Dead to Me is a Netflix original series focusing on the odd friendship that forms between two women who met a grief counseling group. Jen (Christina Applegate) a hotheaded and tightly wound widow is trying to pick up the pieces of her life three months after her husband was killed in an unsolved hit and run. Judy (Linda Cardellini) is a blithe spirit who strikes up a conversation with Jen at the group over the terrible coffee. The two quickly become friends, bonding over their shared grief, but not all is at it seems.
The show is a very introspective look into what grief does to a person, darkly comedic, and has refreshingly authentic dialogue between the two female leads.
It also features James Marsden as Steve Woods, a rich attorney with questionable ethics, Max Jenkins as Jen's business partner, Sam Mc Carthy as Jen's oldest son Charlie, and Ed Asner as a retiree who lives in the retirement home where Judy works.
The show is full of twists, turns, and drama. Spoilers abound.
This show provides examples of
- Artistic License Gun Safety: Averted. Numerous characters talk about the risks of having guns and the times we see a gun being used poorly it's by a character who doesn't know better and those around them who do are visibly cringing.
- The Atoner: Deconstructed. Judy sincerely tries to make up for the fact that she accidentally killed Jen's husband by befriending her, but her naive and frivolous nature ends up compounding the already tragic and complicated situation, causing even more grief and another death.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Jen, during a heated fight, tells her husband to get out and that she wants him to "drop dead." He dies that night in a hit and run. This causes a lot of guilt and drama for Jen.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Explicitly discussed by Jen and Judy at a couple of points.
- Blood Is Squicker in Water: We see plenty of Steve's blood in the swimming pool after he gets shot.
- Break the Cutie: Judy has this as her backstory. It makes sense given her multiple miscarriages, her fiance leaving her over them, hiding the fact that her fiance is a money launderer, and the guilt over hitting Jen's husband.
- Camp Gay: Try as he might, Chris can't even have a picture taken without looking gay.
- Chekhov's Gun: So many, it's hard to count. The safe with Ted's gun in it that Jen doesn't know the combo to. She lied and uses it to kill Steve in the last episode. Ted's back pain and muscle aches? where the pills Charlie is caught selling come from and a hint at his infidelity.
- Cliffhanger: Season One ends with Steve dead in the pool after Jen shot him, and the two ladies staring at his corpse.
- Contrived Coincidence: Of all the grief support groups in Los Angeles county, Judy joins the one that is also attended by the widow of her and Steve's hit-and-run victim.
- Cool Car: '66 Mustangs are a very prominent feature of the show.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted. Hard. Not only is Jen hitting Ted the reason he was out on the road that night, but it also contributes to Charlie blaming her for his father's death.
- Dramedy: Advertised as Dark Comedy, the twists and turns of the drama plot are just as important as the lighthearted and not-so-lighthearted comedic ones.
- Dramatic Irony: We find out pretty early on who hit and killed Ted. It isn't until very late in the show that Jen finds out who's responsible.
- Driven to Suicide: Judy, by the end as a result of all the guilt she has over leaving Ted to die after hitting him. Thankfully, she's spared by an attentive driver and a separate plot occurrence.
- Evil All Along: Steve is portrayed as morally ambiguous throughout most of the first season, until the final two episodes when we learn that he's a callous money launderer who fully orchestrated the entire cover up of Ted's death and is willing to throw Judy under the bus in order to save his own skin.
- Foreshadowing: Also, many many examples. For instance: Why does Steve have an art gallery? How can he afford to spend 8.6 million in cash? What business does an LA lawyer do with Greeks? What are all those boxes in the storage unit? Why is the Mustang in the gallery's name instead of Judy's? Why are the only artworks sold in the gallery are Judy's and why have so many of them been sold for obscenely high amounts of money? Plenty of clues about Steve being a money launderer.
- The Ghost: Ted's death drives the entire plot of the first season, but aside from a baby picture decorating a cake, he is never once seen in any of the episodes.
- Gun Nut: Lorna, Jen's mother in law is spoken of this way. Surprisingly so is Karen, Jen's neighbor.
- Happy Marriage Charade: To hear Jen tell it, she and Ted had a nearly-perfect marriage. The truth was quite different — in fact, their very last conversation ended with Jen screaming at him to drop dead.
- Has Two Mommies: Discussed when Judy believes she might be pregnant, and expresses anxieties about single motherhood. Jen promptly says that Judy won't be single, because she'll be there to help raise the child. Sadly, Judy's not pregnant and never can be, but it's still a nice sentiment.
- Hate Sink: Steve is a slimy, lying, emotionally abusive prick, so when Jen shoots him the audience doesn't feel too bad for him.
- Heaven Seeker: Chris is a very unique openly gay example.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Judy and Jen quickly become inseperable. Even the reveal that Judy accidentally killed Ted doesn't completely break the trust between them — when Jen shoots Steve, guess who her first call is?
- Homoerotic Subtext: Judy and Jen. Even acknowledged by the creator of the show.
- Hot And Cold: Steve and Judy's relationship in a nutshell.
- It's All About Me: Steve is somewhere between this and Evil Is Petty. He does many unscrupulous things through out the show all because he doesn't think that he should be responsible for the consequences. For example the hit and run, which ultimately foreshadows his illegal money laundering. He was very eager to stop the police from looking into him / being associated with the crime.
- Jerkass Ball: Jen holds the ball tightly as she begins to treat Judy like crap after she confesses that she killed Ted. She gets better by the end though.
- The Lost Lenore: Ted is a rare male example.
- Plot-Triggering Death: Ted's death gets the ball rolling.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite the main cast, especially Jen's, frustrations with Detective Perez, she regularly has good points about the procedures and struggles she has to go through and tries her best to help them. For instance;
- She doesn't show Jen the pictures of Ted's dead body because they're traumatic and it might upset her. Which Detective Perez is ultimately right about. Those pictures upset Jen so much that they cause her to have a panic attack which then ends her partnership with Chris.
- When presented with a legitimate threat to Jen's safety, she tells her that she can get her a restraining order within 24 hours. Not what Jen wants, but is certainly a very fast turn around that indicates she's trying to do her best.
- Right Behind Me: At one point Jen is complaining about Pastor Wayne and how his grief groups aren't helping her. It quickly turns awkward when Pastor Wayne turns around and chastises her for not putting in the effort that would get her results in the group.
- Shout-Out: Season One ends with an unscrupulous man being shot, and falling into his killer's backyard pool. We're then treated to a shot of his corpse floating in the water, with wide open eyes. Hmmmm, where have we seen this before...?
- Spoiled Sweet: The wealthy couple that are shown a new house by Chris and Jen at first appear to be vapid and shallow, but after Jen lashes out at them during her panic attack and insults the wife, they respond with kindness and understanding; the wife even recommends a good grief counselor. They decline to buy the house, however.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jen's Tomboy and Judy's Girly Girl.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Averted. Both leads (even Jen, who seemed to be wealthy during her marriage) repeat wardrobe pieces.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: We're treated to one from Judy when she finds out that Nick and Jen have successfully identified the type of car that hit Ted.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Nick disappears from the show around episode 8 after figuring out that Judy was responsible for the accident that killed Ted. Detective Perez tells him very explicilty why she can't take his claims seriously and he just disappears from the show for the last two episodes.
- Woman Scorned: After she is betrayed by Steve, Judy reveals to Officer Perez that he is a money launderer.
- Your Cheating Heart:
- Ted was cheating on Jen with a woman he met online. To add insult to injury, he told his mistress that Jen was dead. The poor girl was utterly crushed when she found out.
- Steve cheats on his new girlfriend with Judy, without telling Judy about her.
- And Judy cheats on Nick with Steve.