and has fallen in love with Love Quinn, and later learns that she is not so different from him. He also has to deal with Candace returning to his life, as she wants to ruin Joe after he thought he killed her. Joe befriends his neighbor Ellie Alves, and wants to protect her from comedian Henderson, who is revealed to have forced himself on Ellie's sister, Delilah when she was a child.


Despite his villainy, Joe is actually a caring and considerate man who wants the best for others. He is seen being helpful and friendly to multiple people and takes pity on the suffering on others. 

However, Joe is also extremely selfish and is more than prepared to hurt others to get what he wants. He commits many horrific crimes and takes and ruins others lives throughout the course of the series.

On the other hand Joe can be selfless when it comes to his friends such as leaving his life in the USA forever and starting anew in Mexico so that he wouldn't have to kill Delilah Alves in order to escape prosecution for killing Henderson. Joe also killed Ron in to put an end to his abuse of Paco and his mother and broke into Henderson's house multiple times to gather evidence that he was a serial rapist before he could rape Ellie Alves.

Joe also has very extreme anger issues as seen when he murders Elijah Thornton as revenge for Candace cheating on him for the latter. When Beck harshly (but justifiably) breaks up with him he is extremely angered and strangles her to death. When Forty Quinn repeats what Beck said when breaking up with Joe he attempts to do the same to him. 

In the first season whenever Joe would do something reprehensible to help him date Beck he would always think of a justification for his actions and excuse them with it. This usually took the form of Joe telling himself that what he was doing was in Beck's best interests for example murdering Beck's boyfriend Benji and claiming it was because he was a very neglectful spouse.

Despite Joe's horrific treatment of Beck it is clear he did care about her as he was willing to leave her upon finding out she told her therapist that she felt she would be better off without him. He also refused to murder her therapist despite wanting to because Beck had said she did not think he was capable of murder. As a result of his care for her, killing Beck haunts Joe and drives him to want to not kill anymore in the second season. Despite this he does end up killing Jasper Krenn and Henderson. Afterward however he gets incredibly disturbed, likely because of his memories of murdering Beck. Although Joe did not want to kill anyone in the second season, he lost himself when Forty Quinn angered him and tried to murder him. He also tried to kill Love as revenge for her killing Delilah.


  • Joe's father - Shot dead. (Flashback scene in P.I. Joe, prior to the events of Season 1)
  • Elijah Thornton - Pushed off a ledge. (Pre-Pilot, flashback scene in Candace)
  • Benji - Purposely inflicted an allergic reaction (The Last Nice Guy in New York). His dead body is later cremated. (Maybe)
  • Peach Salinger - Attacked her from behind with a rock whilst on a run, causing a concussion (survived) (Living with the Enemy). Later shot dead in self-defense. (Amour Fou)
  • Ron- Stabbed in the neck. (Bluebeard's Castle)
  • Guinevere Beck - Murdered (Bluebeard's Castle). Her death was not shown onscreen. Dr. Nicky was framed by Joe for her murder. It was later confirmed that Joe killed her by strangulation (Just the Tip).
  • Jasper Krenn - Stabbed in the stomach with a knife as a last resort to prevent himself being murdered by Jasper. His body is dismembered in the Anavrin kitchen and put through the meat grinder (Just the Tip).
  • Henderson - Pushed off the stairs, breaking his skull, after he discovered that it was Joe who was trying to blackmail him in his "secret room" (The Good, The Bad & The Hendy).


Bro? You waste of hair.
~ Joe to Benji, responding to the latter on calling him bro.
For the love of Christ.
~ Joe to himself on Beck stating she's glad they are friends.
Touché, bi**h.
~ Joe to himself on Peach's statement on runner's high.
Impossible. Benji was too lazy to run his own business, let alone haunt mine.
~ Joe to Karen.
Now, do I believe Love has Ellie's best interests at heart? Nope.
~ Joe Goldberg.



  • Joe's actor, Penn Badgley was not nearly as adept with social media as his character.
  • Joe Goldberg is a textbook case of Yandere (especially in season 1), which is a Japanese term for someone who is initially kind, sweet and gentle, but at the same time brutal and deranged in nature. "Yandere" is derived from the Japanese words yanderu, meaning insane or sick, and deredere, meaning affectionate or loving. Simply put, a yandere is someone who is lovesick; someone who has been driven to insanity by extreme obsession or love, thus resulting in abnormal behaviour if not violence.