In this post, I will go over episodes four and five of Dead to Me and connected them to questions posed by Victoria O’Donnell’s, Guidelines for Television Criticism. The questions I chose are based on why I choose this show to review and the music and coloring symbolism in particular scenes.

In episode four labeled I Can’t go Back, Jen discovers that her late husband has been cheating on her with a woman named Bambi. She learned about this while playing an online video game that her husband use to play, and a message popped up leading her to believe he was cheating With Judy’s help they track her place of work done and confront her in the restaurant. Jen finally discovers that her late husband, Ted had been cheating on her for a year before he died. Judy is there to comfort her and eventually drives for the first time since killing Ted. Throughout the episode, their relationship grows as Jen opens up her feelings to Judy about Ted being unfaithful. Also, Jen helps Judy realize that she needs to officially end things with Steve because their relationship is unhealthy and toxic.      

In episode five labeled I’ve Gotta Get Away, Jen and Judy go to Palm Springs for a retreat with their Grief Group, Friends of Heaven. Both of them go to separate groups where they learn how to deal with their grief. Also, both Jen and Judy are seen with different men, for Jen this is the first man she has been with since Ted, and for Judy it means the first step moving on from Steve.    

What attracted you to this program?

I was attracted to Dead to Me for multiple reasons, but the main one being a women producer, Liz Feldman and two women lead roles, Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate. After watching the first episode I realized how funny both of them were and it made me want to continue watching the series. It was encouraging and honestly comforting to see two women play the show’s protagonist. I also liked how the show is about death but found ways to make almost every scene funny, and I contribute that to Feldman and Applegate. 

Are the colors bright or subdued? How do the colors contribute to the overall look of the set? Do the colors create a mood?/ Is there music in the program other than in the opening credits? If so, what do you think is its intended purpose?

The color scheme and background music connect to one another in certain scenes. For example,  there is a flashback to Judy and Steve hitting Ted the scene is always black mixed with dark blue. More specifically in the episode, Steve asks Judy when she will drive again, which immediately triggers her and sends her memory into that night when the hit and run happened. Before the scene is at Steves’s nice house and it is sunny outside, also all his furniture like his bedding is a bright white color. As the scene switches to the flashback it gets dimmer, and the background music intensives with creepy music and a screeching car. When the flashback scene is over the set goes right back to being sunny with calm or no music.

During Judy’s flashback
After Judy’s flashback

Another example of lighting and music connecting to each other is when Jen and Judy go to the restaurant that Bambi (Ted’s mistress) is working at. They figure out which waitress is her by noticing their waitress is wearing a necklace on that says Bambi, during this scene the background music is eerie and Jen’s face of anger and confusion matches the scene. The restaurant seems to almost look like it is underground, there are no noticeable windows, leaving the scene to give off bad vibes. The same creepy music is also played when Bambi reveals to Judy that Ted told her his wife is dead after Jen hears this she states that she is glad Ted is dead.

In episode five when Judy is at her grief group (separate from Jens) she learns the phrase “I am not broken.” Meaning she and the other members in there are not broken for being incapable of having children. When they are saying this soft music is playing the background, but after each repetition of the phrase the group gets louder insisting that this is how Judy will cope.

For reference this happens at about 8 minutes and 12 seconds into episode five.

Also in the fifth episode, at the retreat Jen and Judy both meet new men in a bar. During this time their grief counselor Yolanda is signing an upbeat song (Don’t Leave Me This Way by Thelma Houston). This tells the audience that Jen and Judy are both starting to move on, Jen from losing Ted and Judy from her toxic relationship with Steve.

For reference this scene starts at 13:30 in episode 5
For reference this scene starts at 16:18 in episode five

What interests you about the story or the contents of the program?

What interests me about Dead to Me is the complexity of Jen and Judy’s relationship and in episode four and five their relationship to get even weirder. What shocked me the most is when Jen admitted she is happy that Ted is dead because it almost seemed like Judy was happy. She has been dealing with Jen’s grief about her husband Ted because ultimately she killed him so hearing her say this lifted a weight off her shoulder. I am intrigued if the truth will come out soon because the new man Judy met is a detective who wants to help Jen with Ted’s hit and run case.