Well, as Jen would say, fuck.
If you’ve just finished Beaches the series finale of Dead to Me, bring it in. The final episode of Season 3 of Liz Feldman’s Netflix comedy drama brings all the criminal chaos to a close, and offers a deeply moving farewell for Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) in more ways than one. I was hardly able to swallow my raisin-stuffed Mexican lasagne.
Judy and Jen have been saturating their secrets in giant glasses of wine for three gloriously addictive seasons, all of which are set over just one year in the narrative — when characters refer to it as “one shitty year,” they’re completely right. Having spent the final episode of the series on quality time with Judy “Judy Five Fingers” Hale and Jen “Bitch Cassidy” Harding in Mexico, seeing everything sort itself out crime-wise, and saying an extremely devastating farewell, Dead to Me brought things full circle. However, it not only presents a deeply moving re-creation of Season 3’s first scene in Jen’s mind, but includes heartfelt references to the series’ very first chapter.
In fact, rewatching the pilot immediately after you’ve watched the finale is a cathartic experience, especially as the series begins with Jen and Judy’s first-ever meeting. Here’s some of the Easter eggs and references from Dead to Me‘s very first episode we spied in the finale.
The grief circle
Dead to Me basically begins and ends with the grief circle. In the first episode of Season 1, Jen attends the group for the first time following Ted’s death and encounters Judy in a sweet meet-cute over crappy coffee. Judy asks Jen for a hug — Jen strongly declines. In the scene, group leader Pastor Wayne (Keong Sim) talks of forgiveness, which forms the core of the friendship between Judy and Jen over the series. But Jen declares during the pilot, “How do you forgive someone who hits your husband with their car and then drives away, leaving him to bleed to death on the side of the road?” Turns out, you can.
In the finale, Jen sits in the same seat she picked in the beginning, now grieving Judy. But Jen has brought support, her new baby girl, Joey. In this scene, the writers even added another reference to the pilot, with the grief circle member Linda. Where Linda gets a “fuck yeah” from Jen in the pilot, she gets a little less allegiance in the finale.
The song “Get Happy”
Judy Garland’s song “Get Happy” appears in both the first and last episodes of Dead to Me. In the pilot, the song is the very first piece of non-diegetic music heard as the camera flies over Laguna Beach, California, and is cut short as Jen slams her car door and makes her way to the grief circle. In the finale, Jen’s son Henry is performing the song with the Holy Harmonies, the church choir dance group. Despite the cheesiness of the situation, it’s one of the most moving scenes in the whole series, as Jen walks into the church, absolutely covered in the paper cranes Judy folded during her chemotherapy, and reunites with her family.
The car: The ’66 Mustang
It’s the car that started this whole thing. Steve and Judy’s Ford 1966 Mustang, the car that killed Ted, the car Jen (along with Detective Ana Perez, played by Diana-Maria Riva) spends much of Season 1 trying to find, and the car Jen eventually drives back to Laguna Beach from Mexico in — sadly, without Judy.
In the pilot, while we’re watching Jen painstakingly document “every time I see a person-sized dent in the front bumper of a car,” Judy goes to her storage facility to pick up some clothes to move into Jen’s guest house. In the final moments of the episode, she rolls up the garage door to reveal the ’66 Mustang, with a very Ted-sized dent in the bumper.
In an almost identical shot in the finale, Judy and Jen head out to the garage in the Mexico house and pull up the rolling door to reveal the very same Mustang, discretely restored by Steve. This explains why Judy found a random key hidden by Steve in one of her paintings earlier in Season 3. Though Jen is visibly rattled, and Judy offers her the chance to smash it up with a golf club (like Jen smashed up the car in Season 1), she offers up the ultimate response of forgiveness: “How could I hate it? It brought you to me,” says Jen. I’m done. I’m out.
Facts of Life
OK, back. The TV show Jen and Judy spend their last night together cuddled up watching in Mexico is the same show they began watching together when forming their friendship: ’80s sitcom Facts of Life. On their final night together, to emotionally recover after Judy reveals to Jen she won’t be returning with her home to Laguna, Jen asks, “Do you wanna watch our show?” wanting to do anything but talk more about it.
Facts of Life has marked Jen and Judy’s friendship from day one. In the debut episode, during an early phone call, Judy says the show is on, and Jen quickly switches over. Later, when watching it at Jen’s house, they discuss which character they both resemble the most.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re kind of a Blair?” Judy tells Jen.
“What? Fuck you,” Jen retorts. “I’m a fucking Jo…I’m a piece of work.”
Meanwhile, Judy identifies herself as Tootie, explaining, “It’s layered.”
Later, when Jen is watching the show alone, she mutters aloud, “Fuckin’ Tootie,” a line repeated by Judy in the series finale — it’s technically her final line in the show, apart from Jen’s vision of Judy in the car. Jen and Judy are also seen watching Facts of Life in Season 2, episode 1, as a means for the two of them to connect while figuring out their way forward after Steve’s murder. There you have it: TV solves everything.
Jen’s guest house
In the pilot, Jen invites Judy to come and stay in the guest house, Ted’s old music studio, as she’s living in the assisted care facility where she works. It’s this gesture of kindness that unlocks the truths, events, and core friendship of the entire series. In the finale, Sammy, the stray cat Jen and Judy found lurking in the Mexico house, is pawing at the door of Jen’s guest house. It’s in this final moment, literally the last few seconds of the series, that Jen appears to decide to confess to Ben (also James Marsden) that she killed his twin brother Steve — yeah, he drowned right in the pool you were just frolicking in, dude. “If you ever want to the possibility of a real life with him, you have to be honest about everything,” Judy says earlier in the episode. Who can say how this landed?