Dead to Meseason 2 spoilers ahead!
In the second episode of the new season of
“I wish you would love yourself more,” Judy replies, sounding a little sad.
Although the words were directed at her friend, I immediately felt like Judy was speaking to herself—and to me. Like Judy, I’m someone who tries to see the best in everyone and sometimes pays for it. I’m someone who tries to love with her whole heart, even when the person on the other end doesn’t deserve it. I’m someone who has a hard time saying no to people because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I’m someone who beats herself up for things that aren’t my fault, because that’s who I’ve been trained to blame.
Since the beginning, trademarks of Judy’s character have been centered on her empathy. Her willingness to see the best in people and her open warmth are admirable qualities, but also ones that conspire against her, most notably when it comes to her abusive relationship with her ex-fiancé Steve (James Marsden) and her friendship with Jen. Whereas Jen’s outlet for her anger is to blow up at everything and everyone, Judy’s anger is quiet. It’s there, though—and when it bursts, as it does during a brutally intense scene in episode nine that puts both friends at the height of their emotions, it’s a reminder of how even the best parts of us can cause us pain.
Season two gives us a role reversal of sorts, a parallel that creator Liz Feldman executes so smartly: because Jen is now the one hiding a secret, we’re able to see how Judy is wired and what contributes to her vulnerable nature. We meet her incarcerated mom (Katey Sagal) and see her manipulative influence on her daughter. We learn about her mom’s drug usage and absence growing up, what likely contributed to Judy’s intense need to feel loved and accepted by anyone who would listen. And near the middle of the season, Judy—despite still grieving Steve—forms a new relationship with a woman named Michelle (Natalie Morales) who she meets at her assisted living facility.
Refreshingly, no labels are given to Judy or Michelle. In fact, the word “sexuality” doesn’t even come up in any conversation, because it doesn’t need to. Judy simply realizes she likes being in her company and their comfortable friendship naturally turns into a romantic one. Neither woman questions whether or not they should be together; further, Jen doesn’t question her best friend when she finds out she’s seeing someone of the same sex. So often, we see the need for women to explain why they’ve decided to pursue a relationship, as if they have to prove to the world that they’re valid enough—especially if they’ve dated men. It’s something I’ve personally experienced after accepting my own identity late in life, and in certain instances, it’s caused me to doubt my own feelings.
In one of the final episodes, Jen asks Judy if it’s too early to drink. “Am I supposed to start saying no yet?” Judy asks, because her best friend has just given her the advice of standing up for herself more frequently.
“You can start tomorrow,” Jen answers.
We’re all works in progress. We may dislike the parts of us that are hard to change. But as
And if we want to start over, we can always start tomorrow.