Dead to Me Recap: Going Somewhere
Season 3 Episode 9 Editor’s Rating3 stars ***
Photo: Saeed Adyani/YouTube The penultimate episode of Dead to Me affirms something that fans have likely been nervous about for roughly four hours now: Judy Hale is going to die. An already tumultuous, inconsistent season is going to have to navigate breaking up its core friendship forever. We’ll likely get into that a bit more in the series finale, but it’s time to start thinking about the journeys of Judy Hale and Jen Harding. They started off as strangers at a grief-management meeting and navigated several revelations and betrayals to form a partnership that has come to define the final season. (Notice every episode title of the season includes the pronoun “We,” whereas in season one it was “I” and season two it was “You.”) If the first season revolved around Ted’s death and the second around Steve’s death, is the third season about Judy’s death? Or perhaps, more truthfully, Judy’s life?
She seems happy to start the appropriately titled “We’re Almost Out of Time,” skating and smiling as the perfect “Lovely Day,” by Bill Withers, plays on the soundtrack. While she buys ice cream by the shore, Jen is crying again. She’s with Glenn Moranis, finally telling him her biggest secret. Did she reveal that she killed Steve? No, she just claims to have been sleeping with him, setting up an excuse for if they find her “she-men” on his body. Only about an hour left in this show, and the lies are still piling up.
Jen also reveals that she’s pregnant, but she’s claiming to the FBI that it’s Steve’s baby. Glenn makes a bad joke about his wife’s infidelity and starts choking on the scone that Jen cooked for him. For just a minute, it looks like Jen may go full Heisenberg and watch someone choke to death, but Glenn gets over it. To Jen’s dismay, the agent says the infidelity could be one explanation for her DNA on Steve’s body. Jen was kind of hoping it would be the perceived only explanation.
And then the biggest shoe drops: Judy tells Jen that she’s terminal. The chemo didn’t shrink her tumors at all. Jen jumps deep into denial, saying that they can do more, including a clinical trial at St. Bridget’s. On the other hand, Judy is fine with it. She’s already reached the acceptance phase. She’s ready to live the last weeks of her life. She wants to swim and laugh and hug. Jen doesn’t accept it, even though stress isn’t good for the cancer or the baby. Wait, what baby? The boys overhear, which is kind of a clunky way to check that off the list before the end of the series, but look at the title of the episode again.
Back at the station, Nick reveals that he transferred Ben to county prison, but he doesn’t feel good about it. “Sometimes the right thing doesn’t feel right, but it doesn’t make it wrong,” says Perez. It’s a lesson Nick is learning the hard way, and he can’t figure out why Jen doesn’t want to press charges. Perez drops the baby news on Nick, revealing through it that she’s friends with Jen. Nick pushes her on the conflict of interest there, insisting that Perez has to tell Moranis everything. If Perez tells the FBI that Ben is the father and not Steve, that would catch Jen in a lie. It’s funny how little this threat matters in the end run of the show, but that’s indicative of the breakneck speed of this final season.
Jen discovers that the trial she wanted to get Judy into is already full. After raging at a medical representative, she gets a call from Ben. He won’t be behind bars, and he’s changed his tune on wanting to leave town. Why such an about-face? It’s a bit inconsistent but, again, time is short. And our dear sweet Ben Wood is in love. He finally tells Jen as much, but she can’t return the favor before he’s cut off from the time on his prison call. She also mentions that she’s pregnant and that she killed Steve, but it’s into the void.
Eleanor Hale is back! The great Katey Sagal gets an episode this season too, returning to help her daughter for a final (and maybe a first) time. She’s out of prison and wants to bunk with Judy for a while, but her daughter declines. Is Judy going to tell her she’s dying? Why bother? She gives Mom an envelope of cash and says she’s going to Sonoma for a few months. Mom has no idea that she’ll never see her again.
With Henry in the passenger seat, Jen is unleashing some road rage to manage her stress. Henry is excited about a new baby in the house. Now there could be six of them! Three kids, Jen, Ben, and Judy. Well, that’s almost right, poor Henry. Ben is in prison and Judy is dying, buddy. Jen might be the only adult in the house for a while.
Back at the house, Judy opens a safe and loads something into a suitcase. She’s heading out, but first she gets the episode’s best scene, with Charlie. Still angry over, well, everything, he comes in aggressive again with Judy, but he quickly changes tune. They have a brief bonding moment over Glacier Cherry Gatorade, and Charlie reveals that he’s still wounded over how often Jen yelled at his dad. Judy defends her BFF — Charlie’s mom is tough, solid, and there for you no matter what. And she’s good at forgiving people when they fuck up. Forgiveness has been one of the most consistent themes of Dead to Me — not only how much it can take to forgive someone else, but the degree of difficulty in forgiving yourself. Charlie helps Judy on her feet and gets a real nice hug. Unlike her mom, Charlie says “I love you” back when she says it first.
Jen delivers her paper cranes and discovers that the Holy Harmonies lady might be able to get Judy into the clinical trial. She used to be “cuddle buddies” with the head of oncology and let him do some weird stuff. So will Judy be saved? Before it’s revealed a few scenes later, this feels like kind of a misdirect.
It turns out that Eleanor didn’t go away so easily. You can’t hand a criminal an envelope of money and not expect them to come see if there might be more. She meets Jen for the first time — a fun reunion for former Married With Children castmates Sagal and Applegate — and the two fight over Judy. As the heat is rising, Henry comes in to diffuse it and reveals that Judy left with a suitcase. Oh, Judy. Where did you go?
She went to Nick! This felt inevitable — Judy taking the blame for everything because she knows she won’t be around long enough to face the consequences. She confesses to killing Steve and reveals that the suitcase is full of wooden birds. When Jen hears about it, she’s mad. Judy got into the trial, but she refuses to go. It’s done. It’s too late. “There is always a way out,” says Jen. Maybe not this time. They still somehow convince Nick to give Judy a few weeks to go to the trial before she goes to jail. They just need a little bit of time.
The episode ends with a series of shockers to set up the finale. First, Moranis has been killed by the Greeks that Jen saw going into his motel room early in the episode. Whoa. Will the scone on the nightstand lead back to Jen? Then, Judy and Jen are driving, but they’re not going to San Francisco for the trial. They’re headed for the border.
• The clasped hands together in the final shot is a nod to Thelma & Louise, right? It sure feels like it, and the unique friendship at the center of that excellent film would make a logical callback to these criminals now on the run.
• 36 minutes! It’s the longest Dead to Me yet, which makes sense. Shows often stretch their legs as they’re reaching the finish line. And the finale is even longer!
• What’s still outstanding for the finale? This episode likely pushed a lot of plots to their final chapter. If the Greeks killed Moranis, the FBI will likely presume they killed Steve too. So that’s done. Judy is probably going to die now too. The big questions that remain are in Jen’s lap, and they really come down to a long conversation with the father of her child and the brother of the man she killed.
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