Dead to Me season 2 'remixes the original story to fruitless ends'

Seen from a gracious vantage point, the first season of “Dead to Me” offers an unusual tale of female friendship and a light satiric shakedown of rich people problems. By shattering the picture-perfect life of Jen Harding (an excellent Christina Applegate, no matter your views on the rest), creator Liz Feldman exposes an Orange County McMansion filled with fancy wine, uncluttered kitchen counters, and luxurious living quarters as a false front; it only looks perfect from the outside and can’t protect Jen from the pain felt within. Her suffering makes her relatable, even when Jen’s fighting insomnia in a king-size bed with an ocean view, and any comfort afforded by such privileged purchases is stripped away by an escalating series of over-the-top calamities. All of this makes for a surreal wake-up call, toeing the line between eye-opening exaggeration and totally disconnected tomfoolery — maybe you enjoy “Dead to Me” because it’s as juicy as it is silly, or maybe you connected with the two friends’ raw emotional struggle.  Either way, Jen’s life is built on a rapidly crumbling foundation, so it’s fitting when she completely loses her shit at the end of Season 1 and, apparently, murders Judy’s aggro ex-husband, Steve (played with unflinching tenacity by James Marsden). Yes, the 10 episodes fly by in an instant, and, outside of its great performances, that may be the most value “Dead to Me” can offer: easy consumption in a time of constant dread. For anyone who still wants to watch “Dead to Me” Season 2, without its many twists being spoiled, go make yourself a snack, plop down in your cushiest chair, and come back in five minutes when you’re done… OK, you’re ready? The first — and arguably the best — episode-ending twist in Season 2 reveals that Steve had a near-identical twin brother, Ben (both played by Marsden), and Ben is the exact opposite of Steve: He’s overly nice, in an embarrassing dad kind of way, he’s able to poke fun at himself, and he wears his hair as a moppy, nice guy flop, as opposed to his brother’s expensive- looking,high-and-tight cut. The idea that sad ladies can’t be bad people is reinforced by the ending, when — in order to prevent her son from becoming a murder suspect — Jen confesses, first to Judy and then to Detective Ana Perez (Diana Maria Riva). After a pretty big fight, Judy forgives her (because of course she does), and when Jen and Perez get lost looking for Steve’s body in the Los Angeles National Forest, the detective lets her off with perhaps the lightest warning ever issued by a law enforcement officer. “Dead to Me” wraps up its guilt-ridden Season 2 arc by assuring everyonewatchingthat so long as you’re rich, white, and think you’re a good person, things will work out. Watching a talented performer like Applegate trying to reconcile deserved guilt with the needs of her family — that her sons would lose a mother and father within a year is a very relatable rationale — could’ve been a worthy challenge for the Emmy-winning actress; imagine Applegate tapping into Judy’s deranged side instead of clinging to her cool mom stereotype. Instead, they make just enough time to showcase the divine wit of both leads before putting the pedal to the metal so audiences don’t think too hard before the next episode plays. Last year, it took a lot of effort to see anything more than a half-hour soap opera with luxe sets and great performances.