The core relationship, between Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini), went through a number of contortions in season one, given that Judy was driving the car in the hit-and-run death of Jen’s husband.
The shocking moment that concluded that season, however, has turned into a propulsive force to power the show through season two, with the writing (under showrunner Liz Feldman) rising to the occasion of setting up new wrinkles — none of which should be spoiled — and apparent dead ends, only to find some unexpected way out, before introducing a new crisis.
Impressively, those surprises incorporate Jen’s kids, avoiding the annoying-teenager trope that often finds its way into such exercises.
Although each of the characters finds new romantic possibilities, the heart of the series remains the interaction between the tightly wound Jen and the free-spirited, take-life-as-it-comes Judy, with Cardellini doing some of her best work in making what could be an irritating character sympathetic and predictable.
Netflix has tried a number of shows in this vein, and mostly wound up demonstrating how difficult they are to consistently pull off. “Dead to Me” might have started with a fairly simple premise, but everything that’s happened since is a reminder that regardless of what the original idea is, there’s no substitute for smart execution.
Much of that has to do with the fact that despite the often-outlandish situations, the bond between the women has grown richer. And it gives away nothing to say that like season one, the Jen-and-Judy show ends this 10-episode flight in a manner that suggests there’s a whole lot of life (as well as a bit of death) left in it.
“Dead to Me” begins its second season May 8 on Netflix.