*This review will contain spoilers pertaining to Dead To Me’s first season*
It goes without saying that if you haven’t finished season one of Netflix’s deliciously comedic Dead To Me (or watched it all, shame on you if so), this second season is not for you to play catch up. And after the unexpected note that the first season ended on for the show’s mismatched leads (Christina Applegate‘s tightly-wound Jen and Linda Cardellini‘s jittery Judy) – that being the death of James Marsden‘s smarmy Steve (he had it coming though) – this 10-episode-deep continuation wastes very little time in detailing the aftermath for them; or, more correctly, the potential aftermath given Steve’s death has been covered up to the best of their ability.
In both crafting a story following such a narrative as that, as well as the utter brilliance of the first season alone, Dead To Me S2 has a lot to prove. I mean, after Judy confessed to Jen that it was she who killed Jen’s husband in the hit-and-run accident that defined much of the first season’s plotting, it would be easy to assume the two would have nothing to do with each other. But in Dead To Me‘s darkness came a buddy-comedy of sorts that speaks to the show’s off-kilter mentality, and as much as Jen and Judy tried to pull away from each other, this show’s universe constantly has other plans.
Wisely not just rehashing the narrative we’ve already experienced, this season – in something of an uphill battle it tackles with expletive-laced gusto – introduces a swarm of new characters that, as coincidental as they are, manage to feel quite organic to the story at hand. Sure, it’s very easy to roll your eyes at just how they keep Marsden on the books, but thanks to his undeniably charismatic performance and the meticulous work of the writers, it never takes away from the integrity of the show.
As with the first, this second season explores a wealth of emotions regarding grief and loss and how it is to live with feelings of guilt. These hard-hitting moments complement the show’s comedic personality though as it never lingers too long on a moment of anguish before a perfectly-timed one-liner is uttered (usually by Applegate) to keep viewers in check that this is all so beautifully satirical.
On the mention of Applegate, as expected she’s at the top of her game – perhaps even more so than in the first season. As well as dealing with her own feelings of guilt towards Steve’s death (it’s quite fun to watch this show skewer our views of just what went down by the pool that night), and the near-motherly instinct she has in keeping Judy at bay (“Because she’s like a baby”, Jen snaps when asked why they are still friends), the show gets plenty of mileage out of her character as a mother, now that her two sons are even less afraid to tell it like it is.
As much joy as there is in Applegate’s performance (she makes swearing an art form), Cardellini is the show’s heart and soul. Her Judy already carried a heft of emotion on her shoulders throughout the first season, and here her guilt hasn’t entirely subsided, especially when she has to keep Steve’s death a secret from his snooping family. She also is afforded a romantic sub-plot that’s beautifully progressive in its subtlety – it also helps she’s playing opposite the charming Natalie Morales for these particular sequences.
Given that Netflix allowed a preview of the show’s first 6 episodes to the media I’m unable to comment on whether or not a Dead To Me S3 is likely, but I will say that a particular revelation during the conclusion of the 6th episode only fuelled further interest as to where this biting, cleverly-intertwined show intends to go. The showrunners have always delighted in keeping their audience on their toes, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that they’ll play the waiting game as to whether or not a threepeat journey for Jen and Judy is a treat we’ll be afforded.
We can only hope.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Dead To Me Season 2 is available to stream on Netflix from Friday May 8th 2020.