Netflix’s ‘Dead To Me’ TV Review: Totally Worth The Binge!
Christina Applegate returns to TV in Dead To Me, a dark comedy about death, grief and finding friendships in the most unusual places, during the worst time in anyone’s life.
Netflix’s latest series Dead To Me stars Christina Applegate, and it’s a triumphant return (at least for me) to the small screen for the actress that started on it. The series is all about Jen Harding (Applegate) who loses her husband in a violent accident. In an effort to return to some semblance of normalcy, resume her career, support her sons while trying to make some sense of her situation, Jen joins a grief support group. This is where the show begins.
Dead To Me is a lot of things. I wouldn’t exactly call it a dramedy as it’s more of a super black comedy. There is so much to take away from it about real-world problems and how to handle grief, that it’s almost reductive to even label it as a ‘funny’ show. But it is. And so much more.
In her support group, Jen immediately runs into Judy Hale, (Linda Cardellini) a quirky and odd woman dealing with her own loss. The two become fast friends, but something is inherently off with Judy. She’s completely different from Jen. While Jen suffers no fools and is super practical, Judy is more of a kind soul who believes in hugging strangers. The two hit it off and develop a unique friendship during a troubling time for both of them. More troubling than we could ever imagine.
The series is a complete binge-worthy show. The first episode works as a deep hook to keep you engaged and locked in for the rest of the series. So, if you don’t enjoy it, or aren’t sold by the first episode, you are probably one of those people who can put away a book halfway or leave the theatre in the middle of a movie. And that’s completely fine, even though there’s probably something wrong with you.
Dead To Me is intense at times while being laugh out loud funny at others. It’s devastatingly heartbreaking and also satisfyingly shocking. Every episode has at the least one or two plot twists that either take the story in a completely different direction, are diffused immediately or just linger for dramatic effect. Watching Dead To Me was exhausting in so many ways that I never thought possible from a half-hour show.
It’s amazing to see Applegate return to the mainstream in a lead role. She’s still got all the comedy chops and is even a little surprising to me as a serious actor. I absolutely love that despite her status in the industry, there are moments of Dead To Me where she looks so incredibly real, and not plastic and artificial like so many others when they decide to mount a comeback. There are moments where she looks downright horrible, but it lends to me believing her character so much more than if she was just the perfect person with every strand of hair in place, which is also the depiction of her characters, so it all works!
I’ve been somewhat of a fan of Linda Cardellini since her E.R. days (sorry Freaks And Geeks), and while she’s always been impressive in her supportive roles in Avengers: Age Of Ultron or Green Book, it’s so refreshing to see her as a lead in a role that’s she’s so well suited for, but so counter type to her usual offerings. Cardellini impresses as a layered woman with so much going on and her comic timing is so wonderful.
Dead To Me, maybe inadvertently, ends up portraying some important aspects of real life, during its shocking thriller-like storytelling. At no point of her grieving process is Jen ever told to ‘get over it’, or ‘move on’. Despite making many mistakes, Jen’s never called out for her lapses in judgment, outside of what the story calls for. Her character is also unapologetically sure of her self and her process, never once apologizing for all the craziness we see unfold during the series.
Dead To Me avoids the horrible relationship melodramas that you could easily expect from a show like this. While her eldest son Charlie (Sam McCarthy) has trouble adjusting to the death of his father, leading to quite a bit of turmoil between mother and son, we’re spared any tear-jerking moments of reconciliation between them, while still invoking a smile when it does eventually happen. And it’s those elements that really make the show more than just the usual conventional drama.
Dead To Me is a truly funny, engaging and intense show that will keep your interest beyond episode one. The series focuses on dramatic twists and turns in its storytelling to move the plot forward in a way that never feels gratuitous or gimmicky. And as a half-hour, 10-episode series, it’s definitely worth the binge!
Dead To Me is now streaming on Netflix.