While not as darkly sardonic as the first two seasons, Dead to Me wraps up its run with a reasonable amount of satisfaction for its beloved characters with a bittersweet send-off.
We review the Netflix series Dead to Me season 3, which does not contain spoilers.
Dead to Me has had a long road to streaming its third and final season. So much time has passed since Jen (Christina Applegate) and a drunk driver struck Judy (Linda Cardellini). A driver hit them, and they ran off without even checking to see if they were okay. Who turned out to be Jen’s lover, Ben (James Marsden). Who just happened to be the twin brother of Steve, the man she killed in an angry rage. Oh, did we mention that Steve used to be engaged to Judy? And yes, Judy is the one who killed Ted, Jen’s husband, in another hit-and-run? Even before good-old Benji? And Steve was in the car? And yes, Judy was never caught?
Now that you are caught up, your head should be spinning off its axis. Dead to Me is one of streaming’s darkest, funniest, and more pleasurable series on television. Every Applegate quip is so darkly sardonic, and cynicism never felt so good or right. All of this is about to come to a head this year, with Applegate’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis playing a vital role in the delay. (Creator Liz Feldman already commented that she planned on ending the series after the third season). Its star commented on the extreme and grueling pain she suffered during filming. One cannot wonder if this led to something being off during the season. The dialogue was flat, losing its zip and notable zing.
The show returns with Jen and Judy in the hospital after the crash. They don’t know Ben hit them. All they do know is that the unknown person drove off. That’s when Charlie finds the letter Jen wrote Judy and misinterprets the message — he thinks Judy slept with his father. Not only does Jen now need to protect her best friend from Charlie knowing the truth, but something also worse has happened than being hit by a drunk driver or telling your son that his loving father was a cheat. A hiker discovered Steve’s body, and the police found the heart Jen carved into the tree where he was found.
Dead to Me gets off to a noticeably slow start. The writing and dialogue are just not as razor-sharp or even remotely funny as the first two seasons. The first half of the season turns into a half-hour drama with some suspense and little comic relief. There is some urgency, but what we have come to know and love about the show has mysteriously disappeared. There is a return to form, with Applegate’s Jen able to return to her cold-as-ice barbs, but we see the character begin to become more humanized than in previous seasons.
The return of such fan favorites, like Suzy Nakamura‘s Karen, Marc Evan Jackson‘s Jeff, and Valerie Mahaffey‘s Lorna, bring back some noticeable bite when they interact with the series lead. The show picks up when the always-welcome Garret Dillahunt‘s Agent Moranis returns. He is always very funny, unintentionally disarming, and even alarmingly clear-headed regarding salient details that keep the plotting interesting. Though his storyline and the subplot of the Greek mafia were wrapped up too quickly and cleanly.
However, Dead to Me has always been about the friendship between Jen and Judy that has seen its share of ups and downs. Cardellini’s Judy has always been the perfect foil and counterpoint to Applegate’s snark cannon. The series dives deep into the meaning of their friendship, which becomes quite emotional and even moving. While many may, I imagine will, find the ending perplexing, you do get a reasonable amount of satisfaction from the experience. While not as funny as the first two seasons, we accept it for what it is because the characters grow as people.
Like most of us.
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