Inside ‘Dead to Me’ Season 3 and Its ‘Bittersweet’ Goodbye: ‘It Was Like a Tear Fest’

When creator Liz Feldman began writing “Dead to Me,” Netflix’s dark comedy about the undying bond between two polar opposite women, it was an exercise in therapy and healing; the longtime comedic writer-producer — who had experienced yearslong infertility issues and the loss of close friends and relatives to sudden illness — had no intention of making a streaming hit, but the series’ explorations of loss, grief and finding compassion in others resonated, from a global audience to the Television Academy. And in Season 3, more twists and turns abound, as do the triumphs of friendship, depths of despair and swells of hope.

“I wanted to acknowledge the fact that we had all collectively, as a society, been through an insane couple of years,” the Emmy-nominated Feldman told TheWrap of the show’s decision to not outright include a pandemic storyline, “and also give a nod to the fact that it’s taken us a couple years to get the show back on the air. I like to have a looseness with our show, I like to be a little tongue-in-cheek. I want the audience to know, ‘We’re there with you, we’re in on this with you, and we also went through this insane time of existential insanity.’ It informed some of the more subtle, subtextual things on the show, little lines here and there.”

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Season 3 finds Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) at the end of a rapidly burning candlewick, as both police and federal law enforcement attempt to piece together the circumstances surrounding Steve’s (James Marsden, but evil) murder. That’s not to mention Charlie’s (Sam McCarthy) growing suspicions surrounding the mysteries clouding his family or the hit-and-run the duo suffered at the hands of a drunk-driving Ben (Marsden).

“I thought a lot about how I wanted to say goodbye to these characters, and I’ve tried to put myself in the audience’s shoes because, in a way, I’m also part of the audience,” Feldman said. “I sit back and I marvel at these incredible actors and what they do and how they make me feel, and I wanted to be sensitive to the fact that the audience has fallen in love with Jen and Judy and fallen in love with their friendship and really connected with it. This is very much my love letter to friendship. This is the way that I have chosen to honor some of my great female friendships in my life.”

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For his part, Marsden was just happy to be in the frame. “I love to sit back and watch all these wonderful women work,” he said. “There’s such an electricity when Liz yells action and the scenes come to life … So it’s been one of these experiences for me where anything emotional, especially wrapping it up with this third season – usually as an actor, I feel like I have to manufacture, and that was not a problem this time around. It feels like there was a lot more of ourselves in the scenes and on the screen this time around just because we were sad. I hate endings, I don’t love just closing the book. And thank God we have these friendships now to carry on past this show.”

Feldman had initially conceptualized the show to run for a limited number of seasons, and production on Season 3 hit snags as a result of the pandemic — which allotted for an extended writing period — as well as a delay following Applegate’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis amid filming. The veteran actress and Emmy winner was determined to finish out the series, relaying that accommodations — including shortened and shifting schedules, the limitation of standing and walking shots and the aid of a colleague, who would occasionally hold her legs up — were implemented by the cast and crew.


“It’s bittersweet to say goodbye for sure,” Cardellini, whose Judy is as close to Jen as she is to Applegate, said. “There’s one thing where you’re so happy to get to end the show in the way that the creator hopes and wants it to end. Television is always fickle — you never know if you get that opportunity, and I think that it was just wonderful to be able to say goodbye in the way that was intended. And it was also awful to have to say goodbye. We’ll all be friends forever — that part’s amazing, and we’re so lucky to be able to take that with us.”

Marsden and Feldman echoed those heartfelt sentiments, saying that the familial love the set has fostered will remain beyond the show’s conclusion.

“When you’re a part of something as special as this — some of the most brilliant writing, storytelling, acting, but also some of the most wonderful, warm, compassionate individuals I’ve ever worked with. So it was like a tear fest on set,” the actor said, as Feldman chimed in with, “Lot of tears.”

For Jen’s kids, portrayed by McCarthy and Luke Roessler, the experience made up a significant chunk of their respective childhoods: “It’s weird, I grew up with Charlie. I’ve been playing Charlie since I was 16, and I’m 20 now. It’s surreal, and it was a beautiful little package of my life that I will be thankful for,” McCarthy said. “To be honest, Charlie is me.”

As for the telenovela-esque plot elements that are in store for the final season, the cast teased that “Dead to Me” will see several characters reckoning with themselves: their previous shortcomings, painful memories and how to make peace with it all.

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Marsden said, “A lot of characters in the show this season are struggling with or being faced with their demons and their past and traumatic moments in their life and asking themselves how they’re gonna move forward.”

While the series is ultimately Feldman’s personal and heightened version of the love between two oft-neurotic, wine and weed-loving middle-aged women, she said it was important to strike a balance between its grounded sincerity and more outlandish moments.

“I really tried to approach it with great sensitivity, but I also really want to entertain and I want to delight and I want to surprise, and I wanted the show to still feel like ‘Dead to Me,’ so I knew that there had to be some unanswered questions, some cliffhangers. But ultimately, hopefully a satisfying and cathartic ending.”

The final season of “Dead to Me” is now streaming on Netflix.

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