Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Dead to Me season 2 finale, “Where Do We Go From Here.”
For just a second, Netflix's Dead to Me season 2 lets you believe it will give you a happy ending. Or, at least, you’ll get the closest thing there is to a happy ending for accidental criminals Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) and Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini). Jen confesses to the murder of Steve Wood (James Marsden), thereby ridding herself of the gilt that plagued her through season 2. She also manages to avoid jail time, as Steve’s previously hidden burner phone reveals police captain Howard Hastings (Jere Burns) is a much better — and bigger — suspect for the crime due to his connection to the Greek mob. Judy even recovers the hundreds of thousands of dollars she hid in her paintings, allowing she and Jen to buy the Harding home from Jen’s mother-in-law Lorna (Valerie Mahaffey).
Then there’s the car crash. Dead to Me isn’t Dead to Me without the whiff of a finale murder and a drunken act of vehicular violence. However, Dead to Me ensures you know season 2 finale “Where Do We Go From Here” isn’t a complete tragedy — rather, it sets up a new secret to fuel a prospective third season. Now it will be Ben (also played by James Marsden) hiding a horrible skeleton in his own metaphorical closet.
In the final scene of “Go From Here,” Jen and Judy drive through Laguna pondering what to do with their newfound freedom. It’s a scene meant to remind us just how far they’ve come over the season, since they’re behind the wheel of the new car Judy bought Jen’s son Charlie (Sam McCarthy) with the hidden painting money. Jen and Judy are talking about a vacation and marvelling at the new stop sign in the neighbourhood — it’s the stop sign Jen lobbied for over the season. Jen brings the car to a proper stop, as she’s supposed to.
Then, as Jen and Judy cross the intersection, a car from the opposite direction rams directly into the the new vehicle.
If Dead to Me wanted viewers to leave “Go From Here” wondering if Jen and Judy were dead, they would end the finale here. There is a smash-cut to black that could perfectly serve as the closer to the episode, and it would create endless panic in the fandom. But Dead to Me doesn’t want that kind of traditional cliffhanger to be the last image emblazoned in fans’ minds when they walk away from season 2.
Instead, after we hear the horrible crunch of metal and glass in the prolonged fade to black, we re-enter the scene. Judy comes to quickly in the wake of the crash and appears to be healthy. Jen’s eye’s flutter, suggesting she might survive. In her final line of the season, Jen asks, “What happened?,” proving she is alive, without a shadow of a doubt. Now, the question is what kind of injuries Jen may be harbouring. As we see in a wide shot of the accident, her side door is absolutely wrecked, telegraphing that Jen was possibly seriously harmed as well.
Yet there is one more major Dead to Me player we should be worried about (or, worried by): Ben. Ben was the person driving the car that hit Jen and Judy, as some artistic directing work reveals. After the crash, the camera pans from Jen to the driver of the other car, who can be seen behind her head. As we slide into the other vehicle, we realise it is Ben, Jen’s love interest and Steve’s semi-identical twin brother. As Dead to Me zooms in on Ben’s shocked face, we follow his eyes as he glances at the passenger seat. The chair is holding an empty bottle of single malt whiskey. Ben — who just learned that the police found Steve’s corpse — was driving drunk.
This twist ties up multiple strings from Dead to Me. First, it pays off Ben’s season 2 premiere admission that he “doesn't’ drink” and his “The Price You Pay” admission that his relationship-ending fight with Steve occurred because Ben was drinking. Now we understand what kinds of catastrophes can happen when Ben drinks. The finale twist informs us that supposedly perfect Ben and allegedly dastardly Steve aren’t as different as Dead to Me previously hinted. In season 1, we learn Steve urged Judy to drive away from the hit and run accident that killed Jen’s husband Ted. Now, with “Go From Here,” we find out Ben would do the same exact thing as his twin.
If Dead to Me does return for season 3, expect to see Ben and Jen on an even moral playing field (even if the other has no idea of the change). Ben will be hiding his own Harding hit-and-run, keeping a horrible tradition started by Steve. Jen will be avoiding the inevitable mounting pressure of cops finally locating Steve’s body, which she and Judy buried in the Angeles Nation Forest. This is an especially big problem since Jen spends the first act of the finale confessing her crime to Detective Ana Perez (Diana Maria Riva).