Dealing with grief is a relatively well-worn trope in comedy, because it pushes two things together than are inherently different.
Yet, you ask anyone who has to deal with death on a regular basis and the way they deal with it in a lot of cases is with pitch-black humour. 'Dead To Me' understands that life and death are just as stupid and funny, but the aftermath of either is just the same.
The first episode of 'Dead To Me' sets up the relationship between Christina Applegate's character, a wealthy real estate agent and mother of two, and Linda Cardellini's bohemian art teacher - who, it turns out, meet in a grief support group. Applegate is dealing with the death of her musician husband who died in a hit-and-run, whilst Cardellini is grieving for her fiancé, played by James Marsden.
At this point, it behooves us to tell you that 'Dead To Me' has more plot arcs and spoilers than the likes of 'Game of Thrones' and 'Avengers: Endgame' - which, funnily enough that Linda Cardellini also stars in. Some of these arcs and twists are easily signposted, but even the most obvious ones are handled with care and attention that speaks to a deep understanding of how people deal with grief and anger.
What so much of 'Dead To Me' covers is the fact that the dead can no longer hide secrets, and neither can the living. Christina Applegate, a deft hand at comedy, plays a woman trying to keep it together but falling apart exceptionally well. Her coping mechanisms include bristling at anyone, heavy drinking, abortive attempts at casual sex - all ripe for morbid comedy, and accessed as such, but given a layer of humanity and vulnerability that makes it all so compelling.
Linda Cardellini matches Applegate beat for beat, and even though their characters appear diametrically opposed across every level, the bond that develops between shared grief is real and feels earned. Her chemistry, likewise, with James Marsden oozes out of the screen - even if you're not sure you should be rooting for them.
At 30 minutes an episode with 10 parts, 'Dead To Me' unveils its story with a confident, assured tone that allows each strand of it to develop naturally without it ever feeling rushed. Like 'Russian Doll', each flows into the next without it feeling like you're slugging it out to get to the end.
Liz Feldman, who created '2 Broke Girls', is able to grasp the intricacies and the nuance of a female friendship without it resorting to cliches or obvious dynamics. The need for one another at this point in their lives forces itself through the series, and never fails to resonate.
Funny, bleak, wrapped up in slick visuals and smart performances, 'Dead To Me' is another worthy addition to Netflix's repertoire of female-led comedies.