Dead to Me is a thrilling dark comedy, that unfortunately loses some of its lustre in the second season.
The premise of Dead to Me is that Jen and Judy bond over their grief over losing loved ones during a support group, which Jen is wholly against. Her grief is what consumes her. And Jen provides the ultimate distraction. Though Jen is reluctant to embrace Judy’s incessant chirpiness, eventually she succumbs, and they develop a deep friendship. But that summary does not accurately describe this comedy and all the surprises it offers. There are a lot of secrets on both sides from Jen and Judy and more held by those surrounding them.
Dead to Me reminds me of Desperate Housewives, with its wacky turns and secret drama. Thankfully without the narration on each episode. But I would say it is a darker comedy-drama than Desperate Housewives was – mostly in its atmosphere and tone. With Desperate Housewives, if there had been any tension, which was soon lost as it became almost normal for someone to be in trouble for some type of crime. And that’s the thing with the stakes always being raised, it soon loses its urgency. But so far, Dead to Me has excelled in bringing the right amount of drama and tension to persevere with its story. Unlike Desperate Housewives, the troubling secrets that cause so much stress are not treated lightly. Jen and Judy might have a sense of humour about how deep down the rabbit hole they have gone, but it’s real for them, and it feels just as real to us.
Christina Applegate is great at playing a character who you want to feel sorry for, but sometimes her rage makes that almost impossible. But Jen is a character you can understand. She is the more down-to-earth of the duo, but with some witty banter that you can’t help but love. Judy is the nice girl to a fault, and sometimes to her own detriment. I found the Judy character appealing in the first season of Dead to ME. However, I have to say, as the second season was in full swing, I found myself hating whenever she was on screen. There seems to be not a lot of substance to her character really. She’s Robin to Jen’s Batman and it shows. Apart from being nice to the point of an absolute pushover, there’s not a lot else there. Even with one moment of independence displayed, I am not convinced there is anything more there. She is the epitome of co-dependency, it almost makes me feel sad to watch this character. Hopefully, they can do something more to develop her character.
That’s not to say that the duo does not excel when together. It is their mutual dysfunction together, that makes Dead to Me so addicting to watch. Two polar opposites brought together by lies and held together by secrets and necessity.
But if you are like me, having many recurring side characters adds more depth and richness, and helps negate the weaknesses of Judy. The exasperated cop that wants to find any crime to get those women out of her police station and into prison. A charming dirtbag of an on and off boyfriend. The nauseating lonely and overly friendly neighbour who can’t read the room. They all add colourful variety to Dead to Me that might otherwise have lost its freshness after a while.
However, I have to say, I wasn’t as enthralled with Season 2 as I was the first season. As I mentioned there was little to no development of Judy’s character. In the first season, she was struggling with a lot of mixed emotions, towards Jen and her ex, Steve. But as that can of worms had been opened and quickly closed, what else was there for Judy to say. I would go as far as to say that Judy becomes the bumbling idiot who ends up creating drama, just to add to the turmoil of Jen. In a role reversal, it was Jen who felt guilt but it seemed to be misdirected in a very confusing way, which did not leave a lot of sympathy or connection to her character. Maybe it’s because even though you are still addicted to finding out what happens next, it doesn’t add any more to the characters or the story. As implausible as it gets in Dead to Me in the most delightful ways, I felt truly dumbfounded when it’s all crumbling down. A character makes a complete U-turn, ignoring all the principles that the character had professed to have after hearing a sob story.
But I still have hope for the third season of Dead to Me, regardless of my criticisms. With the shocking finale, I feel they can move forward in a new interesting direction that is more expansive than previous seasons.