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Series / Dead to Me

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Dead to Me is a Netflix original Dramedy and Black Comedy series.

The show focuses on the odd friendship that forms between two women who meet in a grief counseling group. Jen (Christina Applegate), a hotheaded and tightly wound widow, is trying to pick up the pieces of her life 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. The two quickly become friends, bonding over their shared grief, but not all is as it seems.

The show is a very introspective, darkly comedic look into what grief does to a person, with refreshingly authentic dialogue between the two female leads.

It also features James Marsden as Steve Wood, a rich attorney with questionable ethics, Max Jenkins as Jen's business partner, Sam McCarthy 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.

The show's first season 1 was released in May 3rd of 2019 to a positive reception. A second season was released in May 8th, 2020. A third and final season was released in November 17th, 2022.

Not to be confused with Dead Like Me.

This show provides examples of

  • Ambiguous Situation: The season finale of season 2 concluded with Jen and Judy ending up in a car crash by a hit-and-run driver revealed to be Ben. Whether they survived or not and how serious their injuries are is yet to be revealed.
  • AM/FM Characterization: Especially when she's feeling frustrated, angry, or particularly emotional, Jen listens to heavy metal as her self-described "meditation technique," which reflects her cantankerous and short-tempered nature.
  • Anti-Hero: Jen is a disturbed woman, whose anger issues deeply affect everyone in her life in a negative way, and is the protagonist of the story as she deals with grief over her husband's death.
  • Arc Symbol: In the final season, paper cranes. Jen gets wrapped into a Church activity where she is tasked with making 1000 paper cranes for a presentation, and they are subsequently used as a symbol for Judy and her dreams.
  • 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.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Despite Jen and Charlie having lots of arguments with each other, Jen makes it clear that she is as protective of Charlie as she is of Henry and genuinely wants him to be a better person.
  • Babies Ever After: Jen is pregnant with Ben's baby and gives birth in the finale.
  • Backup Twin: In the Season 1 finale, Steve is killed by Jen. Come Season 2, it's revealed that he has a twin brother named Ben, played by the exact same actor.
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Jen and Ben have one in "If Only You Knew". Judy and Michelle as well in the previous episode.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The final episode, "We've Reached the End". Jen and Judy are permanently changed for the better thanks to their friendship with each other. The investigation on Ted and Steve's deaths are at an end with nothing to point to either of them, letting them go on to live a normal life. Jen, in particular, gets a new child and a much better relationship with Ben, and is in an infinitely better place now with herself and her family than in the beginning. Judy, however, has terminal cancer, and after a heartfelt few days with Jen that reaffirms their friendship and their importance to one another, she gets on a boat and sails away to spend her last days in freedom. The end also implies that Jen will come clear about her crimes to Ben, and what comes out of it is anyone's guess.
  • Blame the Paramour: When Jen discovers that Ted was cheating on her with a 19-year-old girl named Bambi for over a year before he died, she immediately turns her ire towards Bambi and tries to confront her at her place of work. This is Played With because the reason she's more angry with Bambi than she is with Ted is because Ted is dead anyway. Additionally, she ends up not going through with confronting Bambi in the end.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: We see plenty of Steve's blood in the swimming pool after he is killed.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: Jen and Detective Perez briefly bond over their moms, who both died when they were young.
  • 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.
  • Burn Baby Burn: After kicking Judy out of the house once she learns that Judy is the one who hit Ted with her car, Jen burns all of the possessions Judy left behind in the guest house... except for the baby blanket with "Judy Ann" stitched on it, which Jen couldn't bring herself to burn.
  • Camp Gay: Try as he might, Chris can't even have a picture taken without looking gay.
  • Casting Gag: Katey Sagal plays Linda Cardellini’s mother. Her Star-Making Role was playing Peggy Bundy on “Married... with Children” where she played Christina Applegate’s mother.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
  • Cliffhanger:
    • Season 1 ends with Steve dead in the pool after Jen has killed him, and the two ladies staring at his corpse.
    • Season 2 ends with Judy & Jen being involved in a hit-and-run car crash after having bought Charlie a car. Ben, Steve's brother, was the driver in the other car and took off after it's revealed he has been drinking.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Judy can sometimes be this due to her penchant to be philosophical and her heavy belief in spiritual things.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The person who sexually assaulted Jen happens to be sitting on the city council board at the stop sign hearing.
    • Judy’s new love interest in season two turns out to be the Detective Perez’s ex-girlfriend, of all people.
    • The plot more or less runs on this trope, so much so that when someone graffitis "I KNOW WHAT YOU DID" on Jen's garage door, it's almost a shock when it's subverted. It was meant for Charlie.
  • Creepy Child: Henry’s friend Shandy, who found Ted’s body and went about her day without much of a reaction and also generally has a monotonous and weird disposition. She also casually tells Jen that she looks at the dark web sometimes and knows the best place to bury a body, and strangled Henry's bird to death.
  • Cynic–Idealist Duo: Temperamental and hot-headed Jen is generally very jaded and cynical, while Judy is an optimistic All-Loving Hero who Jen describes as able to "see the good in everyone, even when it's not there."
  • Dirty Cop: The chief of police is involved with the Greek mafia and trying to pin Steve's disappearance on Judy. Judy finds an audio recording of Steve's with his voice on it. When driving home from the woods with Jen after failing to find Steve's body, Detective Perez gets a text from Nick that says "WE GOT HIM." He ends up getting sent to federal prison.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted. 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.
    • After Jen seemingly comes to the realization of all she's done, including killing Steve, she runs up to Judy's car and tearfully begs Judy to run her over. It takes Judy screaming at her to stop to change Jen's mind.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jen's usual coping mechanism, lampshaded by Judy.
Jen: I see you're drinking your feelings.
Judy: WWJD. [Jen looks confused] What would Jen do.
  • 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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Steve comes off as one until the final few episodes when he reveals what a selfish sociopathic bastard is hiding behind his glamorous smile.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Jen experiences this when Judy gets terminal cancer. First Denial about it being serious, then Anger when Judy is not putting in effort to fight it. Jen enters Bargaining by trying to get Judy into a clinic trial for her cancer to be treated. When Judy decides to turn herself in, Jen reaches Depression in the interrogation room and begs Judy not to do this, saying she can't live without her. Acceptance arrives when the two spend their final days together.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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 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.
    • In promotional material (including the poster for this page), the pool of Jen's house is a recurring visual element, especially with wine being poured in it. The pool turns out to be a crucial place in season one. Not only it's where Judy confesses to killing Ted, but the final scene of season one as well, when Jen kills Steve and he falls into the pool, and his blood in the water mimics the blood from the posters.
    • In the first episode of season 2, Karen mentions that she heard Jen fighting a man in her backyard. This is an early hint Jen's story isn't all it seems. If she had shot Steve, then Karen would have heard the shot.
  • Grand Dame: Steve and Ben's mother is revealed to be an elderly wealthy socialite residing in a giant mansion.
  • Gun Nut: Jen's neighbor Karen. Lorna, Jen's mother-in-law, is spoken of this way after Charlie is busted with a gun he got from her.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: To hear Jen tell it, she and Ted had a nearly-perfect marriage. The truth was quite different. Their very last conversation ended with Jen screaming at him to drop dead. There's also the season one discovery that Ted had been cheating on her for a year.
  • Hate Sink: Steve is a slimy, lying, emotionally abusive prick, so when Jen kills him, the audience doesn't feel too bad for him.
  • Heaven Seeker: As the devout leader of the Holy Harmonies, Chris is a unique openly gay example.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Judy and Jen quickly become inseparable. Even the reveal that Judy accidentally killed Ted doesn't completely break the trust between them — when Jen kills Steve, guess who her first call is?
  • Hidden Depths: 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.
  • Hourglass Plot: Judy spends the entire first season hiding from Jen the fact that she killed her husband. Come Season 2, Jen herself has things to hide from Judy and Steve's twin brother Ben: while Judy knows Jen killed Steve, she doesn't know she didn't do it in self-defense, and Ben has no idea he is dead at all.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The first season's episode titles each contain a first-person singular pronoun (I, me, my) except for the season finale, whose title contains a second-person pronoun (you). The second season's episode titles each contain a second-person pronoun except for the season finale, whose title contains a first-person plural pronoun (we). In the final season, all episode titles include the first-person plural pronoun.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Steve inadvertently reveals to Jen that he was in the car with Judy when they ran over Ted after assuming Judy already told her the full truth.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Played With. Christina Applegate's Married... with Children co-star Katey Sagal guest stars in a couple episodes as Eleanor Hale, but she and Jen do not meet until the penultimate episode.
  • 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 and 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed. Neither Judy nor Jen are tried for their crimes in the end, and on the eyes of the public, they're totally innocent despite the murders they committed. However, the sheer amount of pain they had gone through makes it hard to say they got away unscathed, even if not done by the law.
  • No Bisexuals: After being mad at and obsessing over her ex Steve, Judy ends up dating a woman named Michelle. Despite her being romantically and sexually attracted to multiple genders, the show doesn't label Judy as "bi". In-Universe, one of the characters asks Judy if she is gay after hearing of her relationship with Michelle without any mention of the word bisexual.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Karen is this, much to Jen's annoyance. She constantly invites herself over to Jen's house at the worst times and comes close to inadvertently finding evidence of Jen's murder of Steve.
  • Pet the Dog: After spending two entire seasons as a by-the-book cop, Detective Perez lets Jen go after she confesses to killing Steve.
  • Platonic Co-Parenting: Discussed when Judy thinks she's pregnant, but doesn't want to go back to Steve. Jen suggests that they raise her baby together, since they already live together and Judy already helps out with Jen's sons.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Ted being hit by a car by Judy triggers the events of the series for both protagonists.
  • 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.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Steve is a petty, selfish asshole who's emotionally abusive towards Judy. His twin brother Ben, on the other hand, is kind, charming, and goofy.
  • Posthumous Character: Jen's husband Ted had been dead for three months by the time the pilot episode begins, but his death is the driving force of the plot and what leads to this whole mess.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The hotheaded and short-tempered Jen (Red), in contrast to the optimistic and empathetic Judy (Blue).
  • 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.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Chief Hastings pushes Detective Perez to finger Judy and Charlie as suspects in Steve's disappearance because he is trying to cover up their mutual ties to the Greek Mafia. He is unaware that Charlie's mother really did kill him and Judy helped hide the body.
  • Running Over the Plot: The plot is kicked off when Jen's husband is killed in a hit-and-run, and she joins a grief support group, where she meets Judy. The two women become fast friends, and Judy agrees to help Jen try and find out who did it. The twist? She did, albeit by accident, and is an absolute wreck from the guilt.
  • Second Love: Jen and Judy's Season 2 love interests (Ben and Michelle, respectively) are this, as both characters have been in previously established relationships before.
  • Shout-Out
    • Season One ends with an unscrupulous man being killed, 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. Shout-out to Sunset Boulevard.
    • Using harsh chemicals in an attempt to dissolve a body in a bathtub leads to severe floor damage as in Breaking Bad.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Gender-inverted: Jen cusses quite a lot, even in front of her younger son Henry. This only gets worse after everything she goes through.
  • Spoiler Cover: The posters for seasons 1 and 2 with the spilt red wine foreshadows Jen murdering Steve and disposing of his dead body in her swimming pool.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jen's the aggressive, foul-mouthed tomboy to Judy's sensitive, artistic girly-girl.
    Judy: [offering latte art] I made you a heart!
    Jen: Gross.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Averted. Both leads (even Jen, who seemed to be wealthy during her marriage) repeat wardrobe pieces.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Jen's defining character trait, as pointed out by the pastor of her support group near the beginning and ending of the Pilot. Jen also warns Judy about her temper, saying she doesn’t want to be on her bad side. This flaw is put into direct conflict with Judy and Jen's close friendship when we learn Judy is the one who accidentally killed Jen’s husband, and desperately wants her forgiveness. As their group pastor warns, if she doesn’t address her rage, and learn how to forgive, she will always be alone. Which has even more meaning when Jen confesses the reason her husband left the house the night he died was because she kicked him out in a fit of rage. She finally faces her anger issues by admitting her guilt for causing his death. Which in turn triggers Judy to finally confess that she was the one who hit him with her car and killed him.
  • 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.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The end of the second season premiere as Jen and Judy open the door to see a seemingly very alive Steve waiting there.
    • The end of "You Don't Have To" reveals that Michelle's roommate is Detective Perez.
    • The season 2 finale. Jen and Judy are struck in a car crash by a drunk Ben.
  • Woman Scorned: After she is betrayed by Steve, Judy reveals to Officer Perez that he is a money launderer.
  • You Must Be Cold: Ben drapes his jacket over Jen after she complains about being cold.