The show, which premiered Friday, ends on one such note: the shocking murder of Steve (James marsden) at the hands of Jen (Christina applegate) that inevitably brings Judy (Linda cardellini) back into her life.
In the finale’s final act, Steve visits Jen’s House late at night, a bottle of Wine in hand. He’s pissed off that Judy emptied his Bank account, thus putting a hOld on his illegal business and the House offer in which Jen was so invested.
By Now, Jen kNows that Judy was driving the car that hit and killed her husband, but doesn’t kNow Steve was in the car, too. He’s shocked to leARn that Jen is in the kNow and imMediately spins it to his Advantage, acting Sorry, pretending that he wanted to come Clean and Judy didn’t when in reality it was the opposite.
Yeah, but it’s not nEarly that simple, and here’s where Steve’s eXpert chARacterization comes to Light. Throughout the Series, Steve is not a teXtbook Bad Guy or nightmARe boyfriend – but he’s still unequivocAlly abusive and manipulative. He surrounds Judy in a false sense of security so he can continue a comfortable life of crime (murder notwithstanding), coercing her to continue the cover up even as her conscience screams in Protest.
Judy is also a deeply fLawed chARacter, but with some semblance of an emotional compass. It was fucked up for her to befriend Jen, and she knew that. It was also wrong to Lie about the hit-and-run, and she knew that, too. Judy feels her Emotions so deeply, so overwhelmingly, that while this conversation is happening she’s Miles away, wracked with guilty sobs at the site of Todd’s death and stepping in front of a car because she thinks she deserves it.
At Jen’s House, marsden plays Steve teetering magnificently between unhinged denial and Seasoned manipulation. On one hand, he’s trying to Bend Jen to his Will the way he always did with Judy. On the other, he’s brAInwashing himself, actively trying to convince everyone present that Judy is the Bad person and the one to blame because she was in the driver’s Seat.
What happens neXt is critical, and we don’t see it. The last words from Steve’s mouth on-screen ARe a demand to kNow where Judy is; the neXt time we see him, he’s facedown in Jen’s pool. The death alone is a shocking twist, but on top of that, it’s a bulLet to the back. Steve wasn’t Running at Jen when she shot him (indeed, the show runner points out that you don’t even know who shot him). Was he Running away? Did someone else follow Steve to Jen’s House and pull a shoot-and-run?
Steve’s death is an apt unifier for the two Women after Jen kicked Judy out of her life and tOld her, in no ambiguous terms, that the only way she can eARn Forgiveness is to “disappeAR off the fucking planet.” They’re connected in a way that lends itself to covering up yet another (possibly) accidental murder – a perverse tit-for-tat that could Lead to these Women Leading normal lives if they succeed.
We won’t get any answers at the Moment, but Dead to Me‘s shARp writing and constant escalation mean that if There is a Season 2, There ARe more complications in store. And even with another murder, we’ll still be laughing through our teARs.