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Characters / Dead to Me

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Main Characters

Jennifer "Jen" Harding

A real estate agent and mother whose husband recently died in an unsolved hit-and-run.

  • Brooklyn Rage: Jen used to live in New York, and while she's since shed the accent, she still definitely has the attitude.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: She gets riled-up easily. As Chris points out, this has been a trait of hers since even before her husband's death.
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  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She's ill-tempered, sarcastic, crude... and not that bad, once you get to know her. She quickly grows to care deeply about Judy, and loves her children dearly.
  • Missing Mom: Her mother got cancer and died when Jen was only nineteen.
  • Parents as People: She sincerely loves her kids, but she's not always the most functional or stable mother. But she tries. Oh, how she tries.
  • Parting Words Regret: Her last interaction with Ted was an awful, awful fight. Even after finding out that Ted was really kind of a slimebag, she still deeply regrets this.
  • Sexless Marriage: Hers and Ted's was this by the end. According to Jen, he hadn't touched her since she got a breast reduction, even though she'd gotten it to prevent cancer. She's understandably very hurt by this.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In episode 10, after Judy confesses that she killed Ted, she becomes outright cruel and mean to her and sees her as a sociopath, not caring about knowing the real reason why. She gets better by the end though, as her killing of Steve causes her to forgive Judy and come to terms with her own hypocrisy.
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  • Widow Woman: The show begins with her husband Ted having been killed in a hit-and-run.

Judy Hale

Played by: Linda Cardellini

An artist with a dark secret that Jen meets at a grief support group.

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Her relationship with Steve definitely has shades of this. Even after forming a relationship with Nick, she finds herself drawn back to her ex-fiancee.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Her extreme self-destructiveness, lack of self-esteem, bouts of extreme depression and (more rarely) extreme glee, and difficulty letting go of the people (and ideas) she's attached to give the impression that she might have some sort of mental illness, possibly manic depressive disorder.
  • The Atoner: Deconstructed. Judy tries to sincerely make up for the fact that she accidentally killed Jen's husband by befriending her, but her naïve and frivolous nature ends up compounding the already tragic and complicated situation, causing even more grief and another death.
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  • Broken Bird: Between multiple miscarriages, her fiancee leaving her, and accidentally killing a man in a hit-and-run, Judy was this even before the events of the show. It only gets worse from there.
  • Death by Irony: Purposely evoked when she tries to commit suicide by being hit by a car, wracked with guilt over accidentally killing Ted this way. Fortunately, she doesn't succeed.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the first season finale, she tries to kill herself by walking into traffic. She fails.
  • Doom Magnet: Steve claims that wherever Judy goes, chaos follows. He's right.
  • Easily Forgiven: Judy is very quick to forgive other people, even when she really shouldn't.
  • Fatal Flaw: In a weird way, her optimism. Judy becomes friends with Jen in an effort to atone for accidentally killing her husband and thoroughly expects to be forgiven once she apologizes.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ted's death really eats at her.
  • Nice Girl: Deconstructed. Judy is a friendly, well-meaning person who tries to look on the bright side of things and makes a genuine effort to get along with everyone. That said, poor judgement and a tendency to throw herself into self-destructive behavior often leads to negative consequences not only for herself but everyone around her.
  • Tragic Dream: What she really wants, more than anything, is to be a mother... and, as she finds out late in Season One, she can never bear children. Given her financial instability and questionable mental health, adoption likely isn't a viable option for her, either.

Secondary Characters

Steve Wood

Played by: James Marsden

Judy's ex-finace. Also, a tool.

  • Asshole Victim: Jen shoots him in the Season 1 finale.
  • Domestic Abuse: Not physically, but he is implied to be emotionally abusive to Judy, to the point that she becomes extremely subservient around him.
  • Evil All Along: After spending most of the first season being rather morally ambiguous, he shows his true colors in the last two episodes.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Perfectly capable of being pleasant, if extremely yuppie and a bit douchey. Ultimately a total sociopath when push comes to shove.
  • It's All About Me: His primary character trait.
  • Jerkass: Oh, yeah. There is really nothing nice to say about this guy.
  • Lack of Empathy: He really doesn't seem to feel much remorse at all for his part in the accident. The fact that his first instinct is to tell Judy to keep driving speaks volumes.
  • Never My Fault: He takes absolutely zero responsibility for any of his amoral actions. When suspicion starts to fall on him, he insists on pinning the blame solely on Judy after previously assuring her they were in it together.
  • Your Cheating Heart: He repeatedly sleeps with Judy despite having a girlfriend — that he didn't tell Judy about.

Ted Harding

Jen's deceased husband.

  • The Ghost: Uh... not in that way. We've never even seen him in a flashback.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Sort of. He told Bambi about his wife and children, but said that his wife had died years ago.
  • Parents as People: He was far from a perfect husband and was in fact pretty terrible in a lot of ways, but he was apparently an affectionate father, and his sons really miss him.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Without his death, we'd have no story.
  • Sexless Marriage: He and Jen stopped having sex after she got a preventative mastectomy.
  • Your Cheating Heart: He was cheating with a much younger woman he met online. To make matters worse, her name is Bambi. And he told her his wife was dead. Bambi was horrified when she found out the truth.

Lorna Harding

Played By: Valerie Mahaffey

Ted's mother.

  • It's All About Me: In a different way than Steve. Lorna is the narcissistic mother-in-law straight from your nightmares. Belittling, condescending, self-superior, and self-centered to the point where she tries to make Ted's funeral and memorial all about her own grief.
  • Jerkass: While Jen can be difficult, Lorna is just plain mean.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Jen doesn't like her at all, and it's hard to blame her.

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