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Female Friendship Remains a Refuge in Netflix’s Dead to Me

In the third and final season, murder and chaos are no match for women who support each other.
  • Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini face the end. (Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix)
    Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini face the end. (Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix)

    Sex And The City once proposed a dream scenario for how women should treat each other. “Maybe we can be each other’s soulmates,” Charlotte said. “And then we can let men just be these great, nice guys to have fun with." The show never quite embodied that vision, but decades later, it’s been fully realized by Dead to Me. In its final season, the Netflix series proves that beneath all the murders, cover-ups, and bad romances, it’s really a love story about two female friends. The men come and go, but the women are forever.

    The final episodes pick up where Season 2 ended: Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) have just been involved in a serious car accident. Unbeknownst to them, the car that hit them was driven by the extremely drunk Ben (James Marsden), Jen’s love interest and the identical twin of Judy’s ex-fiancé Steve. (For those who need a refresher, Jen bludgeoned Steve to death at the end of Season 1, which evened the playing field after Judy killed Jen’s husband in a hit-and-run.)

    Now that they’re bonded by their dead partners and their uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of the police, they have a new set of obstacles to face. After recovering from the car crash, they tangle with the Greek mafia, ambitious cops looking to bring them down, and several unpredictable love interests. But as madcap as things get, the story is grounded by Applegate and Cadellini’s chemistry. Their odd-couple charisma — Jen is snarky and cynical, while Judy is a whimsical optimist — remains almost unmatched on current television, and after years of working together, the actresses have such a confident rapport that they’re a joy to watch in any situation.

    The supporting cast remains equally solid. James Marsden is so charming that it’s easy to understand why someone would risk going to prison for him. Diana-Maria Riva is delightful as Detective Perez, who struggles to maintain the uneasy alliance she formed with Jen at the end of Season Two. And Jen’s sons, played by Sam McCarthy and Luke Roessler, have much more wit and idiosyncrasy than the average TV teen. Granted, the series is uninterested in them beyond how they affect Jen and Judy, but that’s not a negative. By not getting caught up in extraneous subplots, the show stays focused on the twisting plots and shifting agendas that drive the central duo.

    That’s a good thing, because the story gets awfully convoluted, and in the middle of the season, the coincidences pile up with eye-rolling regularity. But the most meaningful story arcs are both surprising and moving, with eventual payoffs that feel true to the series as a whole. In Jen’s case, this does mean keeping an open mind, since one of the most tired plot devices possible for a female character comes into play. Thanks to Applegate’s performance and the sensitive writing, however, what could have been trite ultimately becomes subversive and honest. This clears the way for a bittersweet, thoughtful conclusion that stops short of becoming saccharine.

    Series creator Liz Feldman recognizes the power of a well-timed farewell, and fans are likely to be sated, having watched two women surrender to the purest of friendships and navigate catastrophe side by side. There were some great guys to have fun with along the way, but mostly, Jen and Judy belonged to each other.

    Season 3 of Dead To Me premieres on Netflix on November 17 on Netflix.

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    Leila Latif is Contributing Editor to Total Film, the host of Truth & Movies: A Little White Lies Podcast and a regular at Sight and Sound, Indiewire, The Guardian, The BBC and others. Follow her on twitter @Leila_Latif.

    TOPICS: Dead to Me, Netflix, Christina Applegate, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Liz Feldman