How’s “Dead to Me” going to keep James Marsden in the cast when his character, Steve, has apparently absconded to Mexico following Linda Cardellini turning him in for money laundering? Well, luckily the creators of “Dead to Me” have seen “The Book Group” too, and James Marsden has a twin brother—Ben—and he gives Christina Applegate quite the surprise before we find out he’s old buds with Cardellini.
In fact, new Marsden thinks old Marsden was never good enough for Cardellini. New Marsden is a bit of a goof, but also adorable and sweet. And Marsden’s performance is fantastic. I can see why they’re compartmentalizing his presence this season—he’s just too good to have around “Dead to Me” for too long, nothing else ever comes close.
The main plots of the episode involves Cardellini being somewhat honest with new Marsden about old Marsden—like how she turned him in for the money laundering (but new Marsden understands because he’s wonderful)—while Applegate is freaking out about going to prison. She’s trying to set up a legal guardian for the boys, which brings Valerie Mahaffey back for a scene, and generally freaking out.
She also gets to see old partner, current pal Max Jenkins (who’s annoying, especially at the church, but at least has a cute dog now). The show does not miss Jenkins.
Also back are Diana Maria Riva and Brandon Scott. Riva is trying to investigate the case everyone told her to investigate last season while Scott’s turned into a drunk. It’s funny how Scott gets less entertaining the more sympathetic he gets.
The show also integrates some more of its season two notes—Applegate keeps calling Sam McCarthy “Char” instead of “Charlie,” which started last episode out of the blue. Also out of the blue is the show’s new gimmick of Applegate and Cardellini talking over each other when answering questions and giving diametrically opposed answers.
I mean, whatever, it’s cheap but effective.
I credit new co-executive producer and episode writer Elizabeth Benjamin, who seems to have figured out how to make the show work a little more consistently this season. So far anyway.