Not only is the writing better this season—Cara DiPaolo this episode—but the direction is a major improvement as well. Tamra Davis directs this episode (Liza Johnson did the first two) and Davis has a whole bunch of experience. No more stupid portentous angles this season. I imagine the notes on “Dead to Me,” based on what’s happening this season, are a read.
This episode is more of Christina Applegate freaking out about needing to dispose of some evidence, to the point she eventually yells at younger Luke Roessler because he’s in the garage where the evidence is being kept. Applegate’s got a tell-tale freezer, though when she starts hearing it… you get the feeling they’re getting to Poe through “The Simpsons.” But still. It’s effective, especially since the freezer has rats under it—great guest spot from John Ennis as the rodent murderer.
But more important than anything else is Adora Soleil Bricher being back as Shandy, this time as a friend for Roessler. Bricher’s sociopath in training was one of last season’s highlights and… oh, wait, it’s like the show figured out she was great. And she continues to be great. Especially as her first scene is trying to tell Applegate the does and don’ts of… well, let’s just say evidence disposal.
We get to see Applegate at work, trying to con a family into buying a home so it’s nice to know she’s a shitty human being as a Realtor (this season is a lot more comfortable with Applegate as a caricature). Then Linda Cardellini—who’s very upset at the idea of the evidence spoiling in the freezer–smokes out Natalie Morales at work. Morales is daughter of retirement home resident Renee Victor; Victor doesn’t like it there, Morales is stressing, Cardellini’s got some weed. Morales is quite good. Casting is another improvement this season.
There are some effective jump scares—the rats—and the ending does present the leads with one heck of a dilemma; there’s a blackout (we even get an unlikely phone call to confirm it’s county-wide) and Applegate and Cardellini’s fear of spoilage is now an imminent concern. So now they’re going to go dump it. Not really a cliffhanger but a setup for what’s next.
And in a new twist for “Dead to Me,” it’s actually a potentially interesting what’s next.