By Mollie Campbell.
Show: Dead to Me
Genre: Dark comedy, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Christine Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden.
This show seems like such a coincidence to me, because it has been released during a time in which I am really delving into the concept of grief, its effects, the differences between how each person grieves, and public reaction etc.
I have recently written articles about grief and how the grieving process is different for everyone; I have also touched upon the weird things people say to you when you are grieving and the different situations we find ourselves in. One thing I forgot to mention in my articles, is the fact that grief, for me anyway, has given me a rather dark sense of humour. I suppose it is how I deal with the pain sometimes. Ironically, people who haven’t grieved find this sense of humour shocking, it is only ever other people who have been through grief that really understand this viewpoint. ‘Dead to Me’ really contains a lot of this dark humour that grief forces you to have, Christina Applegate’s character uses phrases that are very dark, blunt and cynical because this is how she is coping. But they have also introduced Linda Cardellini’s character; this is one of the reasons why I think the show is brilliant. Straight away, they have introduced two different characters both grieving, but on opposite ends of the grief spectrum. Judy is very positive, open to many possibilities and is very warm and affectionate. The way they have done this instantly gives me the impression that the writers/producers truly understand grief because already they are trying to make the audience aware that no two people grieve in the same way, instantly tearing down this idea of the ‘Five stages of Grief’, something that bothers me massively.
The show perfectly balances the dialogue and genre between drama and dark comedy, it also has thriller/mystery undertones. There are some very funny moments, there are also times of uncertainty and suspense but then there are these incredibly raw, honest and accurate scenes in which the characters are seen as being in such dire pain, the overwhelming feeling that grief gives us is encapsulated very well within this show. The comedy never undermines the importance of the issues at hand, and the dialogue never feels fake. When I saw the cast list for this show a few months ago, I didn’t really know if the Christina Applegate/Linda Cardellini combo would work, I am a fan of both of their work and whilst the genres of their filmography’s are quite similar, I just couldn’t really envision it working. But as soon as the characters are first introduced, I felt this immense chemistry between the two actresses, the show makes you cherish their friendship even more than the characters themselves.
The first section of my review is what I wrote after the first few episodes, then, the story took an unexpected turn. I won’t spoil what happens but I was a bit miffed that they decided to go with this storyline, because it seems to diminish the importance of the concept of grief. But, the twist is unfortunately what some people have discovered after their spouse has passed away, and we see how much more of a spiral Jen goes into after this, by the end of the show we really start to feel even more sorry for this character, how many more things can this poor woman take? Anyway, I soon realised that this twist didn’t make the writers instantly forget the grief storyline; it actually became even more prominent by the end, despite the other crazy events that unfold. And as someone who lost a parent as a child, I really felt like they did a good job with representing the grief of children. We watch as Jen’s two sons Charlie and Henry, navigate through the dark and messy waters of grief, it portrays how surprisingly mature children can act in times of pain, especially when they have been catapulted into it themselves, and also shows just how much a child feels that pain. As I have discussed in my previous articles, people often stereotype children and presume that they couldn’t possibly have felt the full extent of their grief as a child, when in fact, they feel it all. This show really portrays that well which is what really impressed me the most.
Overall, the writers have done a very good job, some of the twists seem farfetched and silly but it never makes you want to stop watching it. Some of the things that are revealed about Judy are ridiculous and actually very unforgivable but we still root for the Jen/Judy friendship. So whilst the show does have some faults, they have built a very strong foundation in terms of their friendship, and have created a world that instantly feels familiar, I love all of the different characters already. I should also point out that I don’t binge watch many Netflix shows, at least not in a day anyway, but I watched 9 out of the 10 episodes of Dead to Me in one day, that says a lot.
Dead to Me is gripping, dark yet humorous and infectious; I don’t even know if Netflix will renew it yet, but I am already trying to figure out how I am going to wait a whole year for another season. Let me know what you thought of the show!