Warning: spoilers for You ahead.
Lifetime-turned-Netflix series You is all about the twisted romance between bookstore manager Joe (Penn Badgley) and MFA student Beck (Elizabeth Lail). However, while Joe's number one priority is the allegedly talented writer, viewers soon learn that there's another woman on his mind. Joe's musician ex-girlfriend Candace (Ambyr Childers) haunts his dreams like something out of an Edgar Allan Poe story, but Joe clearly doesn't have all the facts.
It's teased throughout the series that Candace is dead — after all, ghosts of living people don't usually show up. In the penultimate episode "Candace," we see a flashback in which Joe strikes Candace during their breakup, in what we assume is her final moments. Shockingly, that's not the case: In the last seconds of season 1, Candace shows up to Joe's bookstore (much to Joe's surprise) and says that they need to talk.
If you read Caroline Kepnes' book You before checking out the series this ending likely shocked you. In the novel, Joe indeed killed Candace by drowning her on the beach when she attempted to break up with him.
It's unclear right now if Joe really believed he killed Candace — but he certainly thought she was dead. (For those wondering if this is another Candace illusion, creator Sera Gamble confirmed in an interview with TVGuide that Candace is there and that the other people in the bookstore can see her.)
The problem is, this doesn't make a ton of sense if he thought he killed her during their fight in the apartment — did he leave her "body" there, without questioning why no one reported her dead? As we've seen time and time again, Joe is good at cleaning up his messes — he went to Mr. Mooney (Mark Blum) for instructions after he pushed Candace's lover (Esteban Benito) off a building, and made sure to meticulously dispose of Benji's (Lou Taylor Pucci) body.
Sure, it's possible that Joe wasn't super good at murder when he "killed" Candace, but he wouldn't be that lazy about things, would he?
It also brings up questions about that Instagram account he showed Beck so that she would know Candace is alive but living under a different name. The pics looked seriously photoshopped, and it's possible that Joe still created this account to "prove" Candace was in Europe. If this is the case — and the show implies it is — that means that Joe was completely convinced of his ex-girlfriend's death. He wouldn't be if he just left her body to be discovered, which, clearly, it never was.
My theory? Joe did try to dispose of Candace's body, but in a way that would make it possible for her to survive.
There's a potential clue of what Joe did to Candace in the episode "Amour Fou." In the episode, Joe is stopped by a police officer while driving Mr. Mooney's car around Connecticut, where he is stalking Beck and Peach (Shay Mitchell). In order to get the cop off his back, Joe pretends he is a wealthy Greenwich type with his own boat — he's able to rattle the name of the specific kind of boat offhand. It's in this very episode where Candace, as a "ghost" or hallucination, is most prominent.
Maybe Joe has some sailing experience and took Candace's "body" out on a boat to dump it. Except, after Joe thought he laid Candace to rest at the bottom of the ocean, she swam away and found safety. Coming back to New York, and to the boyfriend who tried to murder her, was obviously not an option, which is why Joe thought he got rid of Candace for good.
Of course, we won't know what happened to this no-longer-hallucinatory ex until season 2 of You hits Netflix. Since that date is still TBD, we have ample time to speculate about her fate... and what the hell Joe is going to do now that she's back.