Natalie Morales

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) 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.

Dead to Me (2019) s02e01 – You Know What You Did

Maybe the first half of the episode is following up from last season’s cliffhanger. The second half of the episode is then trying to get “Dead to Me” to a place where the show can go on. There’s been a seismic change to the relationship between Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, a seismic cast change—or has there been—but for the first half, writer (and show creator) Liz Feldman does whatever she can to convince the viewer things aren’t going to go exactly where they’ve got to go for the show to continue.

It’s kind of a predictable forced pivot because the episode starts six or eight hours after the dramatic cliffhanger, meaning we’ve missed a bunch. We’re also going to learn—because there have got to be secrets in Feldman’s scripts, secrets from the supporting cast so you can get a scene and then haranguing for the rest of the episode and secrets from the audience so you can gin up a big surprise.

So when Feldman reveals the first secret, it’s not even one anyone would’ve thought about. Sure, Applegate and Cardellini aren’t with it enough to think of a cover story for Applegate’s kids, Sam McCarthy and Luke Roessler—who the show now refer to as “the boys,” like there was a memo to the writers’ room to make Applegate seem more like a mama bear this season.

Applegate’s plot this episode is coming to terms with the cliffhanger as we find out, no, she did fire off a revolver outside in her shishi poopoo L.A. suburb. Because even the “Dead to Me” writers aren’t that stupid. And when they actually get to the reveal at the end, it’s not a bad one. And they didn’t wait six episodes to do it like I was expecting.

Meanwhile, Cardellini is living out of her car. Actually, out of a dead friend’s car because there’s no room for Cardellini to crash at the retirement home. We get to meet the newest retirement home resident, Renee Victor, and her cool, 420-friendly daughter Natalie Morales. Are they important? Don’t know, but they give Cardellini something to do before Applegate has need of her again.

Turns out show punchline and punching bag Suzy Nakamura has the block wired for video, which means no matter what Applegate covers up in her backyard, there’s video of the front and there’s damning evidence on there.

So she calls Cardellini to talk and ends up bringing her back in so they can watch “Facts of Life” and Cardellini can reveal she grew up homeless and make Applegate check her privilege (sort of) and we can get on with season two.

Or, as the shocking cliffhanger asks, can we?

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