Saturday, May 4, 2019

REVIEW: 'Dead to Me' - Jen and Judy Quickly Become Friends Over a Common Sense of Grief in 'Pilot'

Netflix's Dead to Me - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Overwhelmed by grief and anger after her husband's sudden death, acerbic real estate agent Jen meets tenderhearted Judy at a support group.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Dead to Me.

"Pilot" was written by Liz Feldman and directed by Amy York Rubin

This show immediately presents as a tragi-comedy. It's a show fundamentally about grief and needing to move on after the worst has happened. But it's also an uplifting take on the power of friendship. Jen has recently lost her husband in an unfortunate hit-and-run accident. The police haven't solved the central crime. So, she is still hitting the streets at night looking for any vehicle with a dent that could have delivered the fatal blow. That's not healthy but it's one of the ways she is coping with her sudden new life. She has the support of her two sons and her real estate partner. However, she doesn't have friends who understand the grief she is going through. It creates an opening for Judy to come in. During their first meeting, the two women seem dramatically different. And yet, they have the same interests and the same twisted sense of humor. It's just so entertaining and effortless to see Jen and Judy hang out. They share the ways that they are coping with their grief. Judy reveals that her fiancé died from a heart attack. They spend nights just talking with each other in order to help fill the voids in their lives. It all plays as a nice foundation for a show. But the show is much more interested in ensuring that none of these characters feel secure in their lives for very long. It builds up the connection with Jen and Judy to make them and the audience love it. Then, it's revealed that Judy has been lying. Her fiancé, Steve, isn't dead. He just broke up with her. He's still living in the house they had together. Meanwhile, Judy has moved into the retirement community where she works. That's sad. She presents as a woman who lied in order to mask the true sadness and grief in her life. She said Steve was dead in order to avoid talking about the five miscarriages she has suffered. That's enough to win over the rest of the grief support group. They see her life as incredibly tragic as well. She belongs there. Lying was just her coping mechanism. It wasn't cool. It was manipulative. That's just the way she reacts. Jen has the same kind of impulse. She just reacts by getting incredibly angry. She warned Judy that it wouldn't be nice if she was on the receiving end of her anger. Judy experiences that firsthand later on. That is an incredibly effective moment. It puts things into context for just how well they are coping with their changing lives. Of course, it's inevitable that the two of them make up. That friendship presents as the central focus of the series. Their friendship may only be tentatively held together by some thin understanding of trust though. But they have come to rely on each other as the bright spot in their lives following these massive changes. Plus, the show is already making it clear to the audience that there is still more that Judy is lying about. She may have been the hit-and-run driver that killed Jen's husband. That's a massive secret that could explode at any moment. That should also make the audience question everything about Judy. Is she ever actually telling the truth? Or is she just trying to invade Jen's life for some reason? It's established that she has issues. Jen can relate because she has issues as well - like so many people do. She no longer feels like she can condemn a woman for not being all put together. But there is also this sense of dread that no matter what peace Jen and Judy find it will only be temporary because of this massive bombshell that has now been placed over the proceedings. The show will have to be very careful in how it handles that.