Joe is a loner bookstore manager who becomes infatuated with a woman named Guinevere Beck and begins to stalk her in a variety of ways to find out everything about her and make her fall in love with him. However, his obsession soon becomes out of control when he starts trying to control every aspect of her life.
Joseph Goldberg was the only child born into a dysfunctional relationship. He idealized his mother, who he said was his home no matter where they were. His father was abusive to him and his mother. His mother frequently cheated on his father, often leaving Joe alone in public areas while doing so. His father would torture him, for example putting cigarettes out under his arms, trying to force him to confess his mother's infidelity- which he would never do. His mother would sometimes take Joe and leave his father, usually in the company of another man, but would always come back. She hid a gun in a closet where Joe would often hide and showed Joe that it was there and that if he hurt them again she would stop him. But instead, Joe later used the gun to shoot his father, protecting his mother from his beating, killing him. His mom told him that he was a good boy who would never hurt anyone and was only protecting her. Shortly after, she turned him over to social services, telling him that being with her was not the best thing for him and he was put into a group home. There, an older man named Mr. Mooney, a retired Soviet prison guard who owned a bookstore, took him under his wing. He took care of Joe and guided him but would also abuse him in various ways that he saw as teaching Joe lessons he needed to learn and shaping him into what he believed he should be. This included locking Joe in a glass cage in the bookstore basement for periods of time until he could prove the lesson was learned.
The first season follows bookstore manager, Joe Goldberg as he tries to win over MFA student Guinevere Beck by manipulating everything and everyone around her. They first meet at Mooney's, the bookstore where Joe and his co-worker Ethan work. Right after their encounter, Joe starts to obsessively find all the information on Beck that he can via her social media accounts. He justifies his actions by stating that in order to pursue Beck, he wants to make sure that she is worth it and won't break his heart, which he continuously implies, that a similar instance occurred in the past with his ex-girlfriend, Candace Stone, who mysteriously disappeared following the end of their relationship.
Meanwhile, Joe is good friends with his young next-door neighbor, Paco, who has an abusive home life and is always trying to escape by reading tons of books. Joe has a soft spot for Paco because he sees a lot of his childhood in Paco's. As Paco's situation at home with Ron, his stepfather, deteriorates over time, Joe finds himself getting more and more involved. As a response, Ron admonishes Joe's actions, by stating that he is suspicious of him and that he needs to stay far away from Paco.
After a day of following Beck around in the shadows, he stalks her to one of the New York City Subway stations, where she falls on the train tracks. He successfully saves Beck from imminent death, before the train arrives. Later, it is revealed that he stole her phone during his attempt at helping Beck and starts to read every content, she has shared with her friends, workers and family members. Going through her messages, Joe uncovers the identity of Benji Ashby, Beck's on and off hook-up buddy. Joe starts plotting how to get rid of Benji from Beck's life because he believes that Benji is an obstacle to his future relationship with Beck. He tricks Benji into having a business meeting with him and hits him over the head with a mallet, keeping him captive in his basement. To not raise any suspicions about Benji's whereabouts, Joe starts using his phone and social media accounts to keep up the ruse that Benji decided to remotely travel somewhere without any notice. This move more or less works for Beck who tries to put Benji behind her. Though, Joe is adamant about getting rid of Benji due to his knowledge of Joe's complicity in kidnapping him and stalking Beck, which poses a great risk and threat to his future plans. Resorting to a final decision, he kills Benji by using his peanut allergy against him. After Benji suffocates to death, Joe wraps his corpse and successfully burns it in the woods.
After Benji's out of the picture, Joe and Beck start dating and he is introduced to her world and friends that he doesn't really fit in with. Beck's best friend, Peach Salinger, has been suspicious of Joe from the start. Joe is suspicious of Peach as well, and starts following her for information. He soon finds that Peach is just as obsessed with Beck as he is and regularly manipulates her for her own gratification. Joe decides that Peach is a danger to Beck and their relationship and needs to be dealt with. He begins trying to sabotage the friendship by exposing the other side of Peach to Beck. This seems to work when they have a fight, but Peach fakes a suicide attempt and Beck runs to her side, Joe sees through the act and how peach is manipulating Beck, reinforcing his belief that she is bad for her and that he has to protect Beck from her. He follows her during her jogging routine in Central Park and hits her with a rock at the back of her head. This also backfires when Peach survives and Beck becomes even more dedicated to taking care of Peach, bringing them even closer. When Peach insists she and Beck need to retreat to her family's home outside the city so she can recover, planning to present Beck with 2 tickets to Paris, Joe becomes desperate to make Beck see that Peach is bad for her and follows them. He is in a car accident on the way leaving him with a severe concussion, blackouts and hallucinations. These all prove to be a serious problem for Joe as he attempts to creep about the house with the girls undetected while visions of his e- girlfriend Candace harass him and he randomly passes out at inconvenient times and places. Beck leaves after an argument with Peach, who then finds him in her house still securely in his head. She pulls a gun on him, the two of them struggle over it, and it ends up going off, killing Peach. Joe frames it as a suicide.
Beck starts dealing with grief in the aftermath of Peach's death by going to therapy, which threatens Joe's perception and role in the relationship because he wants to be the person she confides in. He starts getting suspicious of her relationship with her therapist, Dr. Nicky, and begins to think she is cheating on him. This triggers flashbacks of his experience with Candace cheating on him and destroying him completely. He begins therapy sessions with Dr. Nicky under a fake name in an attempt to confirm the nature of his relationship with Beck. After their session, he breaks into the office and listens to recordings of Beck's sessions, deciding he was mistaken about the affair and she really needed space to heal from her loss as she said. He commits to letting her go and Joe begins a relationship with Karen Minty, Paco's babysitter. The two of them have a simple, easy relationship without any of the obsession and dysfunction that drove his relationship with Beck. He knows that Karen is good for him and they are both happy, but he feels something is missing. He convinces himself he is over Beck while still obsessively keeping tabs of her on social media. Meanwhile, Paco's mom, Claudia breaks up with Ron, with the help of Joe's encouragement, but soon relapses back into drug addiction.
During their time apart, Beck decides she needs to focus on her work and healing personally. Her experience with Peach and her death is published and Joe credits himself for her newfound success because she wouldn't have had the opportunities she had if he hadn't "protected" her from Peach as he did. Later Beck realizes she misses Joe and becomes jealous of his relationship with Karen Minty, believing she pushed away a good thing. She pursues him again and even though Joe keeps reminding himself he needs to be good to Karen, they begin a sexual affair together behind his girlfriend's back. Joe feels bad and ends things with Karen and he and Beck get back together. Karen confronts Beck on the street telling her that she had helped her see Joe's true colors by having an affair with him and that it saved her from whatever fate might have met Candace, who she had heard him screaming for in his sleep. Beck starts to get suspicious of Joe's avoidant behavior whenever discussing the topic of his Candace and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance that Beck begins to piece together. Again we flash back to his relationship with Candace and his discovery that she was cheating on him. He confronts the other man, Elijah Thornton, on a rooftop, accusing him of manipulating and taking advantage of Candace which ends with Elijah plummeting to his death. Panicked, Joe goes to Mr. Mooney and tells him what has happened and Mooney assures him that everything will be fine and helps him.
Things between Beck and Joe seem to be going according to Joe's fantasy ideals but he can't let go of discrepancies in Beck's stories and behaviors when he had been suspicious of her cheating with Dr. Nicky. He has to know the truth, so he assaults dr. Nicky while in disguise just so he can go through his phone- confirming that he had been sleeping with Beck. He furiously confronts her and she admits to the affair. She apologizes and consoles him, saying she has never loved anyone the way she loves him. This makes him forgive her almost immediately and reignites his hope that they have a chance. They make up and are seemingly happier than ever until Joe leaves the apartment to go shopping one morning, Paco stops by and inadvertently reveals to Beck the secret hiding spot Joe had shown him. She curiously explores the spot and finds a box containing possessions of hers Joe has stolen over time, including her lost phone, as well as the phones of Peach and Benji and Benji's teeth. Before she can escape, Joe realizes she has found it and is going to run and kidnaps her and traps her in the basement of the bookstore. When she wakes up, he tells her she just needs some time, perspective and evidence to realize he isn't a bad guy and has done everything for her, and insists that being in the cage can be a good experience for her like it had ended up being for him when he was younger, if only she will let it be. Beck realizes she needs to convince him she loves and accepts him and that he can trust her if he is ever going to release her.
While Joe is dealing with the Beck situation, Ron puts Paco's mom in the hospital and Paco assaults him with a baseball bat when he drunkenly returns to the apartment. Ron chases after Paco threatening to kill him and Paco tries to hide from him. Joe arrives home just in time to stop Ron by killing him before he gets to Paco. Joe explains to Paco that Ron was bad and had to be stopped in order for him and his mom to be safe and that Joe would take care of everything, Paco just needed to not tell anyone what happened and everything would be okay.
When he gets back to Beck, she thoroughly convinces him that is on his side by providing him with a novel she had written detailing their relationship and the tragic events that followed but attributing everything to Dr Nicky rather than Joe and telling him they would go public with it, keeping Joe from getting into any trouble and allowing them to be together. When he happily believes in her promises and decides to release her, she stabs him with a typewriter key, locks him in the cage, tells him she could never love him and tries to escape, only to realize there is a second locked door. She screams for help and Paco hears her, but when she tells him Joe has killed people, Paco thinks she has found out about Ron and panics, leaving her locked in. Joe uses a spare key to get out of the cage and though Beck hits him with a mallet and takes the keys to the door, Joe grabs her and the scene cuts away.
We see Joe frame dr Nicky by submitting her manuscript and dumping evidence and her body on Dr Nicky's property. He is arrested for Beck's murder and her story of how her affair with her therapist turned into a nightmare became a top seller.
Joe tries to settle back into life after the chaos but is quickly thrown back into it when his Candace pays him a visit.
Season 1 (10/10)
- The Last Nice Guy in New York
- The Captain
- Living with the Enemy
- Amour Fou
- You Got Me, Babe
- Bluebeard's Castle
Season 2 (10/10)
- A Fresh Start
- Just the Tip
- What Are Friends For?
- The Good, The Bad & The Hendy
- Have a Good Wellkend, Joe!
- Farewell, My Bunny
- Ex-istential Crisis
- Fear and Loathing in Beverly Hills
- P.I. Joe
- Love, Actually
- Status: Ex-girlfriend
- Started: Living with the Enemy
- Ended: Everythingship
- Started: You Got Me, Babe
- Ended: Bluebeard's Castle
- Status : Girlfriend/dating
- Started: What Are Friends For?
- Ended: Farewell, My Bunny
- Started: Love, Actually
- Relation: Neighbor
- Relation: Neighbor
- Relation: Co-worker
- Relation: Neighbor
- Elijah Thornton - Pushed off a ledge pre-Pilot (shown in a flashback scene in Candace).
- Benji - Purposely inflicted an allergic reaction in The Last Nice Guy in New York. His dead body was later cremated in Maybe.
- Peach Salinger - Shot dead during struggle in Amour Fou.
- Ron - Stabbed in the neck in Bluebeard's Castle.
- Guinevere Beck - Murdered in Bluebeard's Castle. Revealed in Just the Tip, to have been strangled.
- Jasper Krenn - Stabbed in the stomach with a knife in Just the Tip. His body is dismembered in the Anavrin kitchen and put through the meat grinder.
- Henderson - Pushed down the stairs in The Good, The Bad & The Hendy.
- Ron is the only character who sees through Joe, knowing something is wrong with him (aside from Peach, who only suspected him because she was jealous over Beck).
"At the end of the day, people are really just disappointing, aren't they?"
"The most valuable things in life are usually the most helpless. So they need people like us to protect them, ya know?"
"Uh, Beck, who the fuck is this?"
"I've seen enough romantic comedies to know that guys like me are always ending up in jams like this."
"All books add up to one essential truth, which is, if your IQ is above a certain number, life is pretty much unbearable." (quoting Mr. Mooney)
"The first step to fixing something is to know that no matter how destroyed it seems, it can always be saved."