The following story contains major spoilers about Dead to Me‘s Season 2 finale — proceed at your own peril
As Dead to Me Season 2 drew to a close, a car driven by James Marsden’s inebriated Ben plows into an SUV carrying Christina Applegate’s Jen and Linda Cardellini’s Judy. While Ben and Judy survive the wreck with what seems to be nary a scratch, the fate of Jen is left up in the air as the screen fades to black.
Well, that’s what was supposed to happen in the original version of the finale anyway. In the actual finale that streamed on Netflix, viewers receive indisputable confirmation of Jen’s survival when, in the final seconds of the episode, the widow-turned-murderer eke’s out a barely audible “Oh, s–t.”
Below, showrunner Liz Feldman explains why at the 11th hour she removed the cliffhanger’s potentially killer stakes. Also in the following Q&A, the EP answers a number of other burning Season 2 questions, including this one: Will there be a Season 3?
TVLINE | You could’ve ended the season leaving viewers wondering if Jen had died. Why did you choose to answer that question versus leave it a mystery?
I made that decision very mindfully. It was actually scripted that we don’t know whether she survives or not. We [initially] wanted to go for the most dramatic version of [the] scene. And when we shot the version of it with Jen not coming to, it did [indeed] feel incredibly dramatic. But it also felt pretty dark. And so on the day we were shooting it I very quickly went, “You know what? Let’s quickly get a shot of her eyes opening and her waking up and saying something.” So we added that to it. And I’m really glad we did because it’s just much more satisfying. I’m always interested in leaving people with an element of fun. Also, I’m not a big fan of Schmuck Bait. I like to give my audience credit. I know they know that we’re not going to kill off [Christina Applegate] at the end of Season 2. It felt like it would’ve been a bit insulting to the audience.
TVLINE | Did you feel pressure to perhaps kill someone else off since the show is called Dead t Me?
There was definitely a lot of conversation in the writers’ room about, “Well, yeah, somebody has to die.” [Laughs] But we’re always looking to subvert expectations. At the end of the day, it’s still very much a show about grief. It’s still very much a show about the aftermath of death. Death is incredibly present. We start the season with multiple episodes dealing with a dead body, so we felt like we covered death enough to make our title feel authentic. Also, it felt a little predictable that there would be another death at the end [of a season].
TVLINE | For the record, neither Jen nor Judy saw that it was Ben who was driving the car that hit them, right?
It seemed like that…
TVLINE | So you would be kicking off a potential third season with a romantically entangled Jen and Ben both keeping huge secrets from each other: She killed his twin Steve, and he drunkenly T-boned her car.
Exactly. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to even that playing field. Circumstances needed to change if you ever wanted to see those two people in the same room again, basically. And it was definitely compelling to peel back another layer of Ben. He’s a nice guy but he ain’t perfect. Everybody makes bad choices.
TVLINE | Also for the sake of clarity, Jen is not off the the hook for Steve’s murder just because Detective Perez looked the other way, correct? That case is not closed,right?
The case is not closed.
TVLINE | What about the status of Judy and Michelle’s (Natalie Morales) relationship? We didn’t actually get confirmation that they had broken up…
The ambiguity is deliberate. It’s such a new relationship. And sometimes in a new relationship when something really traumatic happens to one person that [crisis] takes center stage; you’re gonna probably take a minute from this brand new relationship and deal with this more important thing that is going on in your life. We left it ambiguous on purpose. I think the last thing we hear is Judy saying she’s been texting Michelle but she is not hearing back. So, we’ll see if we get a Season 3 what will happen.
TVLINE | The fact that you ended Season 2 on a cliffhanger would seem to suggest you are somewhat confident the show will be renewed. Would that be an accurate assumption?
Confidence is not a word I would use because I’ve been doing this too long. [Laughs] Crazy things happen all the time. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m reasonably hopeful and I’m optimistic about it. I love telling the story of Jen and Judy. My fingers and everything are crossed.
TVLINE | But Netflix presumably knew you were ending on a cliffhanger, and they weren’t like, “That might not be a good idea… “
I pitched them this ending and they seemed really delighted by it. They never said, “You might wanna wrap it up.” We sort of just balls-to-the-wall it [in our finales] and hope that we’re gonna get that next season. Also, I didn’t want to wrap a bow on it and give them a reason maybe to end it there. [Laughs]