If you haven’t binge-watched “Dead to Me,” what are you
waiting for? With episodes coming in at under 30 minutes, you’re getting a
series that can fit in with almost any schedule, and every episode packs a
punch of drama, comedy, pathos and the exploration of psychology that comes
with it. Bookmark this page, go watch the show and then come back here for the
discussion. Spoilers are below the trailer.
Jen (Christina Appplegate) found out she had the gene
related to breast cancer and got a double mastectomy (Applegate went through
the procedure IRL in 2008) to save her family the trauma of what she went
through when her mother died. (She still smokes heavily, but that’s for a
different blog post.) After the surgery, her husband stops being intimate with
her, and unbeknownst to her, he finds a younger woman with larger breasts to
start a relationship with. He told this girl that he was a widower and his wife
died from breast cancer.
While Judy’s (Linda Cardellini) case is a little more
complicated, she says her fiancé left her after she had her fifth miscarriage.
He couldn’t deal with the pain or the letdowns, and he wanted to have a family
at some point.
These two experiences are parallel. As the two women have
their womanhood and desirability called into question when they, for all
intents and purposes, lose the body parts that make them female. Is Jen any
less worthy of her husband’s love after she sacrifices for the sake of her
family’s future? Is Judy less deserving of love because she hasn’t been able to
bring a child to term?
Most people would say “No,” probably including these two
women’s husbands before the procedure and the miscarriage had the hypothetical
been asked of them. For all of American society’s supposed advances in rights
and body image, the U.S. still values women for how they look and their ability
to bear children. Nowhere is that point made better without it being preached
than in “Dead to Me.”
The trailer is here to prevent you from seeing any spoilers.
“Dead to Me” is a slow-burning, smart series that includes surprise reveals and
twists you may or may not expect. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t spoil it
for yourself. Go watch it. There is
swearing and discussion about issues particularly related to the female experience;
both these things should recommend the show to you because they help make it
funny, tragic, and create biting irony.
When Judy (Linda Cardellini) befriends Jen (Christina
Applegate) at a grief group, it seems sincere enough. She’s a little too eager
and overzealous, but people grieve in different ways. This may just be the way
Judy deals with her grief.
However, Judy’s secret casts a shadow on her interactions
with Jen, even as they become fast friends. Judy was the driver in the hit and
run that killed Jen’s husband. The guilt she feels has led her to try to do
something for Jen and her family to make their lives better. Through her
actions, camera angles and the acting skills of Cardellini, it also becomes
clear that Judy wants to be caught. She doesn’t want to live with her guilt, but
she doesn’t want to go to jail, either. The only problem is that she doesn’t know
how to relieve her guilt without putting her at risk of going to prison.
To avoid any spoilers for “Dead to Me,” I have intentionally
kept the subject of this post out of the title. That may mean fewer page views,
but ultimately, it means better viewer service. If you’ve already seen “Dead to
Me,” then feel free to scroll past the trailer. If you haven’t, I’m not sure
what you’re waiting for. Go watch it and then come back to this article. You
can book mark it. It’ll be here when you come back.
According to the Mayo Clinic, between 10 and 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages are rarely addressed in American culture. It’s almost as if superior medical practices and technology have made miscarriages a thing of the past. As an overlooked problem, and one that is often attributed to the woman and her lack of womanhood, it may be difficult for women to find a place that can help deal with the emotions a miscarriage may instill.
Judy (Linda Cardellini) has had five miscarriages, but this
isn’t sufficient enough loss for some members of the grief support group to
accept her after she has lied about her fiancé. It’s clear from a flashback
that Judy’s grief comes from another place as well, but the group members don’t
know about it. They just know she lied.
Not everyone handles their grief in the same way, and when
something as personal as a fifth miscarriage is the cause, the woman may
displace her feelings and choose to deceive to get the help she needs without
exposing the reality of her situation. “Dead to Me” does a beautiful job of
dealing with this emotional situation, touchy subject, and the psychology that
comes with it.
When Jen (Christina Applegate) goes to a grief counseling
circle, Judy (Linda Cardellini) tries too hard to become her friend. Jen holds
onto her anger at her husband’s killer, a hit and run driver, and she is left
alone with her two boys. Judy comes across as flaky, weird and possibly crazy.
She says she lost her fiancé eight weeks ago.
“Dead to Me” deals with grief and other social issues. When
the twist is revealed, it’s not because it’s obvious; it’s because of the
acting skills of Cardellini and possibly the director’s skills.
There’s only one way this series can end, but much like
watching a train wreck, you won’t be able to look away as the characters become
more entwined and make choices that, while poor, make sense in what we as
viewers know about the situation. The acting is great. Cardellini and Applegate
make for an odd couple that fit just right. The situations are funny, and the
dialogue is spot on. The characters are sympathetic and the script is
Don’t be put off by the stated subject matter of the series.
“Dead to Me” is funny, smart and deserves to be in queue and binged at the first
possible moment. Discover something you didn’t know you were missing.