(Warning: This post contains spoilers from Netflix’s “Dead to Me”).
If you’ve binge-watched “Dead to Me” on Netflix, you may be wondering: Why don’t we ever see the face of Jen Harding’s husband?
Throughout the first season, the closest look we get at Jen’s late spouse, Ted Harding, is a glimpse at a framed photo — even though his death sets the whole story in motion. We also see his corpse’s bloodied legs and Vans-clad feet in a crime-scene photo from the hit-and-run that killed him.
Make no mistake — the decision not to show us any flashbacks of Ted while he was alive was “very purposeful,” creator Liz Feldman tells TheWrap.
“It was a conversation that we had in the writer’s room, and it was pretty quickly unanimous that we just weren’t interested — this is Jen and Judy’s story,” Feldman said of the show’s main characters, Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) and Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini).
“I was hoping that you would be able to feel for her [Jen] without ever needing to meet him,” she said. “He’s in the past, you know? And this is a show that takes place very much in the present, for both women. It was just a very purposeful decision to not make him a character. It’s an artistic choice.”
Never mind that Ted isn’t worth the valuable screen time that his backstory would waste — lest you forget, he was posthumously caught cheating with 20-something waitress via the chat feature on a video game he was supposed to be playing with his fragile-ego’d teenage son. And he ironically told the waitress that his wife was dead. The truth of the matter is that, although the story begins with his death, it’s really not about him at all. It’s about the beautiful, multi-layered, gloriously flawed friendship between Jen and Judy.
“I still feel strongly that we did the right thing, because I’ve seen the presentation before of these idealized dead husbands, or the idealized person that our hero has lost, and I thought it was so much more interesting to see it through her eyes and to experience it all through her, moment to moment, and not look at her past.”
“Dead to Me” is a story about two women, whose lives are specifically not defined by the men with which they once cohabitated (that goes for you too, James Marsden).
“My goal was always to show an example of a strong female friendship that was really complicated, but at the source of it was genuine love and support and intimacy,” Feldman adds.
And if you thought Applegate and Cardellini’s on-screen chemistry was convincing, it’s because it was real. The two had never met prior to filming, so the blossoming friendship you see was actually happening in real life. She recalled the beach scene in which Jen and Judy spark a joint together and have some much-needed girl talk.
“Those two ladies sat together the whole time hanging out chatting and laughing,” Feldman said. “You’re really watching them become friends, and it’s a very genuine connection.”