Secrets can often kill a friendship particularly when those secrets are about death.
In Season One of Netflix’s Dead to Me, Jen Harding’s husband, Ted, is killed in a hit and run accident. Judy Hale was driving the car with her boyfriend, Steve Wood, in the passenger seat. Steve convinced Judy to leave the scene, but Judy (a terrific Linda Cardinelli) can’t leave behind her feelings of guilt. She joins a grief group where she can befriend Jen (Christina Applegate, whose performance puts her versatility as an actor on full display). Soon, the two are inseparable, with Judy moving into Ted’s old studio adjoining Jen’s home.
Judy is a good girl and a nice person. She’s also attracted to bad men. Steve (James Marsden) abuses her psychologically (he’s having an affair with another woman) and is laundering money for the Greek mob. In the final episode of Season One, he storms into Jen’s home, looking for Judy, furious that she turned him into the feds. By the end of the encounter, Steve’s body is floating in Jen’s pool and the two women have to figure out how to cover up the death.
While Judy carried the secret in Season One, the burden is now on Jen. She tells Judy that she acted in self-defense after Steve attacked her. They temporarily store Steve’s body in a large freezer kept in the garage until invading rats force them to find another place. They drive to a remote area, dig a large grave, and toss in Steve’s remains. Retreating to a hotel for the night, Judy has a meltdown. Despite everything Steve did to her, she still loves him.
The situation becomes even more complicated when Steve’s twin brother, Ben (also Marsden), shows up to join in the search for Steve. Because the FBI raided Steve’s office, there’s speculation that he may have escaped to Mexico. Ben becomes more dependent upon Judy and then Jen to help him cope with his brother’s disappearance and his anguished mother, Eileen (Frances Conroy). Jen, consumed with guilt, tries to assuage her feelings by volunteering to put together a vigil on the beach for Steve. She earns not only Ben’s gratitude but his affection. Jen’s attracted to him too, but the relationship is a non starter.
Judy works at a nursing home giving painting classes. She’s soon having an affair with Michelle (Natalie Morales), whose mother is a patient. Yet like Jen, she runs into a roadblock when she discovers that Michelle’s roommate and former lover is Detective Ana Perez (Diana Maria Riva) who believes Judy has something to do with Steve’s disappearance.
Dead to Me has many twists and turns and, despite the bodies piling up, has some very funny moments. The script allows members of the supporting cast to shine. Sam Mc Carthy plays Jen’s son, Charlie, who loves his mother but, as most teens, is self-absorbed and his actions continue to complicate matters. Katey Sagal has a small cameo as Judy’s incarcerated mother, Eleanor, reminding us that she once played mom to Applegate’s character in the long-running and very popular Married…with Children.
Based on the ending episode of Season Two (no spoilers here!) there are more secrets to come out in Season Three. And we’re not lying.
Dead to Me can be streamed on Netflix.
Photos courtesy of Netflix
Top: Christina Appelgate and Linda Cardinelli