In preparation for this review, I re-watched “Dead to Me” Season 1, and little did I know, I forgot that I watched the entire thing. For me, “Dead to Me” came, went, and despite the fact that it ended on a cliffhanger, I didn’t necessarily need more of it.
However, I heard Season 2 was much better, and thus I had to catch up. And because Season 1 ends on a spoiler, in order for me to talk about Season 2, I’m going to slap a heavy ** Spoiler Warning ** on this post, because “Dead to Me” is just one of those shows that’s impossible to talk about without addressing the twists and turns it goes through. So if you haven’t seen the show, either leave to do so, or scroll to the bottom of this review to see my final score for Season 2.
We all caught up? Good.
Season 2 revolves around the death of Steve Wood (James Marsden), the ex-fiance of series protagonist Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini). Steve was killed by Judy’s best friend and middle-aged mom Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) after he confronted her at her home at the end of Season 1, demanding where Judy was and threatening to harm her. It’s ironic, as the premise for Season 1 revolves around the fact that Judy and Steve killed Jen’s husband in a hit-and-run.
Season 1 revolved around Judy attempting to gain redemption by befriending Jen and improving her life, as well as Steve’s psychopathy. The man was simply an irredeemable asshole, and while Judy defends him even after his death, it’s clear that her relationship with him was overwhelmingly abusive and toxic.
To this note, Season 2 has somewhat of a sigh of relief, as she develops a healthy romantic relationship with a woman named Michelle (Natalie Morales), whose mom is entered in the nursing home Judy works at. Judy is finally allowed to be happy.
Call it fate or lazy writing (or both), but Michelle still lives with her ex, Officer Perez (Diana-Maria Riva), the officer who gave Judy a hard time in Season 1, and whose character has little to do other than get in the way in Season 2. She joins a list of characters including Pastor Wayne (Keong Sim), Officer Nick Prager (Brandon Scott), and Karen (Suzy Nakamura) from Season 1 that the show honestly doesn’t know what to do with. It feels like a lot of these actors were on contract for multiple seasons, but the scripts just didn’t need them there, and as a result, there’s a lot of fat to this show. “Dead to Me” Season 2 could’ve told a much more focused story with half the cast and half of its episodes. Or better yet, it could have chosen to tell a story that wasn’t so one-note, and actually warranted use of a large cast.
The issue with “Dead to Me” Season 2 is that it wastes our time with a shallow cat-and-mouse game as to whether or not Jen will get caught disposing of Steve, who is stuffed in her freezer for most of the show. As someone who is a fan of both “Narcos” and “Breaking Bad”, the thrilling tale of disposing of a body is usually a story that can take up one episode of an average crime show. There just isn’t enough there to fill out an entire season of TV.
The show introduces the character of Steve’s identical twin brother, Ben (also played by James Marsden), who ends up becoming Jen’s love interest and is only in the show, much like Officers Perez and Prager, to pester our main protagonists. The character of Ben is much different than Steve, being kind, compassionate and funny, but the show just has nothing to do with him. His character feels less like a clever twist of the plot than it feels like they had James Marsden on contract for at least a few seasons, and the showrunners had to invent a way to have him on the show somehow. There is a subplot that reveals that Steve was laundering money for the Greek Mafia, but it’s not developed enough to hold interest.
I can see why I forgot about this show. “Dead to Me” just doesn’t have anything interesting to say. While I can’t blame the cast at all, who do their best, the issue with this show is its direction. “Dead to Me” should be on par with “You,” especially with the dynamic Cardellini and Applegate have as its leads, and the type of tales they’re telling about crime and complex relationships that clearly seems like it is trying to keep you on your toes. The issue is that the show’s plot is elementary, its twists are predictable, and as a result, the show is forgettable.
With that being said, Season 2 is an improvement over Season 1. Ben is an upgrade from Steve, and Judy and Michelle’s relationship is a high point in the show, even if Perez distracts from it by virtue of being a roadblock and nothing else.
Still, I don’t exactly need a Season 3.
“Dead to Me” gets a 6/10