TV Review – Dead to Me

Creator: Liz Feldman

Writer: Liz Feldman, Kelly Hutchinson & more

Starring:  Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden

Tagline: “Misery just found company.”

Trivia: Jen references to Judy in the car about the piña colada song; Jen played by Christina Applegate also starred in The Sweetest Thing with Cameron Diaz. They were also both shown in a car scene singing and dancing along to the piña colada song as well.

This Netflix series is a full on writing school for mystery, thriller and mostly character driven stories. It has so many lessons for writers that I can’t stop revisiting it and watching it again and again.

We all know the saying that a gun in the first act will fire in the third act. But what happens if the gun is used in the first act, how do you continue beyond it? This series shows you how.

Dead to Me presents itself as a mystery show and sometimes maybe as a comedy, but it’s neither that nor that. It’s all about female friendship.

Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini), are both fantastic as two women who meet each other in a grief-counseling group and grow to become intimately close friends.

Dead to Me is a complicated and occasionally fascinating depiction of female friendship boasting a pair of fantastic performances from Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. It’s a decent and sensitive examination of grief. You will not get here your usual expression of grief, but the real-life, raw one in a diverse ways of being exposed.. 

The show cannot be pigeonholed as what type show it is. I can point to individual scenes and say, “This show is a thriller” (dramatic flashbacks, exciting cliffhangers), or, “This show is a comedy” (goofy, shrill mother-in-law, drunken adventures at a bereavement event).

I can also say, “This show is making fun of itself” (James Marsden’s glorious over-the-top oiliness as Cardellini’s ex), or, “This show takes these women seriously” (several touching moments in their friendship), so one might say it’s not thoroughly thought about.

But I find that this is the beauty of this show, which is, that it’s unlike anything we predict or presume we understand, it keeps us on our toes and forces us to click to the next episode. That’s great writing.

Same goes for the characters of Jen and Judy, you are being forced to dig deep to explore how female eccentricity is often pigeonholed as “crazy” or “hysterical,” words with gendered roots.

The series brings up these questions early enough that when, in the second half of the season, both women have moments that push their characters beyond mere “eccentricity,” you feel guilty if you want to judge, much less armchair-diagnose, either character. It tricks you into empathy in an increasingly extreme situation.

When you go beyond certain plot holes it has, you’re left with a compelling narrative of two women brought together by the most unfortunate circumstances.

Sure, the “gun” went off in the first episode, and if you stick around, you’ll be treated to a variety of other shocking twists. But none of those twists are nearly as satisfying as the moments when its two stars strip away the drama and sit with the familiar—the uncomfortably authentic burden of grief.

Verdict 4.5/5 Stars in my book

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