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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Dead to Me: Channeling grief via dark comedy

Creating a great show is akin to cooking something mouthwatering. You have to know which ingredients you want to put and how much. And it is here that Dead to Me passes with flying colours.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi | Updated: May 29, 2020 8:24:03 am
dead to me Dead to Me is full of dark comedy, emotional moments and witty one-liners.

Ride or Die. Shout or keep their silence. One thing is for sure, whatever the ladies of Netflix series Dead to Me end up doing, always turns out interesting. The second season of the Christina Applegate and Lina Cardellini web series started streaming from May 8. And just like the first season, the new season too is full of dark comedy, emotional moments and witty one-liners. In fact, the second season is a kind of quotable quotes galore if tragicomedy, self-doubt and self-love is ‘your thing.’

The narrative

Two women meet at a therapy session for grievers. Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) has recently lost her husband Ted to a car accident. She has not been able to come to terms with it fully and still harbours the desire to catch the culprit. Oh, and she also has serious temper issues. She crosses paths with the seemingly positive and kind-hearted Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini) who claims she has lost her partner too. They bond, and as their friendship begins to grow, Jen realises that Judy has skeletons in her closet.

The ‘sis’mance

Jen and Judy are polar opposites, which might be the reason why they gel so well together. Each complementing the other in novel ways, thereby painting a realistic picture of what actual female bonding looks like. However, this is not to say that the relationship is not scarred by imperfect moments of tension, guilt and doubt.

dead to me show A still from Dead to Me.

Grief

Grief is an unsettling thing and different people process it differently. While Jen is all about locking things up and maintaining a pretence of normalcy, Judy accepts her fate in a more open fashion. She also inspires Jen to tell the truth and embrace life and accept love when it comes knocking on her door. Show creator Liz Feldman shows the audience what kind of varied shapes can grief take, often suffusing it with elements of pure, luscious wit and dark candour. An odd but compelling combination.

All the ingredients

Creating a great show is akin to cooking something mouthwatering. You have to know which ingredients you want to put and how much. And it is here that Dead to Me passes with flying colours. There are delightful flavours of feminism. For instance, the scene when Jen asks her teenage son to not hurt his girlfriend’s feeling, and when she insists that he must always take consent. In another sequence wherein she is molested, Jen punches her perpetrator and shouts, “No means no!” While Jen is forthcoming about her rights and her place in the society, Judy is not so sure. She repeatedly asks her partner not to yell at her, but every time he says he is sorry, she accepts it with no questions. Judy craves attention as she didn’t get any when she was a child, so her confidence level is not always at an all-time high. The contrast here is stark, but the chemistry of the leads is undeniable. Apart from all the sorrow, anger, laughter and feminism, there is also an element of surprise and shock. Because Dead to Me is not your regular tragicomedy, it is a thriller too. Who killed Jen’s husband? And why is Judy lying about her past? These and a few more questions are also answered as the episodes progress with lightening speed (the runtime for each episode is around 30 minutes and there are ten in every season).

Clever writing and stellar performances are slowly and surely becoming the hallmark of Dead to Me. Also starring James Marsden, the show is currently streaming on Netflix.

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