“Dead to Me” is one of those few shows that arrives fully formed from the first episode, parachuting the viewer into an overall narrative that’s already in progress. Instead of being confusing, that approach allows the show to slowly and deliberately unfurl its many secrets while the viewer adjusts to the events of the past and present in ways that converge and compliment each other. In a demanding role that requires first-rate comedic skills and strong dramatic chops, Christina Applegate does some career-best work as a grieving widow and mother of two gritting her teeth through her bereavement process and using her sharp tongue to dissuade any kindness, and she’s a one-woman wrecking ball in every scene. She’s well-matched by the always-excellent Linda Cardellini, who does some extraordinary work as her new friend who harbors devastating secrets of her own, and watching the two quickly becoming close friends is a thrill thanks to the lived-in chemistry they share. In a supporting role, James Marsden also does some terrific work, but it’s hard for him to stand out when he’s in the shadow of such towering lead performances. As the show progresses through its ten episodes, there are a number of twists that keep the viewer hooked without being manipulative, on the way to a stupendously effective climactic one-two punch. It’s not for everyone but fans of dark comedy will simply adore it.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)