Dead to Me (Season 3) regains some of the thrill it had in its first season by focusing on unpredictability
hat a dark, exhilarating, and chilling ride. Netflix’s dark comedy revolves around an unexpected friendship put to the test throughout. In Liz Feldman’s satirical series Dead to Me, best friends Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) have been consumed by death and deceit for the first two seasons.
A quick recap: both of them were directly or indirectly responsible for the death of their loved ones (Jen’s husband in Season One, Judy’s fiancé Steve (James Marsden) in Season Two). The two have grown closer as they construct new layers of falsehood and self-delusion. Even though a massive chunk of their friendship is driven by the excessive need to protect each other’s secrets, it nonetheless provides them glee and purpose. They are, suffice to say, entangled in an unhealthy yet wholesome friendship. Perhaps more than their secrets, their endearing camaraderie is what makes the series riveting.
In its third season, Dead to Me regains some of the thrill it had in its first season by focusing on unpredictability, a feeling that everything we have seen up to this point is about to crumble. Feldman and the writers, though, cram far too many ideas into the story in an attempt to tie up all the loose ends along the way. But of course, it remains entertaining.
Season Three of the show picks up shortly after the Season Two finale, which saw Steve’s identical twin brother Ben (also portrayed by Marsden) relapse and commit a hit-and-run after learning his twin brother’s body had been discovered. Jen and Judy escape the hospital with minor injuries, but after a misunderstanding at the hospital, Jen learns about yet another secret she cannot bear to share with Judy. Death has eluded them numerous times over the course of their friendship, but now it knocks on their door. Considering the fact that the series is building upon the secrets and falsehoods they already have, it is a brilliant angle for its final season.
Due to all those lies, whether spoken to oneself or to another, the season tends to drag during its five-hour duration. Ostensibly out of necessity, there is a never-ending parade of circular mysteries and rudimentary character beats. Jennifer’s ex, Michelle (Natalie Morales), drops by with not much to do. Then there are Jen’s kids: Charlie (Sam McCarthy) and Henry (Luke Roessler), who usually stand in as a challenge and support to the odd family Jen and Judy have built for themselves. Added to these subplots are the Greek mafia and the stolen paintings.
Season Three of the show picks up shortly after the Season Two finale, which saw Steve’s identical twin brother Ben (also portrayed by Marsden) relapse and commit a hit-and-run after learning his twin brother’s body had been discovered.
Ben, who takes on the third lead role this season, is another example. Marsden, despite being a charmer, occasionally steals moments from Applegate and Cardellini with his sheer smugness. However, his journey is interesting, at least for the most of the season, because he falls into the same cycle of guilt that Judy and Jen did at the start. The fact that such a decent, innocent person falls victim to these demons so much more swiftly than our staunch besties is a tribute less to Ben’s frailty than to Jen and Judy’s unique tendency to delude themselves, which gives rise to their enthralling psychosis.
Jen and Judy remain the essence of the series and make it intrinsically entertaining, despite the plot sometimes turning on its head. It is a delight to watch them interact, whether in a car, a hospital room, or Jen’s immaculately furnished kitchen or with just a splash of wine — and especially fun this season, magic mushrooms. On top of that, it is truly no surprise that Season Three’s success is based on how it highlights Jen and Judy’s devotion to one another. At times, their bond reminds us of rivals-turned-unlikely-friends Grace and Frankie from another Netflix hit sitcom.
The constant cycle of discoveries that surround them is probably Dead to Me’s weakest point though. So it is almost a pity that sometimes the show forgets to advance its story. Several characters are given a lot of screen time in the series, including Nick (Brandon Scott), Perez’s tenacious partner who wants to continue his investigation of Steve’s death or a sharp FBI agent (Garret Dillahunt) prying on their trail. Nonetheless, since Jen and Judy have so far gotten away with it, it is hard to believe that their fates would not continue to work as they have in the past.
In view of the Judy and Jen’s innately pathological codependency, Season Three takes up an incredibly bumpy journey to reach its devastating climax, which feels like a cogent conclusion. Together, they have spent three seasons defying death; the show ends similarly disastrously - like their friendship. All in all, the final season wraps up beautifully, bidding farewell to these wholesome characters in the most heartbreaking way possible.
The writer is afreelance contributor