Even more secrets! Not only does Christina Applegate find out something she didn’t know—and not Linda Cardellini’s secret, even though Cardellini puts her secret out into the world in the form of a confession in a balloon—to send up to Heaven to Applegate’s dead husband, along with the family (it’s his birthday), which the show plays for a cheap bait and switch because it can’t help itself… And not even the secret martyring mother-in-law Valerie Mahaffey talks to Applegate about, a secret she’s keeping from… well, the audience. Because why shouldn’t everyone be keeping big ol’ secrets.
There’s a lot to the episode, what with Cardellini and ex James Marsden reconnecting after she has to call him to get her out of jail for damaging private property, which Cardellini copped to in an effort to help Applegate. If Marsden isn’t a complete sociopath who’s playing Cardellini, it’ll be the most surprising thing the show’s able to pull off. Because Marsden and Cardellini, in their extremely dysfunctional relationship, play off one another really well. If Marsden isn’t a villain, it’ll mean less great material for him, so I guess I’m hoping he’s a villain.
Then there’s Mahaffey, Applegate’s dead husband’s mother, grandmother to her children, and rival Realtor. Mahaffey belittles and demeans Applegate whenever she gets the chance, but Applegate’s in no mood to be pressed right now. Great performance from Mahaffey; Cardellini actually gets the more interesting scene opposite her, because most of the Applegate stuff is played—initially—for laughs.
Gay Realtor partner Max Jenkins comes through as a good friend to Applegate this episode, which initially redeems him, but then he’s the way they’re shoehorning in religion. Applegate apparently used to have cast and crew pray before takes (on a not “Married With Children” show); her character’s not religious on “Dead to Me” because she needs to be irate, but the gay White guy’s there to remind everyone it’s all good because God.
Group’s back for a scene; nice to see Telma Hopkins and Edward Fordham Jr. And Ed Asner’s around a bit.
Abe Sylvia’s direction keeps up with some of the quizzical composition but not all of it, which is nice.
“Dead to Me” probably ought to have been called “So Many Secrets,” just because they’re what’s keeping it going but whatever. It works out. And it’s great to see Mahaffey.