What’s it all about?
An uptight, hot-headed widow Jen (Christina Applegate) is on the hunt for the person who hit her husband, Ted, with their car and left him to die in the road. She constantly checks the number plates of every car that looks like it could have a “person-sized dent” in it and screams at cars driving too fast around her block. Meanwhile, to help with her anguish, she begins attending a grief support group where she befriends eccentric optimist Judy (Linda Cardellini). The friendship is unlikely, but the two soon develop a deep bond as they connect over their grief: Judy’s husband also died, from a heart attack.
But this is no simple TV show that centres around female friendship – Dead to Me hinges on a big secret that Judy is hiding, one that continues to deepen as the episodes go on. There’s so much that Jen doesn’t know – to start with, there’s the fact that Judy no longer lives in the Newport beach mansion she talks about, because (surprise!) her husband still lives there. Yep, he’s very much alive, and he has plenty of stories to tell about Judy…
Sounds exciting. Who else stars in it?
Besides Applegate (Samantha Who?, Friends) and Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, Mad Men), it’s a rather small, but talented, cast. The ever-handsome James Marsden (27 Dresses, Westworld) takes a key role, while Brandon Scott (Wreck-It Ralph, The Last of Us) plays a private investigator with a soft spot for Judy and Valerie Mahaffey (Desperate Housewives, Young Sheldon) is great as Jen’s difficult mother-in-law. Interestingly, you never see Ted in the flesh – he’s only referred to throughout the series.
Is it as good as they say?
If you enjoyed Desperate Housewives, you’ll love this. However, with the help of executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and Liz Feldman – former writer for 2 Broke Girls and The Ellen DeGeneres Show – this series has a lot more humour, warmth and, somehow, realistic tone to it. Both Applegate and Cardellini play their characters seamlessly and with ease, it’s hard to know whether you can ever trust Judy, despite how genuine she comes across. It’s an interesting and genuine look into grief, looking at how much pain someone like Jen can take before it all comes pouring out. And Jen has secrets of her own – what seems like an idyllic marriage at the start of the series eventually reveals itself to be far more nuanced, messy and relatable than you first think. Plus, we can all relate to her strained relationship with her mother-in-law, especially the tug-of-war between who was the most important woman in Ted’s life. And Judy is messed up in several ways that many will recognize, but pretends to be messed up in completely different ways. While it seems unlikely that someone like Jen would forgive Judy for saying her husband was dead – which is a huge and detrimental lie – things that come to light in the second half of the series show why Judy is the way she is.
Will there be a second season?
It’s early days and no one has said yet whether Dead to Me will be renewed, but the ending leaves it open for a second series. But judging by the reception – it received decent reviews from Rolling Stone and The Hollywood Reporter, and has been a certain hit with the public – there’s little doubt that Jen and Judy will be back. Plus, there’s plenty of questions left that need answering – none of which we can talk about here. However, creator Liz Feldman says that the ending “is not exactly what you think”, and that “Netflix will have to order a season two for us all to find out” what actually happened in that amazing finale.
Dead to Me is available on Netflix now.
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