We’re fast approaching the time of year when those Spotify personal year-end lists emerge, and this usually means that my coworkers get a laugh from mine. My editor recently called my musical taste “eclectic,” which is a very kind way to put things, but I expect to see the usual smattering of Slipknot, Prince, Grimes, a hefty dollop of “Eye of the Tiger,” some Leonard Cohen, and maybe an appearance from Cardi B‘s “Up,” which got me through a long drive on repeat. Oh, and there might be some Caliban, which brings me to Netflix’s Dead To Me, a series that showcases this band’s trademark growl during key moments for Christina Applegate’s character, Jen Harding.
Jen has seen and been through some sh*t, to put things mildly. Honestly, I’m surprised that she’s still holding it together in Season 3. When the show began, she was freshly widowed. Her husband died during a hit-and-run while out for a run, and that was only the beginning of the revelations. Soon enough, Jen learned that the cad was cheating with someone (literally) named Bambi. Later, Jen murdered one of James Marsden’s twin characters, so the FBI might be sniffing around, and her new best friend, Judy (Linda Cardellini), previously entered Jen’s life under false pretenses. Let’s just say that Jen has got work to do. And she’s not the type to traditionally meditate, but she does practice a form of meditation, which is humorously revealed in Season 1.
Immediately following this declaration, Jen let Judy know exactly what her brand of meditation included: heading to her car and headbanging to Caliban, a metalcore band that hails from Germany. The lyrics of the heavily-featured song are not subtle. They are not sophisticated. They’re actually stereotypically silly.
“You f*cking prick / Drop dead / You make me sick / Get out of my head.” Don’t worry, though. Things quickly grow melodic: “I’m the ghost, you’re the night / I’m the shadow you’re the light.” Yet the song is as rage-filled as one can expect, and this is how a formerly polished realtor unwinds when no one else is looking. Enter Linda Cardellini with the priceless, plausible reaction to witnessing a new friend’s outlet.
Oh, Judy eventually had to let loose, too. What a wonderful bonding moment.
If you’d like to witness the actual song in context, then you’re in luck. A YouTubing gentleman known as “Metal Jim” has a reaction-treat for you.
Fast forward to Season 3, and James Marsden’s Good Twin doesn’t handle metal so well. Jen’s even being tame in this scene, and he still can’t process the lack of ladylike musical taste. This is why I know that their coupling will never work out in the end.
Yeah, ignore him. No offense to James Marsden, of course, but some people simply don’t get it, and that’s alright. More metal for the rest of us.
Yet the really metal thing about Dead To Me happens to be how Applegate’s Jen refuses to behave in the way that a grieving widow is supposed to behave. She’s processing things differently and declining to give up her already punchy personality, which kind-of transcends the commonly accepted processes of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and so on. Instead, she veers right toward anger and stays there without appearing to be bitter. It’s quite an accomplishment, really, that she remains likable to the audience (not that she’d care too much if she wasn’t likable). What Jen had, or thought she had in her marriage, got ripped away from her by a screwed-up twist of fate. And then she found out that her marriage wasn’t all that, which is a lot to handle.
Jen’s refusal to quietly weep into a box of tissues feels authentic, as twisted as it sounds, and she’s keeping things as unapologetically real as possible. Amid the obvious black comedy of the show, the overriding authenticity represents the beauty of the story. Everyone copes in their own way, and the same goes for ways to enjoy meditation. If you’ve ever taken yoga, for instance, you will know the meditative final-resting pose (Shavasana, or corpse pose) that many yogis seem to enjoy the most. However, I cannot handle Shavasana. I attempt to do it, but I’ve been known to flat-out leave the yoga room because my mind doesn’t do well with the stillness of corpse pose (and I don’t want to disturb anyone with my fidgeting). I’m like the Jen Harding of yoga.
It’s something that I’m working on, to a degree, but I’m also learning to embrace where my mind goes. And the same goes for the venue of meditation, which can happen wherever one finds it. If that happens to be in one’s car where no one else can judge as the surround sound unfolds, then so be it. Rage metal can help work things out, and I love that this show kept the Caliban callbacks coming through the final season. Have you watched the show’s ending yet? If you have not, then you probably should scoot outta here after this out-of-context image of James Marsden’s return to a basket-loving character (shout out to those who suffered through Hop).
As Season 3 bingewatchers already know, Jen bid farewell to Judy, who died from cancer. Sadly, this maybe wouldn’t have happened had Judy not ignored her abnormal pap result for an entire year (don’t do that, people). Judy had set everything aside while attempting to make amends for partially setting the show’s tragic chain of events into motion. These two women let all of their bad deeds hang out for each other and forgave each other’s transgressions, and this ended up being the deepest and rarest of friendships.
In the end, Dead To Me highlighted how one can not only find meditation in rare places, but the same goes for adoptive family. Applegate’s Married With Children mom, Katey Sagal, did pop into view as Judy’s nightmare mother, and Jen’s family was around, but they didn’t share the same type of bond. These two women had both been through so much garbage, and they always had each other’s backs while navigating the fallout. Fans also know that this final season was punctuated by Christina’s real-life multiple sclerosis diagnosis, which led to a seven-month pause in production.
During this season’s promotional tour, Christina was very upfront about her physical struggles, which will leave her (at minimum) using walking sticks for the rest of her life. She didn’t have to finish shooting this show, but she wouldn’t have had it any other way. That’s beyond being “metal,” but it remains a thrill to watch Applegate head into one final headbanging rodeo on Dead To Me‘s third season. I’ll miss this show plenty, but Jen and Judy will always rock on.
Dead To Me‘s three seasons are streaming on Netflix.