‘Dead to Me’ Finale: What Happened?
Plot twists take a backseat to these besties on a road trip.
Dead to Me came to an end with its third and final season, which premiered Thursday on Netflix. In the final installment, Liz Feldman’s labyrinthine dark comedy crime soap opera strips away the frills and thrills in favor of a good old-fashioned girl trip — one last hooray for Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini), the heart and soul of the show .
Jen and Judy don’t run away in Thelma & Louise style, but they use Judy’s cancer treatment clinical trial as an excuse to get away for three weeks. Before leaving, Judy confessed that she was the only party responsible for Steve’s (James Marsden) murder, but then Jen claimed to be pregnant with Steve’s baby to explain the presence of her DNA on his body. With the death of FBI agent Glenn Moranis (Garrett Dillahunt), the entire investigation is compromised/complicated and the women take advantage of their borrowed time at Steve’s vacation home in Mexico.
“Dead to Me” escapes from its convoluted plot, much like Jen and Judy flee south – and it never returns. The FBI believes that the Greek mafia (syndicate) killed Glenn because he suspected them in Steve’s death; his twin brother Ben claimed responsibility for his hit-and-run for drunk driving and served minimal time in prison, and the death of Jen’s husband remains unsolved but virtually unsolvable for the police. While it’s a relief to put these issues with the law on the back burner, the final resolution of this show’s stakes also feels like a disappointment.
If narrative complications seem secondary in the finale, that might be because they always were. “Dead to Me” reveled in Applegate’s and Cardellini’s chemistry as they drink wine and laugh and cry and curse loss and insomnia and middle age. Despite all the juicy twists, that dynamic was what the writers cared about the most, and it’s the focus of the final installment. Gone are the mundane worries of what crime to hide, what Jen’s kids might find out, and which Wood twin will show up at the door to blast a moment of peace. It’s just Jen and Judy and a car; Jen and Judy and a sunset, Jen and Judy and a sitcom dubbed in Spanish where they can fall asleep in each other’s arms.
However, it is not long Jen and Judy. Judy is hiding the severity of her cancer because she didn’t want Jen to worry or upset, but she doesn’t have much time left. They share a tearful goodbye without a punchline, a true testament to the unlikely love that has grown between them.
(Here’s a case to be made – a thin one – that Judy didn’t die, that she’s relaxing in Mexico, and she and Jen act like the process was going to end badly when it wasn’t. We all tell each other possible stories, and if that’s any consolation for Dead to Me fans, so be it.)
In his review of Season 1, IndieWire’s Ben Travers noted that “the show is built on honest pain,” the finale reveals. This has always been a show about loss – about finding the humor in it and distracting yourself and ultimately solidarity in how we grieve and remember our loved ones, even when the relationship was complicated. Judy’s death sends Jen into a familiar place, but she’s equipped to deal with it differently than she was when her husband died. She knows what’s coming — not just Judy’s absence, but the pain she’ll cause — and while that doesn’t make it any easier, it does offer some peace.
“Losing someone sucks,” Henry (Luke Roessler) tells Ben in Episode 2. “But it will get easier. I mean, the missing part doesn’t go away, but it stops hurting so much.”
Courtesy of NETFLIX
The giant, fucked-up elephant that’s been in the room all season – and most recently – is Jen’s part in Steve’s death. Season 2 portrayed it as a murder, which Season 3 changed to an accident; He drowned after she hit him on the head and pushed him into the pool. Whatever the case, Jen has some responsibilities, and the cover-up grows more delicate as she becomes involved with Steve’s brother, Ben. Telling Ben the truth isn’t out of the question, but there’s always something that pushes her out of the headlines; from Ben’s rehab, from the revelation that he was in the car with Judy and Steve when they hit Jen’s husband, from Jen’s pregnancy and Judy’s cancer diagnosis. It’s buried under further complications until it’s so far down the stack of priorities that Jen… forgets it?
Of course not. In a slightly clumsy but decisive “Dead to Me” move, the show ends on a cliffhanger with Jen about to clean up Ben once and for all. The final scene is idyllic, slightly too good to be true; They are together raising a baby while Ben plays with Jen’s older boys in the same pool where his brother drowned. Judy’s memory stirs something in Jen, forcing her to tell the truth, not to save herself or others, but because it’s the right thing to do no matter what happens next.
Is it a perfect finale? Not at all. It’s scattered, chaotic, and unfocused, but it comes from a good place — like grief itself. It honors the heart of “Dead to Me,” which was never its convoluted storylines, but the women who drive them. The final shot might be frustrating, but it honors the dozens of episode endings that preceded it. The show will always be proof that life is full of really crazy, unbelievable twists – just maybe not all at once.
Dead to Me is now streaming on Netflix.
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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/11/dead-to-me-finale-what-happened-1234783358/ ‘Dead to Me’ Finale: What Happened?