Netflix renewed ‘Dead to Me’: Why we wish season 2 was the last
Dead to Me has been renewed for a third – also its last – season by Netflix. The show often elicits a mention in conversations about the rise of the genre of female buddy dramedy & rightly so. Dead to Me is pathbreaking in more ways than one.
The actors and characters
Jen has very strong Eleanor Shellstrop (The Good Place) vibes, but she isn’t only ever callous & acerbic. She’s also doing the work of processing her grief & she cares for the people around her. She just can’t be made to pretend or fake an emotion for the sake of it.
That doesn’t mean she is immune to emotions. We have the receipts. Her anger is how she chooses to cope with her loss. But she also sobs inconsolably after she is told in the grief group to not let her anger cause her more grief than she already has.
It’s a great premise, only made better with the complexities that the female leads carry. Linda Cardellini as Judy Hale is the embodiment of a misunderstood, yet understated optimist. Even James Marsden as Steve, Judy’s ex-fiancé, is tenacious in his portrayal of an abusive addict.
Not only does it bring two female leads, Judy & Jen – stellar performances by Christina Applegate & Linda Cardellini – in a plot that passes the Bechdel test, Dead to Me is also unashamed of plotting grand twists that derail the audience’s expectations of the show. Whether it is Judy going “I think gay is beautiful” in the very first episode, or the subsequent web of lies & secrets, we’ve been on the edge.
When Dead to Me was alive
It started off with a high intrigue value. On the surface, two women are grieving the loss of a loved one & that’s that. But we sink deeper into the labyrinth with each episode. But perhaps, being on the edge for so long gets dizzying. This is why the second season seems to have a vacancy. We’ve the same guilt, lies, and secrets, but there’s nothing to set this season apart.
The second season started right where we left off. The ladies have an important task at hand – a dead body in the swimming pool, actually. But Dead to Me has a brand of its own. The ladies have a reputation to keep up, so they don’t slide into panic. Instead, they make fantastical scenarios in nonchalant conversation interspersed with lessons in self-love while deciding how to hide the corpse.
Dead to Me is replete with oddities & absurdities – but they all come packed in empathy. By the second season, these same oddities make the plot linear & bland.
The charm of Dead to Me lay in the dissonance it created – right from the moment the first episode opened to a funeral punctuated by Jen’s scathing contempt of the meaningless rituals & then jumped to a montage of non-grieving people on the beach to the tunes of Judy Garland’s Get Happy.
Dead to Me’s first season brought out the unknown side of grief – the immediate aftermath & the helpless urgency of moving on – that television often overlooks because it’s messy. Dead To Me was never afraid of the mess; it thrives in it. The second season actually robbed it of what made it unique.
This is not to say that the final season can’t redeem it – in fact, we hope it does.