Join Jen and Judy on one final twist-filled ride as Dead to Me comes to a close. This season sees our dynamic duo recovering from season two’s cliffhanger car crash as they desperately try to ensure the misdeeds of their past don’t catch up to them.
Dead to Me has always felt like the quiet achiever. It was never the hottest, most talked-about series, but it packed a tonne of heart and humour into every one of its episodes. The second season took things up a notch, and may be the best season in some aspects, but this final season surprised me in more ways than just its story. Tonally speaking, Dead to Me has always straddled this fine line of incorporating lots of humour as well as hitting plenty of emotional beats. This season doubles down on the more dramatic aspects of the story, really tugging on those heart strings every chance it gets. It feels like every episode brings with it more emotional gut-punches that will bring you to tears. Plus, they’re not cheaply-written turns purely for the sake of drama. The dramatic content is very well-written and authentic (in a ‘Dead to Me’ kind of way). It doesn’t shy away from getting serious when the story calls for it, and I respect that. Creator Liz Feldman clearly had a vision for how she wanted this to end, and has executed it beautifully.
That being said, despite this season bringing the waterworks, they somehow weave in enough laugh-out-loud moments to balance things out and maintain the same vibe as before. The quick-witted banter and smartly-funny (but also silly) dialogue is stronger than ever. Comedic punchlines are delivered so fast that you don’t have time to see them coming, leading to huge laughs that regularly catch you off-guard. That’s one of the joys of watching this series – no matter how dark and sombre a scene gets, you just know there’s a comedic jab right around the corner. In some projects, these constant tonal shifts would be jarring, but when you have the talents of Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate on your side, everything just works.
The holy trinity of comedic prowess at the moment might be Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, but there’s no doubting the fact that the ultimate dynamic duo is Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate. The back-and-forth banter between these two is endlessly hilarious. It seems almost effortless how they manage to bounce back and forth with quip after quip weaved seamlessly into conversation. Their contrasting personalities and styles of comedy are the perfect juxtaposition, ensuring they’re always both enhancing each scene in their own way. I’m going to seriously miss seeing these two bounce one-liners off each-other, but what I’ll also miss is their emotional chemistry.
I mentioned that this season is jam-packed with great, deeply emotional story arcs. The fact is, they wouldn’t work without the raw, emotion-driven performances that Cardellini and Applegate deliver. The reason these sequences are so impactful is entirely due to the authenticity of their performances. They pour so much of their heart and soul into their respective roles that the characters and their struggles feel real. It ensures audiences remain attached to the characters and genuinely care about everything they’re going through. All I’ll say is get the tissues ready, because you’ll certainly need them to get through most episodes.
Looping back to the overall narrative, this feels like the most focused season of the series. There’s no pointless story arcs in the middle of each episode, and no instances where an arc comes across as filler. There’s one or two minor arcs that feel like they’ve been forgotten at one point, but they do come around in the end. The season also gives some love to arcs involving supporting characters, such as Nick (Brandon Scott) and Detective Perez (Diana Maria Riva), who share some good scenes together. Plus, James Marsden has a lot to do in this season, with Ben once again playing a heavily involved role.
As is the series’ identity, this season is also riddled with fun twists and secrets galore. Since the primary goal of the season is to wrap things up, the twists and reveals aren’t as mind-blowing and game-changing as in the second season. There’s a couple big ones, but they’re mostly neat little reveals that push the story forward and create some interesting character dynamics.
So, does the series close out in a satisfying way? I have a feeling many people are going to be torn by the creative decisions, as I was upon immediately finishing it. However, with an evening of contemplation, I believe it’s a very fulfilling ending which makes perfect sense for the characters and the decisions they make. It’s definitely not the ‘typical’ ending, and not the one I’d have foreseen, but it’s the most authentic way to handle such a climax.
In the end, if you haven’t yet gotten on to Dead to Me, I’d say it’s a fantastic watch if you’re in the market for a good laugh and cry at the same time. Plus, you know it’s not going to get abruptly cancelled. This season might have to be my favourite of the three. The dramatic content is top notch, and every episode is filled with scenes to get the tears flowing. At the same time, it’s an absolute joy to watch thanks to the hilarious dialogue and witty performances from Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate. With that, I bid farewell to yet another thoroughly entertaining series.