Dead to Me is not as novel as Big Little Lies yet it’s hard to resist its charm
Tinged with flavours of crime and mystery, the female-led comedy-drama has risen triumphantly and blessed us with some very intriguing television series over the last few years. With fierce women in the driving seat, shows like Killing Eve, Big Little Lies and Good Girls have captivated viewers with their fascinating characters, interesting twists and dark wit.
Joining the list is the new Netflix series, Dead to Me, another dark comedy with a mystery woven into its fabric.
Created by Liz Feldman, the show arrived on the streaming giant earlier this month. The terrific Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini lead the cast, telling the story of a complicated friendship with secrets lingering underneath the surface.
Applegate portrays Jen Harding, a real estate agent who is raising two sons while mourning the death of her husband who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Her sudden bereavement and frustration over the unsolved crime that took her husband’s life, as well as her pre-existing anger issues, are making it difficult for her to cope with the situation she finds herself in.
Cardellini plays Judy Hale, a nursing home employee who is grieving the loss of her fiancé and is more troubled than she initially lets on.
The two women meet at a grief support group and strike up a friendship, but it soon becomes apparent that everything isn’t quite as it seems. The lies begin to unravel as we learn about the actual events and intents that led them to this point.
The first season of Dead to Me takes quite a few turns along its 10-episode journey, but the mystery elements don’t always work quite as well as one would have hoped. Perhaps the series waits too long to make its big reveal, by which time you’ve already figured things out long before the twist is actually unveiled.
However, watching Applegate and Cardellini work off each other is such a joy that it makes it easy for the viewer to be invested in the tale of these complex, flawed women. The ladies are funny, charming, moving, and make their characters seem convincing, or at least interesting, even when the writing isn’t at its strongest. It’s because of their talent that once you start watching the series, you don’t want to hit pause since you can’t wait to see what possibly irresponsible, perhaps even self-destructive thing they’ll do next. It’s a good thing all 10 episodes were released together because the dramedy proves to be very binge-worthy.
The supporting cast includes James Marsden as Judy’s love interest, Max Jenkins as Jen’s real estate business partner, and the always wonderful Ed Asner as Judy’s friend from the retirement home she works at. All of these performance are impressive, and each of the characters are very well cast.
Dead to Me is at its best when it is examining the bonds of a therapeutic female friendship or exploring the depths of grief and the impact of losing someone. It may not seem quite as novel seeing how it follows in the footsteps of acclaimed shows like the aforementioned Big Little Lies, and there are a few moments when one character or the other will frustrate you by doing something implausible. But as a whole, the series has so many intriguing elements going in its favour that it is very hard to resist its charms.
Its mystery could have been a little sharper and its story-line a little more taut, but thanks to the shining talent of its leading ladies, Dead to Me works quite well and is an entertaining new addition to its sub-genre.
All photos: IMDb
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