What Really Happened In Judy's Car On Dead To Me, Explained

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Major spoilers are ahead for Dead To Me season 1.
Netflix's new "traumedy," as the actors are calling it, is Dead To Me, which focuses on two women bonding over grief after one loses her husband. But grieving widow Jen (Christina Applegate) will soon learn that all is not as it seems with her new bestie Judy (Linda Cardellini). Dead To Me quickly confirms Judy killed Ted, but as the series continues, even knowing that, it's easy to question whether or not Judy really did it. Let's clear all that up.
We see at the end of the first episode that Judy has a car in her storage unit that's totally banged up — almost as if it hit a man and drove away. Since that's exactly what happened to Ted, viewers are immediately suspicious of Judy and whatever secret she's clearly hiding. By the second episode, it's confirmed that Judy hit someone that fateful night and that her ex-fiancé Steve (James Marsden) was in the car with her.
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But did Judy imagine it all? Is Steve really the one to blame? Unfortunately, Judy really did hit Ted with her car. But it turns out she's not the one who made the accident a crime — and if it weren't for Steve, it's possible Ted could have survived.
As we get to know Steve, there's something about him that is definitely creepy. He's a little too put together and "friendly" to feel genuine. As the series develops, we see that he pressured Judy to leave the scene of the accident without checking on who she hit. That act turned this tragic but legitimate accident into a hit-and-run. Judy wanted to turn around, but Steve — who was excellent at manipulating her — forced her to keep going.
After the accident, he promised they were in this thing together. They even dismantled the car and sent the parts to junkyards so they wouldn't get caught. But when police were able to hone in on Judy anyway, Steve let her know where his true loyalties were. "If anybody goes down for this, it is you," Steve told her. "You were driving. You are the criminal. I'm the only eyewitness." Steve is so slimy that it'd be understandable to worry that he's gaslighting Judy.
He isn't but he is suggesting he would give them his eyewitness testimony in exchange for safety. Learning that Steve would so easily sell her out forces Judy to realize that they were never in this together. Steve was selfish and didn't want the complication of an accident in his life, so he told her to keep going — likely because any kind of investigation could have revealed that he was laundering money. He forced Judy to live all that time wracked with guilt over something that he quickly compartmentalized as "we hit a deer."
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So, in episode 9, Judy turns Steve in for money laundering and tells Jen that she killed her husband. Steve's fake promise that they would tackle this together seemed to be all that was keeping Judy from being true to herself and being honest, no matter the consequences. If she'd been driving alone that night, she probably would have stopped. That's the kind of person Judy reveals herself to be (Jen later notes this, having spent so much time with her). She just got wrapped up with a criminal and a manipulator who steered her wrong.
So yes, Judy hit Ted, which technically means she is the one who killed him. But in a way, Steve is the one who signed Ted's death warrant. The show confirms this via Jen, when she learns the truth, shoots Steve on the spot, and immediately calls Judy. If Steve had let Judy stop, it's possible they could have gotten him to a hospital and saved him. If Judy had been free to be herself and do the right thing, Ted might have had a chance to survive his injuries instead of being left for dead.

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