If you’re looking for a new show to binge-watch that includes comedy, drama, mystery, murder and heart, then Netflix’s “Dead to Me,” executively produced by comedy legends Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, is exactly what you need. Creator Liz Feldman, the former writer of “2 Broke Girls” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” created a show that hilariously addresses non-confrontational feelings, like grief and guilt. The main characters fight their battles together, even though they’re the sole cause of them. “Dead to Me” is universal and deals with the struggles and triumphs of being a middle-aged woman.
Before you continue reading, I recommend that you at least watch the first episode — “Dead to Me” is a show you don’t want to know much about before you start binging. Since each 30-minute installment is filled with clever clues, important tidbits and insane plot twists, you won’t want to have any insight on what is to come.
Fair warning: As soon as you start this series, you’ll probably want to finish it, and by the time you get to the final scene of the last episode, you’ll be longing for more. So far, Netflix hasn’t announced a second season of “Dead to Me,” so you’ll have to keep those hopes high for a while.
The show stars veteran actresses Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. Applegate, who’s known for her iconic role in “Anchorman,” plays Jen Harding, a character whose husband died in a hit-and-run accident. Jen is a strong, hard-as-nails type of woman with a bold personality.
Applegate recently described her character in a New York Times feature. “The world is trying to get [Jen] to stop being who she is and stop feeling what she’s feeling and as a result she is incredibly rageful and reactive,” Applegate said. “She doesn’t know how to smile or laugh or let anyone comfort her. When she meets Judy, it’s life-changing.”
Judy Hale, played by Cardellini, is a free-spirited woman with a bubbly and (seemingly) innocent personality — basically, she’s the exact opposite of Jen. But opposites attract, so the two women quickly become best friends after meeting at a grief support group in Southern California. They bond over their unexpected losses while drinking wine, smoking weed and watching “Facts of Life” reruns at 2 a.m. — friendship at its finest.
Unfortunately, as much as you hope Jen and Judy are a perfect match, the foundation of their friendship stems from a lie that shapes the entire premise of the show: Judy killed Jen’s husband.
What’s left of the show is uproariously crude humor that’ll have you cackling and sentimental scenes that’ll leave you crying. “Dead to Me” forces viewers to feel an uncomfortable yet humane sense of empathy for the characters, especially as Judy’s guilt gradually escalates.
Applegate and Cardellini breathe life and energy into their transcendent roles. They take control of every scene as they playfully exchange insults and compliments. The main characters have an inseparable dynamic that almost makes you forget about the tribulations that loom over them. The unfortunate events they endure allow them to seek refuge in each other’s pain. Jen and Judy’s imperfections are shamelessly displayed, and their friendship is a symbol of both unity and deception — it’s the most vile and twisted alliance that you’ll ever root for.
“Dead to Me” perfectly ties in the rawness behind being a woman, as the writers of the show tastefully create conversations about mastectomies, miscarriages and mid-life crises. They don’t shy away from the pains that women often face, and the show also deals with the aftermath of these trials and how they can negatively affect close relationships.
Applegate and Cardellini personally experienced tragedies that translated into the way they portrayed their characters. Like Jen, Applegate underwent a double mastectomy in 2008.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of characters out there with double mastectomies. But I went through it, and it’s a horribly painful process — emotionally, spiritually, physically — and I never really talked about it,” Applegate said in an interview with USA Today. “I thought this was my chance to tell a little bit about me, but also all the women that have gone through that.”
Cardellini’s character loses someone close to her in one of the last episodes. She tearfully utters the line “I didn’t get to say goodbye,” which was not in the original script. Cardellini, like many others, said she has lost loved ones before having the chance to say a final goodbye.
“Dead to Me” is a series that doesn’t try to depict the ideal marriage or intimate relationship. Even though Jen misses her husband, there’s a point in the series when she angrily admits that she’s glad he’s dead after uncovering secrets about his past.
Judy also doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to men — she constantly returns to a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship, even after she has found a healthy one. It’s a cyclical act that can make some viewers feel like they’re staring into a mirror as they witness Judy’s will-power unfold.
“Dead to Me” is undoubtedly one of the most addicting shows on Netflix, and the use of dramatic irony enhances the audience’s experience. Fans go on a journey through the minds of a compassionate murderer and an angered widow. It’s hard to fight the mix of emotions you’ll feel — one moment you’re laughing about a harsh insult, and the next moment you feel sorry for the victim.
There’s never a dull moment in “Dead to Me,” and you might catch yourself yelling at your screen as each plot twist occurs, but that’s what makes the show so incredibly engaging to watch.