The second season of Dead to Me offers big acting energy
At the end of this dark comedy’s first season, we were left on a rather precarious cliffhanger.
If you’ve not yet watched Dead to Me Season 1, this review is not for you!
In the final episode of Season 1, it appeared as if Jen (Christina Applegate) had shot Steve (James Marsden), and called Judy (Linda Cardellini) back from the brink of suicide.
To recap, at the beginning of Season 1 of this show created by Liz Feldman, who didn’t know at the time if she’d get a second season, we were introduced to Jen, who had recently lost her husband Ted in a hit and run. At a grief counselling group, she met Judy, who had lost her fiancé Steve. That very first episode concluded with the first big surprise – Judy had been involved in the hit and run that killed Ted.
As events unfolded over the 10 episodes, it became impossible to review without spoilers, because each one ended with yet another surprise, and that rings true for the new season as well.
Jen and Judy became close friends, but when Judy got all “confessy” (an accusation Jen hurls at her throughout Season 2, for good reasons) and admitted her involvement in Ted’s death, Jen booted her out of her guest house and her life.
In the last episode, an angry Steve (who was very much alive) arrived at Jen’s house, things got violent, and Steve ended up face down in the pool. Season 2, episode one picks up the morning after, with a flustered Jen and Judy trying to make breakfast for Jen’s sons.
“Guess you two just can’t stay away from each other,” remarks Charlie (Sam McCarthy, who gets a lot more screen time in this outing), when he walks into the kitchen.
“The intricacies of the relationships, along with the often ludicrous plot twists, are what make up the first season. And the second.”
As mentioned, it “appeared” that Jen had shot Steve, but this time she’s the one keeping secrets from her friend. Together with the fact that now each one of them had murdered the other’s husband or boyfriend, the situation is all suitably karmic, which is in line with Judy’s airy-fairy ways – which drive Jen mental.
Jen copes by day drinking, a lot, and holds nothing back when it comes to swearing at everyone she encounters. It’s probably not cool to see her as a role model, but damn, you have to admire her ballsy rage.
There is a massive face-palm moment – and I apologise, this spoiler being in the first episode and all – which is the introduction of Steve’s semi-identical brother, Ben (Marsden, obviously). This is soap opera 101, but it does drive most of the season.
There were, however, a couple of moments when I laughed out loud and thought to myself “well, I did not see THAT coming!” Because it’s hard to catch me out, and I love it when it happens.
The TV nerd in me puffed up with pride when I instantly recognised Katy Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Shameless, Futurama) from a distance in her role as Judy’s mom; Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under and American Horror Story also has a small role.
Fun fact: Katy Sagal and Christina Applegate starred in Married With Children (1987–1997), with Ed O’Neill from Modern Family.
Back to Dead To Me: Bill Goodykoontz at Arizona Republic says “the intricacies of the relationships, along with the often ludicrous plot twists, are what make up the first season. And the second.”
“Applegate and Cardellini’s frenemy chemistry remains off the charts, and the twists are as jaw-lowering as they are uproarious.”
It’s often “too much” says Goodykoontz, “except Christina Applegate. Too much of her performance in this series, about two women whose codependence is built on various murders of husbands and boyfriends, current or former, is impossible. She’s an angry, hurt widow whose grieving never stands in the way of Applegate’s masterful comic timing and delivery.”
Applegate (who was nominated for an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy for this role) is on point, and so is Cardellini; polar opposite in their characters’ personalities, their conflicts make for great comedic moments, and they have big acting energy.
“I am pleased to report that the Christina Applegate-Linda Cardellini dark comedy staved off the dreaded sophomore slump. Applegate and Cardellini’s frenemy chemistry remains off the charts, and the twists are as jaw-lowering as they are uproarious (one of them lands in shark-jump-adjacent territory, but because the show embraces/owns the absurdity of the curveball it gets a pass),” says Michael Ausiello from TV Line (this is a general “Ask Ausiello” site so visit it at your own peril; spoilers abound for many shows you may be watching).
There are indeed some plot developments that will test your ability to suspend disbelief to its breaking point, but the sharp dialogue between the two well-directed leads allows all that to slide effortlessly over them. Season 2 did not disappoint (and no spoiler, but the final scene is also perfectly karmic).