Dead to Me Recap: Good Morning, Sunshine
Season 3 Episode 7 Editor’s Rating3 stars ***
Photo: Netflix Dead to Me has reached the point where its protagonists have difficulty envisioning the ideal scenario. Judy knows she wants to survive cancer, of course, but Jen isn’t sure she’s ready to be a mother again, and certainly not with the twin brother of a man she killed, right? It would be interesting to sit them down and talk through what happens in their best-case vision of the future. Do Judy and Jen raise the new baby together? Where does Ben go in that scenario? And, most importantly, do they someday tell Ben what happened to Steve? But there’s no time for questions. While this season has been feeling increasingly overcrowded and inconsistent in terms of character, you can’t deny its breakneck plotting. It’s a perfect “just one more” show, and Netflix is certain to miss it.
Judy and Jen wake up in very different emotional states. Judy is tossing open curtains and greeting the day — Jen is wincing at the light and puking through her morning sickness. It turns out that she’s four and a half months pregnant already, even though she’s “a thousand years old” — she just assumed her symptoms were menopause. But she’s most shattered by the thought of what this news will do to Judy, someone who lost a baby and has always wanted to be a mother. Now Jen gets to be one again?
So now Jen has to deal with two showings — her pregnancy, which she covers with a poncho, and her neighbor’s open house. Remember Karen (Suzy Nakamura), the nosy neighbor from the first two seasons? She’s back because Jen has to help Karen stage the house for prospective millionaires. Maybe they should get rid of the prominently placed gun cabinet? Jen is struggling with just about everything, but especially the smell of Karen’s Orange Dreamsicle Yankee Candle. Ewww. And then Ben is outside.
The nicer Wood brother has graduated rehab — the math there doesn’t really add up, but whatever — and is now at the stage where he has to make amends. And he’s also decided to say good-bye, to go north again and leave the toxicity of his hometown. Jen doesn’t really say anything, even with Judy’s literal nudging. Judy doesn’t even know at this point that Ben is a baby daddy; she just wants Jen to find happiness again. When Ben leaves, Judy gives Jen a hard time and they ask some of those serious questions: What if they told Ben the truth about Steve? Could he forgive them? Jen is convinced that they can’t “tit for tat,” even when Judy reminds her that they’re friends because they tell each other the truth. It really feels like they’re building to a confession to Ben before the series ends. Before then, Jen drops her big news: “I’m pregnant.” Judy needs a minute. It’s emotionally overwhelming. She walks into the pool, where she screams in a place no one else can hear her.
Back above the surface, Perez shows Jen the shot of Charlie driving Ben’s damaged car. What? Charlie didn’t hit Jen and Judy. She knows that. She stalls for a minute but then tells Perez the truth: It was Ben Wood. And he may have been drinking. And he’s the father of Jen’s unborn baby. Can you imagine how Perez has to emotionally prepare for every conversation with Jen Harding? She thought maybe she had solved the hit-and-run, and now she has a whole slate of other news to process. It’s kind of indicative of this overcrowded season that every beat — like Charlie being a suspect, or does anyone remember Glenn, the FBI guy? — doesn’t have time to make much of an impact. Viewers may feel kind of like Perez this season, just stuttering their way through each new revelation.
Jen comes to apologize to Judy for being pregnant. She’s going to need Judy’s help to get through it, but Judy knows the truth: She has to tell Ben. It’s not a secret that someone can keep. And there’s no reason to do so other than Jen’s guilt, which would only be compounded if she has Ben’s child and doesn’t let him know about it. Couldn’t they maybe have a life together? And what if the show ends that way? What happens to Judy?
Poor Judy does what she said she wouldn’t do and what no one should ever do, and that’s Google her own health problem. She quickly closes the laptop. The internet never has good health news. WebMD is a force for increased anxiety in the world.
Back at the station, Nick yells at Perez for not giving the wooden bird to the FBI. He demands respect and he demands action. It turns out that Nick speaking up for himself will finally get Perez to do something proactive, arresting Ben at the end of the episode.
Before then, Judy goes to see Mr. Wood while Jen is laughing at her boys and imagining their learning they’re about to have another sibling. Judy has decided she has to take action. Is she going to tell Ben about the pregnancy? The truth about Steve? When Ben comes to the Harding house and says, “It all makes sense,” it feels like Judy spilled all the beans, but it turns out there was one major secret nobody knew. Ben learned that Jen knows what happened to her husband Ted that fateful night, but he drops an incredible detail that has likely been eating at him: He was in the back seat when Judy hit Ted and Steve ordered her to drive away. He was drunk and Judy and Steve were taking him home. “I just think it’s fair that everybody knows everything,” he says. With another minute, he might have found out exactly what happened to Steve and that he’s about to be a father — but Perez has other plans.
• Remember when it looked like the great Garret Dillahunt would have a cool arc on the final run of this show? Perhaps the delay in shooting with Applegate’s diagnosis changed his trajectory? Otherwise, why sideline him for the bulk of the season? It’s a strange choice and he could have brought a different energy that would have helped this year’s mid-season sag.
• There’s a cool beat when Jen is watching an old home movie of Ted and you can hear him call his son “Charlie Brown.” Ben did that earlier in the season, and Charlie mentioned that his dad used to do so. It’s a nice callback that perhaps hints that Ben will be a good dad, too.
• Only three episodes left! Here’s something to consider — will a show that has thrived on cliffhangers and secrets end with a period or an ellipsis? Will they leave something withheld or are there going to be a lot of emotional confessions in the next 90 minutes of television?
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