Netflix

The Old Guard (2020, Gina Prince-Bythewood)

The Old Guard is better than any of the Highlander movies (to date, I suppose) but sadly not a success. It gets relatively close to passing at least, but then the epilogue is forced, predictable (screenwriter Greg Rucka’s really obvious, he’s really episodic and he’s really obvious–Old Guard is based on Rucka and Leandro Fernandez’s comic of the same name so the episodic makes sense. The obvious also makes sense (I’ve got many the Rucka comic under the reading belt). But the epilogue’s pretty bad. At one point during Old Guard, when I’d given up on this entry actually being good, I got hopeful for the sequel.

Epilogue kinds of ruins it.

But not as much as the soundtrack; Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran are credited with the score, which I think is maybe three minutes of actual music. The rest of the time there’s the best accompanying song soundtrack Netflix was willing to pay for, which apparently was less than it would take to download some public domain recording of classical music.

All of the action sequences in Old Guard have a really annoying, not well-chosen song going with them. Maybe I just don’t like my ears to bleed, maybe the songs really are good, but then editor Terilyn A. Shropshire should’ve cut the action to the songs better. They’re not synced, it’s just accompaniment. So they apparently didn’t have to pay Bertelmann and O'Halloran anymore.

Highlander 1 had Queen and Michael Kamen.

The Old Guard has Bertelmann, O’Halloran, and the full versions of songs you can probably excerpt for free. It’s dreadful. Particularly because otherwise the action scenes would be good. There’s a solid fight scene for Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne; they’ve got to have their pissing contest after all. Old Guard follows the eighties action movie tropes well enough if it’d embraced them more it might’ve endeared.

Though it’s hard to endear with such a bad soundtrack. It’s really profoundly bad. It’s something else.

Anyway. Theron is playing Sean Connery, while Layne is the newest Highlander. She’s not Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod however, because Matthias Schoenaerts basically fits that part. Layne’s new and unexpected, the first new Immortal in two hundred years, which is ostensibly ominous but the comic’s got—sorry, sorry, the movie—the movie’s got profound logic problems. Rucka.

Theron has been alive since “Xena” times at least and has always battled on the side of good, saving this village or that village for thousands and thousands of years. But it’s 2020 and she no longer sees any evidence of the good she’s done for 4,000 years. Theron and her fellow Immortals Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, and Luca Marinelli do nothing but fight. And in the last few decades, they’ve been mercenaries for the CIA, doing rescue operations. You know, all those rescue operations the CIA does with the good people. Thankfully there’s no government conspiracy for Rucka’s script to be naive about, instead there’s an evil big Pharma company out to steal the secret of immortality.

Harry Melling plays the head of the company.

It’s singularly one of the worst villain performances ever. Melling is playing the young Pharma bro evil mastermind only he’s dressed like Pee-Wee Herman (“Playhouse” not South Trail Cinema) and he’s so silly it’s hard to believe anyone could keep a straight face during the scenes. Though most of Melling’s supporting cast is bad. Actually, all of them.

Head of security Joey Ansah is a martial arts guy. He’s never good but at least he can do his fight stuff in the end. Whereas evil scientist Anamaria Marinca is just… bad.

What’s disconcerting is how the casting is otherwise good.

Layne’s fellow Marines—Mette Towley and Natacha Karam—they’re solid. Until that plot line goes bad—Rucka—a movie with them in it more had a lot of potential.

So the leads.

Theron’s as close to bad—due to abject disinterest in anything other than her hand-to-hand scenes, not even the gun fight scenes, which are fine other than that terrible soundtrack–that disinterest is even more concerning given Theron produced the film (which means she’s hit that stage of Eighties Eastwood stage of career)—without every actually being bad. She shows some personality a handful of times, but there’s really no call for it because there’s not really any significant character development because….

Rucka.

Layne’s got some really good moments and she’s always appealing but Old Guard isn’t supposed to be a pilot movie or even a TV movie to test out how Layne does on Netflix, it’s supposed to be a good part. And it’s not a good part. No one’s got a good part.

Well, Schoenaerts. Except his performance is the same Schoenaerts head-shaking and looking off into the distance thing he always does, just immortal this time. He’s likable though. Be fun to see in the sequel. Maybe.

Kenzari’s great. Marinelli’s fine. Chiwetel Ejiofor hopefully bought something nice.

Prince-Bythewood’s direction is fine. The action scenes would’ve been good without the terrible soundtrack. The Old Guard’s not her fault (I mean, I don’t know about the soundtrack but I sincerely hope it wasn’t her idea); the direction’s fine otherwise. The action scenes are anomalies. When scenes otherwise go wrong, it’s because of the script.

Though there are a handful of nice moments in Rucka’s script; until the third act, it really seems like Old Guard’s going to make it through. And then it doesn’t.

Because Rucka’s cheap and obvious, Melling is atrocious, and the soundtrack is painfully exasperating.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood; screenplay by Greg Rucka, based on the comic book by Rucka and Leandro Fernandez; directors of photography, Barry Ackroyd and Tami Reiker; edited by Terilyn A. Shropshire; music by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran; production designer, Paul Kirby; costume designer, Mary E. Vogt; produced by A.J. Dix, David Ellison, Marc Evans, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Beth Kono, and Charlize Theron; streamed by Netflix.

Starring Charlize Theron (Andy), KiKi Layne (Nile), Matthias Schoenaerts (Booker), Marwan Kenzari (Joe), Luca Marinelli (Nicky), Harry Melling (Merrick), Natacha Karam (Dizzy), Mette Towley (Jordan), Anamaria Marinca (Dr. Meta Kozak), Joey Ansah (Keane), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Copley).


Space Force (2020)

Unloved and Misunderstood

“Space Force” | Season one, 10 episodes | Netflix, 2020

While comedic sitcoms usually take a while to find their footing on the way to a successful vehicle, the creators of “Space Force” seem to be striding the fence here in their pursuit of a balance between comedy and darker social satire. Steve Carnell and Greg Daniels have literally packed each 30 min episode with enough material to stretch it to an hour, but that would effect the flow too much, so “Space Force” conforms to the half hour format in hopes of finding an audience with the average limited attention span for comedies these days.

Carnell plays the general in charge of Space Force, Trump’s latest invention to keep his simple take on reality and romantic notion of what armed forces should be now. Now I should state that Trump is never mentioned by name, nor are really any references here specific, but alert sycophants should pick it up they’re talking about here and now. While some of these jokes are simple and obvious, “Space Force” is loaded with quieter, subtler, textural elements that belie more than just your typical half hour sitcom.

First, casting John Malkovich as his civilian counterpart, is a perfect compliment/foil for Carell’s by the numbers, stiff, obedient military character. They really don’t plow against one another in the typical protagonist/antagonist relationship, but rather compliment each other in their cooperation and clashes, bringing for a genuinely unique approach to what one would be expecting from such a relationship. The setting of “Space Force,” with its pseudo sci-fi action genre, makes the most of the thirty minute drive toward a conclusion with lots of tidbits that you have to look for to appreciate totally. It’s not necessarily about the absurd reality of its situation, but the reactions and motivations of its characters here that keep you interested. The nuances of their relationships, coinciding with the genuinely human dictates of what they’re about drive your interest.

It has plenty of humor, but no laugh tracks here, you either are paying attention and getting the jibes, or you’re not, which is ok. The serious manner depicting its characters gives it a feel of caring and understanding, not two dimensional characters in service of the unusual two plot story carried to a neat conclusion, but gives it an outlier feel.

Also present in this dramedy are some solid use of bit casting, giving its humor weight and double take seriousness for a two edged sword type of approach. While it’s finding its way, Space Force never goes the easy route in its ten episodes (except for perhaps the one featuring a competition between two warring military factions to control Space Force). Also wildly unusual are Carell’s relationships with his wife (Lisa Kudrow, of all actors, who was thrown in jail for life after the first episode for a reason we still don’t know), his complicated, uncomfortable yet very funny scenes with a female head contractor at the base, and his abrasive, yet acceptable ones with his rival heads of the other branches of the armed services of whom Space Force is consuming larger monetary budgets than theirs. Jimmy Yang, quietly and carefully understated as Malkovich’s head assistant, and Tawny Hewsome, as Carell’s aide de camp in a spectrum of roles, are fleshed out nicely, and add greatly to overall recipe. Perhaps Diana Silvers, as his put upon daughter, is still in its developmental infancy stage, is the least satisfying, but since she plays it straight and isn’t out of place I’ll forgive this.

The stories of “Space Force” aren’t just about the ridiculousness of the current world and of the current Washington administration, or even the semi fantasy world the characters live in. While it’s finding its feet in its first ten episodes while trying something different, it succeeds more often than not, and I genuinely hope to see a second to witness whether they succeed. A personal experiment for Carell and Daniels, one that deserves to find an audience and reach its conclusion.

The Wrong Missy (2020, Tyler Spindel)

One Women show

The Wrong Missy | Directed by Tyler Spindel | Netflix, 2020

Alright, I’ll come clean early and confess a weakness for rom coms. Especially after a few beers, and featuring lively young talents. When I saw the commercial for this one evening while pursing Netflix series, the presence of Lauren Lapkus as one of the leads made me file it away for future perusal.

While it was a groan at the beginning to see it was produced by Happy Madison productions (née Adam Sandler), I was intrigued enough by the Lapkus antics in the preview enough to give it a shot.

Despite co starring the excremental David Spade as the other lead (a comedian with entirely ONE facial expression), he manages to be semi convincing as a corporate ladder climber that mistakenly invites the woman from his last disastrous blind date on a company based weekend romp to Hawaii. He intended to invite a recent hook up (also named Melissa) that gave promise to his dream girl weekend scenario, but somehow got his Missys mixed up in his phone contacts and text invited the wrong one. Texted? You’d think he’d actually take five minutes to make an actual phone call, but whatever.

Once on the plane, he’s met by the wrong Missy, artfully played by Lauren Lapkus, whose comedic presence seems why this was made in the first place. While going through the typical paint by numbers romcoms usually follow, the writers here allow Lapkus a character totally driven by her outrageous, no holds barred attitude towards anything she pursues, whether it’s the nonsensical activities mandated by the company, to the drug/alcohol/sexual laced escapades that precede pandemonium in whatever she does.

Lapkus goes where few newbies have gone before, and convincingly gives us reasons from scene to scene why we are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by her exploits. The in your face physical moments, wide range of comedic expression, and overall devil may care stunts she pulls off steal every scene she’s in, which might generally ruin the flow of a romcom, but instead makes us wait in anticipation of what bullshit she concocts next in her pursuit of the perfect relationship with Spade. Spade himself turns in his typical deadpan, I don’t give a shit performance that he’s demonstrated his entire life as a comedian, a position I still don’t comprehend but he apparently keeps getting work, so I must be missing something about him.

As it goes through it’s steady motions, Lapkus keeps the ball rolling, and will not let her foot off the gas, despite all the other characters that seem to be in another film entirely. While that is certainly the fault of the director, this seems, rather intentionally or not, exclusively the vehicle of Lapkus, and she revels in it. Rarely has a comedic performance of what should be a psychotic character wonderfully likable despite depicting a driven woman whose behavior and actions seem to lead to horrendous disaster continuously.

Nick Swardson, playing Spade’s work buddy, makes the most of his mini role as the only other character in this film with personality, who really should of been given the David Spade role, a move that would of added more texture to the proceedings, and probably could of saved a butt ton of cash they gave Spade for phoning it in. Worth your ninety minutes for Lupkis alone, and you will be forgiven if you fast forward to her scenes throughout.

CREDITS

Directed by Tyler Spindel; written by Chris Pappas and Kevin Barnett; director of photography, Theo van de Sande; edited by Brian M. Robinson; music by Mateo Messina; costume designer, Kelli Jones; produced by Allen Covert, Kevin Grady, Judit Maull, and Adam Sandler; streamed by Netflix.

<

p style=”font-size: 11px;”>Starring David Spade (Tim Morris), Lauren Lapkus (Missy), Nick Swardson (Nate), Geoff Pierson (Jack Winstone), Jackie Sandler (Jess), Molly Sims (Melissa), Sarah Chalke (Julia), Chris Witaske (Rich), and Rob Schneider (Komante).

Dead to Me (2019) s02e10 – Where Do We Go From Here

How’s “Dead to Me” going to finish up its second season? How’s it going to resolve all the dangerous situations its characters have put themselves in? With one deus ex machina after another. One could say it’s lazy, but given how hard the show tried to be more than an easy black comedy the first season, it’s kind of nice for it to acknowledge it’s not going to clear any high bars.

And this episode does give cop Diana Maria Riva some good material. It really does. Does it make up for her basically being a lazy Latinx the first season? No. And the second season also just has Brandon Scott around to get racist shit from Jere Burns so its inclusivity is… well, it’s actually not suspect because you wouldn’t expect anything different. So Riva getting good material is a surprise.

She’s helping Christina Applegate tie up her arc, which is one or two of the deuses ex; there’s no point in counting them. Much like the earlier Tell-Tale Heart, you get the feeling “Dead to Me” would be lucky if had heard of deus ex machina from anything but a video game.

Everything gets wrapped up in a nice bow, even after things should get more complicated—including the finale, which sets up another season but also doesn’t have a cliffhanger. It could wrap up in a dark but accurate bow, but doesn’t—though based on the shot and the audio… it’s possible they were at least thinking about it. Maybe “Dead to Me” got saved in post, who knows.

There’s a shot or two of Telma Hopkins, who’s back for one of the strands in the bow wrap-up, and Valerie Mahaffey puts in an appearance for one of the deus ex machinas. Sadly Suzy Nakamura has a cameo too. And gets mocked. Because “Dead to Me” goes for cheap laughs.

The show ends as a full-on comedy, so if there is another season and they keep with it… it’ll probably be better? Like, Applegate and Cardellini are great as wine mom Kate & Allie or whatever. The dramatics… not so much.

Hopefully annoying teenage son Sam McCarthy will be off to college by then.

But until then… there are probably better James Marsden and Natalie Morales performances out there to watch. Ones in much better productions.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e09 – It’s Not You, It’s Me

The episode opens with some post-morning sex freaking out for Christina Applegate while Linda Cardellini is off to the big house. The show’s real cheap about the Cardellini thing, making me think I missed something in the previous episode, but she’s really there to see mom Katey Sagal, who’s not dead, but in prison. Again.

I mean, cool to have the “Married with Children” reunion but not with the actors actually having a reunion… Sagal’s great, even if she’s a stunt cast and even if its poorly written.

Back to Applegate, she’s breaking it off with new James Marsden, who’s so happy after the sex he wants to dance with her. But he’s got to go.

On his way out, he runs into Sam McCarthy, who’s sad and confused to see him go. It’s all a lead-up to Applegate getting a letter from the city saying her stop sign proposal has been rejected.

Now, most episodes of “Dead to Me” this season have started immediately following the previous one, meaning Applegate hadn’t even submitted the proposal in the previous one. But somehow city government answered her in a day—so she storms down to city hall where the zoning commission is always in session so she can yell at them.

It’s a fine enough scene, with a returning appearance from first season attempted rapist Rick Holmes, who’s still a great creep, but “Dead to Me”’s plotting is dismal.

At least the direction—from Silver Tree—isn’t terrible.

Cardellini goes to the cops, where she’s surprised to see Brandon Scott, and Diana Maria Riva threatens to arrest McCarthy for old Marsden’s disappearance and blah blah blah. There’s a cheap cliffhanger as to how Cardellini is going to react but then she’s back home to argue with Applegate about everything.

During the argument, Applegate lays into her, including making a remark about her mother… who Cardellini has been telling everyone is dead. So… not a great script, not great.

Applegate also confesses her first episode of the season secret to Cardellini, which leads to more drama and then a big cliffhanger with Applegate now ready to change all their lives.

Lots of big things happen this episode and none of them go very well, which isn’t a surprise… series creator Liz Feldman cowrote and she’s never written the better episodes of the show.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e08 – It Had to Be You

So, funny thing about this season. The cops seem to have forgotten anyone hit Christina Applegate’s husband with a car and drove away. Like. When Diana Maria Riva is recapping her involvement with Applegate and Linda Cardellini for Natalie Morales? Doesn’t come up. It’s very strange.

Though, I guess makes sense given where the show’s gone.

Morales hears all about Cardellini just after Applegate has given the romance the go-ahead—ditto Cardellini giving Applegate and new James Marsden’s romance to go-ahead. Initially Applegate and Cardellini were arguing about it, but then Sam McCarthy showed up to ruin the scene and confront Applegate about old Marsden’s missing car.

Three main plots this episode—first, Morales’s mom (who doesn’t appear) takes a medical turn for the worse, leading to trouble in new paradise for Cardellini and Morales. Bummer there.

Then Applegate goes over to Marsden’s mom’s house to sell it and score a $15 million commission, but Applegate feels bad about the situation. It doesn’t help Marsden mom Frances Conroy appears to have another major organ failing every few seconds. It’s a very weird choice, meant to gin up sympathy for Conroy, but then there’s also how exasperating new Marsden finds her so she’s simultaneously not sympathetic. She’s also apparently a terrible old rich White lady….

If they do a third season, I imagine there will be some notes on her.

But we also discover some of Applegate’s hesitation over a physical romance with new Marsden is because of her mastectomy and reconstruction, which the show could handle a lot better. It gets foreshadowed with new Marsden telling her how he has scars all over his chest from childhood heart surgeries. It’s weird and forced, though not effective thanks to the actors.

But then there’s also this fake-out involving someone writing “I Know What You Did” on the garage, which ends up just being another, Sam McCarthy’s a teenage White boy who doesn’t actually have to be accountable just sullenly nod when Applegate tells him not to be a shithead.

It’s poorly done, but McCarthy’s an abscess on this series.

Oh, Jere Burns. He’s not Marsdens’ dad, he’s the racist, sexist local police chief we heard about earlier. Brandon Scott’s back working—in the police department where he didn’t work last season but whatever—and taking the tip calls on old Marsden’s disappearance. Basically he’s there for Burns to be low-key racist towards. It’s charming. Or something.

Also we hear about Cardellini’s mom for the first time in a while, with the ending implying she’s dead or something, and Cardellini didn’t know.

They maybe shouldn’t have saved all the character development for episode eight of ten. Though it did mean four great episodes of Morales and Cardellini….

Dead to Me (2019) s02e07 – If Only You Knew

Wow, more of the, no, really, you like Christina Applegate and Sam McCarthy as a mother-son comedic pair. He’s quietly sullen and she’s loudly obscene. Please laugh.

McCarthy is a leech on this season, frankly. Thanks to Natalie Morales and new James Marsden, “Dead to Me” has a new lease on life—is that a no pun intended type statement—and the season one leftovers, for the most part, are still dragging it down in the seventh episode of season two.

Applegate and McCarthy generically and insincerely bond while taking data for her stop sign proposal.

Anyway. One of the main plots of the episode involve Applegate telling Cardellini to break up with Morales, even though Cardellini and Morales are in capital L love after only a few days together.

And, why wouldn’t they be, especially since there’s a “twist” in the identity of Morales’s ex-girlfriend, still-roommate, who has a somewhat amusing awkwardness showdown with Cardellini.

The other main plot has Applegate and Cardellini volunteering to organize a vigil for still missing old Marsden as a favor to overwhelmed new Marsden.

At the vigil, we get to meet Marsdens’ mom, Frances Conroy, who’s played as a tragic figure. Also there’s no dad, which it seemed like there wasn’t, but then new Marsden kept referring to parents plural… and Jere Burns threatens Cardellini at the vigil so I was thinking Burns was the dad….

But it’s never cleared up here. Because we’ve got to get to Keong Sim making an unexpectedly welcome return (Sim was never bad last season, just badly used) to say some words at the vigil before they kick off a slideshow, which McCarthy happens to see because he likes new Marsden so much but doesn’t want to admit liking a non-toxic male, and recognizes the missing Marsden’s car.

Plus Applegate and new Marsden make out, which is both creepy and unfair (heartbroken over Morales, Cardellini peeps their romantic beach make-out).

The episode also introduces “WWJD”—as in “What Would Jen Do” or “What Would Judy Do” because it took them seventeen episodes to realize their characters have the same first letter in their first names.

Doing a Jen (Applegate) is getting shit-faced no matter what the time of day. Doing a Judy (Cardellini) is being a good person no matter what the situation.

The show would be a lot more fun if they’d classified those tropes sooner.

Also Jennifer Getzinger’s direction is a step down from the season two usual. Not as bad as first season, but still incapable of finding a good reaction shot.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e06 – You Don’t Have To

So, first things first. Let’s get the negative out of the way; Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum does a poor job of directing. Not quite as bad as a first season episode, but definitely a return to the bad frame composition to cover for some of the actors not being very good. Like Sam McCarthy; I noticed Rosenbaum’s composition during a McCarthy and Christina Applegate scene and the show really just needs to acknowledge it’s not going to do anything special with the two characters.

It seems to come to that realization in the happy night out finish, where everyone—not Max Jenkins thank goodness—hangs out at an arcade and bonds. By everyone I mean, Applegate, sons McCarthy and Luke Roessler, and Linda Cardellini and her genuine, bonafide love interest, Natalie Morales. Out of nowhere, “Dead to Me” gets the major points for Bi-Inclusivity; first with Cardellini and Morales’s smoke out conversation about Cardellini’s relationship with Applegate, then with Morales meeting Applegate. It’s amazing how good sincere nonplus makes something seem when it’s really just not being bad.

The episode’s basically split with Cardellini and Morales and then Applegate and new James Marsden. The Marsden stuff turns into this fantastic T-800 situation; in the insane world of “Dead to Me,” obviously new Marsden is going to be the only one who measures up.

The show’s trying to make McCarthy more likable, giving him an awkward sex conversation with Cardellini and then he’s empathetic to brother Roessler at just the right time. But it’s still blah.

There’s also some more with Diana Maria Riva, who brings Cardellini for some questions and takes the opportunity to manipulate her. It turns out Riva is about to figure into the plot in a very forced “it’s all connected” way, which is a bummer. Though at this point you wish the good cast members—Marsden, Cardellini, Applegate, Morales—would just jump ship to a new series. The first season broke this one too hard.

Oh, and Brandon Scott’s back. He sadly didn’t bring his charm along.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e04 – Between You and Me

Much like the season premiere, this episode takes place an indeterminate time from the previous episode’s cliffhanger and skips over what theoretically should be some very interesting scenes as Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini have now committed federal crimes by digging up a national forest to hide their other crime.

Crimes.

But it makes Applegate feel a lot better, which is nice because we’re no longer asked to believe she’s really worried about going to jail for all time and instead she’s at least acting like she’s in a TV show.

Lots of relationship building for Applegate and Cardellini, who stop off at a motel following their latest felony. Cardellini—now so upset she’s not talkative for the first time in the history of the show—needs to crash and Applegate needs to shower. We find out the boys (Sam McCarthy and Luke Roessler) are at home, with Max Jenkins babysitting; why aren’t they with Grandma? Because we’re going to have a small tragedy requiring them to be at home.

Applegate and Cardellini lie their way into a wedding party’s open bar and spend the evening getting drunk and bonding, with Applegate forgiving Cardellini her previous trespass and Cardellini already having forgiven Applegate for her recent trespass, though Applegate hasn’t divulged the full extent of said trespass because… well, the show’s not ready for it. The show’s not ready for Applegate the cold-blooded killer. Though Applegate at least seems ready with it.

When they get home to find the tragedy, which involves Jenkins’s little dog too, there’s a chance for Applegate to redeem herself a little as far as Cardellini goes; at least for the episode; at the end, it’s pretty clear Applegate’s not going to be troubled with keeping secrets. Cardellini, who spent last season wrestling with it, isn’t as strong.

Or as cold-blooded.

There’s a subplot involving McCarthy wanting a car because he’s a spoiled little White shithead male and it leads him to Applegate’s storage unit—what is it about this show and storage units; I mean, did Cardellini tell Applegate what they used her storage unit for last season—and sets up, presumably, the next stage of the series.

“Dead to Me” is leaps and bounds better this season, even if Jenkins and McCarthy are still major drags.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e03 – You Can’t Live Like This

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.

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