It’s hard to miss Netflix’s new dark comedy, Dead to Me. It has been top tile on my home page since it launched on May 3rd, and I am definitely not alone. With a star-studded cast including Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, and James Marsden, it feels more like a movie than a series. In fact, while binging it’s ten snackable half-hour episodes, it really did feel like I was watching a movie. From the production value to the story arc, this series could have easily been combined into one film.
While watching, it felt like every single episode had a completely shocking twist. If you haven’t watched, stop reading now because the twists are at the heart of the series and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Ok, now that that’s out of the way…
The series centers around two women, Jen and Judy (Applegate and Cardellini, respectively), who meet in a grief support group and quickly become friends despite their opposite personalities. As Jen takes it into her own hands to investigate the hit and run that killed her husband, Judy puts all of her energy into supporting her. Then, each episode contains a twist that seems to level up Judy’s craziness.
Twist 1 feels enormous when Jen learns that Judy’s reason for joining the support group (a dead fiancé, Steve, played by Marsden) is false after finding him alive and well in their home. It’s almost kill-the-main-character-early-in-a-show (*cough cough* Game of Thrones) enormous. But that’s hardly the tip of the iceberg. Eventually we learn that Judy was actually the killer and she’s hiding the vehicle in a storage facility controlled by Steve. We also learn that Jen’s husband who she’s been so loyal in avenging was actually cheating on her and he died immediately following a massive marital fight. Each reveal is dropped like cookie crumbs evenly across the episodes, building on our understanding of the incidents and climbing toward a climax. The show was made to be binged. Like I said, it felt like a movie.
In the end, Jen realizes that Steve’s manipulative ways are really what led Judy to commit all her crimes and she ends up shooting Steve (although in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, creator Liz Feldman claims this might not be exactly how Steve died). So, we know Season 2 will have to answer the question of who killed Steve and address what kind of punishment Judy will face.
Season 1 could have wrapped up simply like the movie that it seemed to want to be. Instead, it appears the show is going to try to keep leveling up in its tricks. The joy of the show was in the constant twists and turns, the surprises that never ceased. I worry that it won’t be able to sustain that momentum through multiple seasons, but I really hope it does.