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Let's Talk About the Ending to the Final Season of 'Dead to Me' on Netflix

By Zofia Wijaszka | TV | December 9, 2022 |

By Zofia Wijaszka | TV | December 9, 2022 |


Spoilers for the final season of Dead to Me.

When I was younger, my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. Despite our best efforts, she passed away. The season 3 finale of Dead to Me evoked memories of that time and made me ponder the feelings of my mom, who lost her best friend and had to learn how to cope without her presence. Netflix’s Dead to Me bid farewell to Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) and Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini) after three seasons, finishing on a solemn yet solid note and a bittersweet ending.

Early on, Dead To Me establishes guilt as one of its chief themes. When Judy (Linda Cardellini) commits a hit-and-run and learns about Ted’s fate, Judy physically and mentally struggles with the dark secret and almost feels like she must confess or she’ll combust. The truth comes out (as it almost always does), and both women have to reconcile their blossoming friendship with the fact that Judy was in the car that killed Ted. In season 2, it’s Jen’s turn to struggle with guilt after she accidentally murders Steve Wood (James Mardsen), Judy’s ex-fiancé.

All the lies and brutal discoveries come crashing down on our friends in the awe-inducing final season. As the last season commences, Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) are admitted to the hospital after a hit-and-run.

Dead to Me is an intriguing mix of genres - a little comedy, some drama, and crime. In addition to the challenging topics of grief, the audience gets a layered depiction of a female companionship that can withstand heartbreak, bombshell after bombshell, and even murder. The creators demonstrate that having a partner in (literal) crime is far preferable to not.

Cardellini and Applegate’s potent abilities are even more appreciated considering the latter’s struggle with MS diagnosis and its rapid progression. Applegate is funny, touching, sarcastic, and a perfect Jen. Together with Cardellini, they demonstrate a beautiful and honest picture of female friendship. Their talent, chemistry, and vibrant dynamics continue to shine in season 3 as everything around them falls apart — Steve’s body is discovered, the FBI begins an investigation, Jen finds out she’s pregnant, and, most devastatingly, Judy is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The future of a ride-or-die pair of friends comes to a halt in the final episode, “We’ve Reached the End,” written and directed by creator Liz Feldman. When Judy lies to the police about killing Steve to protect Jen, her selflessness shines through. She uses her terminal diagnosis as an escape hatch for her friend. Fortunately, Jen is able to stall the official investigation for a moment and drive off with Judy to Mexico for one last vacation.

“We’ve Reached the End” is an emotional roller coaster. Comedy continues to blend with tragedy, awakening ambivalent feelings as we see scenes that reference other friend-celebrating projects like Grace & Frankie, Beaches and Thelma & Louise. Dead to Me beautifully honors the highs and lows of their friendship. In what is one of the last emotional scenes of the show, Jen — expecting a baby and facing reality alone — has to return home without her best friend.

As kind and altruistic Judy, Cardellini delivers an extraordinary performance. In a way, it hurts more to be reminded that death comes for us all, even those that do so much goodness in the world. Maybe Feldman meant to leave us on this bitter note to remind us of the fragility of life and, in Jen’s example, that life goes on.

The final scene is a permanent cliffhanger. In it, Jen, the kids, her newborn daughter, and Ben are having the time of their lives playing in the pool. As Applegate’s character glances towards the shed where Judy used to reside, she turns towards Ben and says, “I have to tell you something.” The concluding scene leaves the audience uncertain. Judy had some impact on Jen’s morality, prompting the latter to come clean to her partner.

In light of Dead to Me’s conclusion, it’s comforting to know that you can come back and relive the happy moments — packed with crimes and cover-ups, of course — with Jen and Judy. Accompanied by the poignant ending, the show remains an unforgettable story about the friendship between two women, grief, guilt, and ways to cope.

All seasons of Dead to Me are available for streaming on Netflix.