Dead to Me's heartbreaking ending was a bold change for the show

by 24britishtvNov. 17, 2022, 10 p.m. 13
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Dead to Me season 3 spoilers follow – including its ending. Seriously, do not read on if you haven't finished watching (unless you want to know what happens).

Time and time again, we've seen Jen Harding and Judy Hale do the unthinkable and get themselves out of some pretty sticky jams. (We're talking scenarios, not jars, but with this show we felt we needed to clarify.)

Whether it's discovering that the neighbours' hold some pretty incriminating CCTV footage, or giving not just one but two full murder confessions to the police, our favourite duo have been able to dodge jail and keep on ticking along for three seasons worth of hijinks.

As Judy put it to her partner in literal crime: "There's always an exit."

Only for the finale, and marking a break away from what we've come to expect, that didn't wind up being true for one fan-favourite character.

Related: Why Dead to Me won't be back for a season 4

We were dealt the devastating blow of Judy's cancer diagnosis fairly early into season three. Picking up where we'd left off from the hit and run accident, both Jen and Judy were in hospital getting routine checks for broken bones and the like.

But when the doctor told Jen that her MRI had discovered some shadows, she knew precisely what that could mean, having been by her own mother's bedside when she'd gone through cancer treatment while she was younger.

It quickly transpired that the doctor had believed that he was delivering the news to Judy (as Jen had taken a seat in her hospital bed after spilling a jug of water over her own). It was then up to Jen to break the news to her best friend, before accompanying her to her follow-up scan appointment.

Judy learned that she had stage four cervical cancer, and would need to go through three rounds of chemotherapy before assessing the next steps. Jen sat by her side for each appointment, and Judy kept up her optimism throughout much of the ordeal.

The heaviness of this plot thread was a bit of a change in tone compared to the amped-up buddy drama of Dead to Me's central story, but it was a welcome one as it provided ample room to witness the love and devotion between the two women intensify even more.

Of course, the pair also still had the little problem of Judy's dead ex husband to deal with. Steve's body was found in the woods, pushing Detective Perez to her absolute limit in protecting Jen – and her own career – in the wake of her previous confession.

To make matters worse, it had become a case for the FBI and Jen, for a time, had lost the murder weapon.

This, oddly, ended up providing some light relief from the increasingly worrying state of Judy's health. Where they were able to keep narrowly escaping in the murder investigation, she wasn't proving so lucky.

After finding out that the chemotherapy had failed, Judy was told that she was terminal. Mirroring Jen's response to this news, we at home kept waiting and hoping for something to come along that would save her.

She was going to be okay, right? Surely Judy – the show's angel, as Steve's twin Ben described her – deserved a happy ending, after everything she'd been through?

Jen, despite alienating a specialist doctor by yelling at them, was still able to get Judy a spot on a coveted clinical trial. This would be it, the thing to defy her diagnosis...

But after Judy pulled a Jen and confessed to Steve's murder – believing that it could be her final act to save Jen – the two women had an emotional showdown, with Judy telling Jen that she didn't want more treatment and instead just wanted to enjoy what was left of her life.

Using the clinical trial as an excuse to delay Judy's arrest (Nick really is a good cop), Jen proved that she does listen and whisked her off for a holiday by the sea. Thelma and Louise-ing it, the pair had a brief run-in with the Greeks before road tripping to Mexico.

It was while there that they discovered that Jen was having a girl. For a minute it looked as though Judy was about to get everything she'd ever dreamed of, and that they were going to be raising the baby together.

Despite her illness, this seemed even more possible when, once again, they got off the hook for Steve's murder. With the FBI agent winding up dead, and all of the evidence against them destroyed, the foundations were laid for them to ride off into the sunset.

But sadly there was no out for Judy. After taking a final boat trip, she never returned, leaving a heartbroken Jen to drive back home alone. Well, Sammy took a spot on the back seat too.

Honouring Judy's optimistic nature, the show kept you hoping right until the very end. Despite it being a far cry from how we wanted to leave these characters, for a show about grief, we'll grudgingly admit it was probably a fitting way for Dead to Me to go out.

Dead to Me is available to watch on Netflix.

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