HomeTelevision'Dead to Me' Season 2 Brings More Twists, More Cliffhangers & One...

‘Dead to Me’ Season 2 Brings More Twists, More Cliffhangers & One Shocking Return 

Dead to me Season 2
Photo Credit: Netflix

Dead to Me Season 2 finds the recently-widowed Jen (Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?), whom while still in the grip of her grief and rage had just learned her new friend was responsible for her husband’s hit –and- run death, now seemingly responsible for the death of Judy’s (Linda Cardellini, Avengers: Endgame) scummy, white collar criminal ex, Steve (James Marsden, Westworld), the image of whom’s body floating in Jen’s pristine Laguna Beach backyard pool closed the series’ first season.

When we last left Jen and Judy, the polar opposite protagonists of last year’s Netflix surprise hit Dead to Me, the unlikely pair – whose friendship blossomed then fractured as a result of one’s terrible secret – seemed poised on the edge of a role reversal. Dead to Me Season 2 finds the recently-widowed Jen (Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?), whom while still in the grip of her grief and rage had just learned her new friend was responsible for her husband’s hit –and- run death, now seemingly responsible for the death of Judy’s (Linda Cardellini, Avengers: Endgame) scummy, white collar criminal ex, Steve (James Marsden, Westworld), the image of whom’s body floating in Jen’s pristine Laguna Beach backyard pool closed the series’ first season. Even for a series marked by surprising twists and deceptions slowly brought to light, it was a shocking cliffhanger of a conclusion, leaving the audience to wonder what really happened in Jen’s backyard that night and where do Jen and Judy go from here? 

“You Know What You Did,” the Dead to Me Season 2 opener, picks up almost immediately where we left off, with Judy back in the Harding home, helping a clearly frazzled Jen make breakfast for her two sons, Charlie (Sam McCarthy, All These Small Moments) and Henry (Luke Roessler, It: Chapter 2). Henry questions why the pool is suddenly covered, but seems to buy Jen and Judy’s explanation that an old, stray dog drowned in the pool last night (Judy, typically and hilariously, attempts to soften the blow by portraying the imaginary dog as suicidal) and for the most part, all looks normal on the surface.

Having (mostly) cleaned up the crime scene, Jen drives Judy back to the retirement home where she works and we finally get a one-on-one scene between the two that begins to reveal glimpses of what went down the previous night. Jen stresses that although she only killed Steve in self-defense when he attempted to strangle her, she can’t go to the police for fear of what a police investigation would do to her already traumatized sons and warns the grieving Judy to act as if nothing’s amiss and not to get too “confessy.” She drops her off with a goodbye that’s supposed to be forever, but we know, of course, it won’t be. 

Once apart from each other, however, it’s clear neither woman is doing a good job of holding it together. Judy scrubs a spot of blood from her chest and then proceeds to frantically scrub her whole body, before having an eventual breakdown in a supply room and cry-eating vanilla pudding. Fraying Jen breaks down in tears while bleaching and scrubbing her patio and continues to unleash her considerable anger at every opportunity, here screaming and ranting at a long-gone speeding driver who nearly hit her car during Charlie’s driving lesson.

Photo Credit: Netflix

Both of these women are dealing with the enormous stress of suppressing a dark secret, though the ways in which they vent that frustration – Judy, through forced optimism, shoveling it in like so much sweet vanilla pudding, and Jen through seething vitriol and attempts at control (a power mom-like spearheading of a stop sign initiative!) couldn’t be more different. After sweet, insipid neighbor Karen comes to visit with her nosy questions, orange wine (Jen’s review: “It really coats the mouth”), and high-tech security system complete with incriminating street cam, Jen begins to spiral further. Fearful for what evidence lies on Karen’s security camera and on her own, our lady of perpetual rage and heavy pours reaches out to Judy once again and the two find themselves once again in Jen’s bed, sharing the manna of wine and The Facts of Life reruns, each wishing they had their own Mrs. Garrett to tell them everything will be okay. 

While Judy’s big secret last season played out over a few episodes, the true nature of Jen’s secret is revealed at the end of “You Know What You Did.” Jen’s not all that convincing claims of self-defense are revealed to be a lie as, struggling with guilt and seemingly on the edge of telling Judy what really happened, she flashes back to the night’s events where we see Jen lashing out in a rage at Steve when he callously sneers that her husband was miserable with her and wanted to die, beating him to death with the toy bird Judy had gifted Henry last season. 

It’s not truly a surprising reveal – though Steve was unscrupulous and had forced Judy to leave the scene of the accident to save his own ass, it still seemed a lot less likely that he would have lost control and attacked the always a-boil Jen than the other way around. Yet it still subverts the audience’s expectations somewhat since we’re typically given a satisfying moral justification for violence on the part of a female protagonist, in that she is usually acting to protect herself or her children. Tony Soprano can kill Ralph Cifaretto over a horse and we condone it partly because Ralph was so odious but also because the male anti-hero gets a pass for such violence so long as he’s charismatic. With a female protagonist, that’s much more rare.

The irony of Steve being killed not by Jen’s gun, but by the toy bird which has come to represent her husband, Ted, adds another layer. Certainly, Steve deserved to pay for his callousness and his crime but the nature of his death opens an interesting moral conundrum we’re not used to seeing with female protagonists. Jen’s soul has already been burdened by grief, resentment, and rage but now, as she breaks down but stops herself from getting “confessy” with Judy, we see that she’s now added the dreadful burden of guilt and its subsequent painful self-introspection. Jen, and the audience alike, are now forced to ask ourselves if Jen is a monster, too. 

“You Know What You Did” closes with another twist – Jen and Judy opening the door the morning after their 80s rerun slumber party to see Steve alive and well?! Well, no. Episode two, “Where Have You Been” opens with the very soapy plot twist that floating corpse Steve has a previously unmentioned twin brother, Ben (also played by James Marsden, duh)! It’s immediately clear that Ben is the polar opposite to his brother – sweet, sunny, and dorky af (the Judy to Steve’s Jen, if you will). Ben’s come to ask Judy if she’s seen Steve, who has been missing for a few days and is now the subject of an FBI investigation due to his money laundering scheme (you remember, the one Judy turned him in to the police for at the end of last season). 

I admittedly groaned when I realized they were introducing a surprise identical twin but I have to say, Marsden is incredibly charming as Ben and he mostly anchors “Where Have You Been,” highlighting how the ongoing search for Steve and the FBI’s involvement in his criminal case throws a wrench in Jen and Judy’s plans for an easy cover-up. After all, the FBI is in the business of connecting dots and, as a horrified Jen reminds the cooperating Judy, “we are the fucking dots!” Jen wants Judy’s silence in order to protect herself and her children, but as we well know by now, Judy’s methods of controlling a spiraling situation are vastly different from Jen’s.

Photo Credit: Netflix

Judy prefers to meddle through friendliness and helpfulness and so she accompanies Ben to Steve’s office, confesses that she’s the one who turned him in, and floats the possibility that Steve fled to Mexico to escape prosecution. Will Judy’s hands-on attempts to diffuse a situation once again ultimately lead to her further implicating herself and her friend? (Shout out to the wardrobe team for all of Judy’s ensembles this episode. Pair Judy’s floral maxi dress and yellow boots with Jen’s overflowing goblet of wine, and you’ve got my ideal aesthetic right there.) 

The police investigation Jen opened up into Judy last season is apparently still ongoing in Dead to Me Season 2 as well, as Detective Perez (Diana Marie Riva, Man With A Plan) comes to the Harding home to present Jen with a copy of the restraining order she requested against Judy only to find Judy living with Jen once again. Obviously, this raises Perez’s suspicions and she doesn’t buy Jen’s claim that Judy was only lying to cover for Steve. Instead, she floats the theory that the cashier’s check Judy took out at the end of last season was meant as a payout to Jen. Jen’s rightfully rattled by this development and the increased focus on her and Judy (and, unbeknownst to either of them, Perez is delving even deeper by enlisting Judy’s spurned ex-boyfriend, ex-cop Nick to provide further intel). Jen’s fears aren’t assuaged to learn via Judy that Steve was involved with the Greek mafia, further intensifying the police scrutiny. 

By this point, you’re probably asking yourself how well Jen and Judy have covered their tracks and, more importantly, where exactly is Steve? “Where Have You Been” ends with another flashback to the night of Steve’s death, showing Jen and Judy pulling their albatross from the pool and stashing it in the chest freezer in Jen’s tidy garage. That freezer is the beating tell-tale heart of episode three, “You Can’t Live Like This,” as its every clunk and buzz draws Jen and Judy closer to their inevitable reckoning with the contents inside. 

The whirring freezer draws Jen to the garage repeatedly, to curse Steve out and to make sure everything is still under control. Mournful Judy, on the other hand, finds herself drawn to the freezer by virtue of it being her love’s current resting place, keeping vigil, playing soothing ocean sounds on her iPhone, and interpreting the garage’s wonky motion sensor lights as evidence of Steve’s spiritual unrest over being trapped in a freezer. Jen, in typical sardonic fashion, attributes the light malfunction to a simple electrical issue. When a light bulb replacement doesn’t solve the problem, even skeptical Jen seems spooked until, perhaps more horrifically, a swarm of rats emerges from underneath Steve’s icy tomb (an exterminator later informs them that rats can smell blood and meat and will gnaw through metal to get to it – OMG EW). 

Photo Credit: Netflix

With the rat infestation clearly throwing a wrench in Jen’s plans to keep Steve hidden in the freezer until her youngest son goes to college, it’s becoming clear that they need to find a better solution than home corpse storage despite Jen’s reticence. Jen wisely realizes that Googling “how to get rid of a body” is a terrible idea on Judy’s part but is hard pressed to come up with a better idea than stuffing him in a suitcase and so for now, Steve remains on ice. 

For Judy, however, the question of what to do with Steve’s body is much more than a practical issue, but one of providing a proper, dignified send-off for the deeply flawed man she loved so deeply. With Jen completely disregarding her feelings on the subject and thus cutting off the outlet between them, Judy turns to a new friend for support, Michelle (Natalie Morales), the daughter of a new Beach Haven resident. Bonding over a little weed and “depressing chit-chat,” Judy is momentarily able to fill the void left by Steve and Jen with Michelle and perhaps begin branching out and away from those codependent relationships. 

Jen, meanwhile, finds herself unwittingly supervising a play date between Henry and his creepy, morbid “indoor child” friend, Shandy (the delightfully weird Adora Soleil Bricher). When Jen’s attempts to Google “how to get rid of a freezer” result in the auto-fill “how to get rid of a body,” looming, blonde Wednesday Addams Shandy dryly offers up Angeles Forest as an ideal body dumping ground and mentions the dark web as a really useful research tool (her dad lives off the grid, after all). Despite Shandy’s useful tips, Jen finds herself once again unleashing her rage on both Henry and Shandy when they come into the garage while Jen’s nervously checking to make sure Steve’s corpse remains intact and un-accosted by rats. 

That interaction is a breaking point for Jen and one that makes it clear that the garage freezer isn’t a viable storage solution. She heads to the local hardware store for lye and chemical dissolvents and before you know it, our newest anti-hero is in full-on Walter White mode, clad in enough protective gear to make anyone jealous right now, filling her luxurious bathtub with copious amounts of powerful chemicals, and test-dissolving rats. (Am I the only one who half-expected that beautiful tub to come crashing through the ceiling a la Breaking Bad? No plastic lining? Come on, Jen!) Judy walks in and is horrified, thinking the bloody blob in the tub is Steve and though Jen assures her it’s just a rat, a sudden heat-wave induced power outage forces the pair to immediately tackle the problem they’ve been putting off throughout “You Can’t Live Like This” and Judy and Jen haul the freezer into Jen’s car and head out for Angeles Forest (thanks, Shandy!). 

Dead to Me’s first season was pitch-perfect pitch-black comedy, filled with soapy plot twists but anchored by the very strong and very real-feeling female friendship of its two leads. While Dead to Me Season 2 so far seems to have amped up the drama to an even higher soapy level, the friendship between Applegate’s Jen and Cardellini’s Judy remains the earthy heart of the series. These women aren’t always relatable (well, except for those hearty wine glasses) or even likable, but the depth and pathos of their unlikely sisterhood in spite of their many missteps, lies, and flaws (like a couple of bumbling Amazing Amys) continues to carry the series. 

Dead to Me Season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.


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