Dead to Me sets aside the broader investigation into Steve Wood’s disappearance and the reveal of his semi-identical twin brother to focus on the heart of the show: the dance of Judy and Jen, the cynic and the believer, joined by potential accessory-to-murder charges. After the second episode threw so many characters and ideas at the wall — Ben! Nick! Perez! Lorna! — it’s nice to see the writers home back in on the two protagonists and their biggest, most immediate problem: there’s a body in the freezer.
“You Can’t Live Like This” is primarily about what to do with Steve’s body, a problem grown more urgent by the discovery of rats under the freezer now housing the Steve-sicle. At first, it seems like Dead to Me may be leaning into young Henry’s belief that the dead don’t really leave by having Steve haunt the site of his corpse. Judy sure seems to think that the presence of her ex is the reason the motion-sensor light is going off every now and then. Dead to Me is often at its best when it’s vicious in its teardown of the mystical. No, Steve isn’t hanging out with Judy by his body—it’s just the rats trying to chew through the freezer and get to the meat on his bones.
Speaking of viciousness, Jen is looking into brutal ways to take care of their little problems, clearly inspired by pop culture. Fargo is probably to blame for the reference to a woodchipper, and it seems likely that the idea to try to dissolve Steve came courtesy of Breaking Bad. Clearly Jen has much bigger problems to solve than the expecting parents who back out of a home purchase after the discovery of black mold. Who cares about a little black mold?!?! Jen Harding has a body in her garage!
She also has a rising tide of grief every time she talks to Judy, who has convinced herself that she’s the reason that Steve is dead. Jen knows that she oversold the self-defense angle to poor Judy, which seems likely to eventually get her in trouble. When Judy says she “never thought he’d get angry enough to try and kill you,” Applegate perfectly conveys how she feels that in her core. It’s unclear what is going to get Jen first: the discovery of Steve’s body or the guilt over what she hasn’t told her BFF.
An interesting development to this Judy/Jen dynamic comes in the form of Michelle, the daughter of one of the new tenants at the nursing facility. She’s clearly way more on the Judy Wavelength than Jen, smoking weed with her in the car and getting more philosophical than Jen typically allows. Is Michelle going to be a liability or a supportive character? She’s being set up as a new Nick — someone else for Judy to lean on — but that backfired in the first season. Time will tell what happens with this new buddy for a woman who “likes to get a little confess-y”.
While Judy is having a grand time with her new gal pal, Jen is spiraling out at home, trying to figure out what to do with Steve. It must be the wine that makes her silly enough to try and Google how to get rid of a dead body while she listens to the aggressive “Rage Unrestrained” by Excessum. Using music to vocalize a protagonist’s inner monologue is often a cheap writing trick, but the opening lines (“I fucking hate everyone! I fucking hate everything!”) couldn’t be more perfect here. Just as Jen is about to alert the Google Police with her searches, the super-creepy Shandy (Adora Soleil Bricher) startles her (and us). She suggests that Jen check out the dark web instead, and even recommends that she consider Los Angeles National Forest, apparently a mob dumping ground for bodies. Listen, Jen has a lot to worry about, but getting sweet Henry away from future serial killer Shandy should probably be moved up her list of priorities.
The final scenes of the episode triple down on Jen’s questionable choice of Googling how to get rid of a body with kids in the house. Dead to Me is a very good show and may be even more confident this season than last — jury is still out on that — but it occasionally pushes hard against basic suspension of disbelief. Not only does Jen open the freezer and look at Steve in a way that feels a bit unconcerned about someone walking in on her, but she’s later upstairs dissolving rats with kids in the house and unlocked doors for Judy to come barreling through. Shandy is in the house when Jen nearly vomits from the smell of dissolved vermin. Wouldn’t she notice?
But if we suspend our disbelief enough to get through all of this, one could argue that Jen’s grief and confusion is causing her to flirt with danger in extreme ways. So maybe the power going out and forcing Jen and Judy into action is the best thing that could have happened. As they realize that the heat wave is going to thaw Steve before morning, Judy and Jen head off on a drive. They have to get to Angeles Forest. Thanks Shandy!
• Applegate deserves another Emmy nomination for a variety of reasons. When she gets one, please just use her delivery on the line “Mom smoked heavily and I’m fucking awesome” as the clip.
• Apparently, bodies being dumped in the Los Angeles National Forest is a real thing. Shandy must read the news because this story about MS-13 dropping off victims in the national park is from last summer.
• Angeles Forest could actually fit the story that Judy is trying to craft regarding Steve’s disappearance. She told the cops that Steve laundered money for the Greek Mafia. Finding out that Steve was about to get arrested and knowing that he’s a guy who would instantly turn rat to save his skin, they killed him and dumped him where they leave all their victims, Angeles Forest.