Dramedy that is Dead-On – Dead Like Me, Season 2 Review

I’ve been wanting to write about the final season of Dead Like Me for awhile now, but its been pretty busy around here lately. Yesterday was my first break in posting in a couple of weeks, and every day that I’ve thought of writing this post, something else has come up that was a better post for that day, and this one gets pushed to the side again. Not so this morning, finally.

I was happy to see the 2nd season of Dead Like Me was very similar to the first. The production values on season 2 do seem a little ‘slicker’ than the first season … where the first season seemed to be more a labour of love among friends, the 2nd feels more like a professional TV series. In so many cases, that ‘slickness’ would replace the quality of the show, and I was thrilled to see that Dead Like Me didn’t fall into that trap. Season 2 is full of the same wonderful relationships and pithy dialog that made the first season so memorable, but I think there are significant differences from the first season as well.

Season one was really the story of the death of Georgia Lass, and her journey to say goodbye to her ‘living’ past. In season one, the worlds of the living and the dead are very much the same, but as season two opens and progresses, I think we see a growing disconnect between the two worlds. George’s family starts to make the move forward with their lives, and in many ways George herself grows away from that past, though not all of it is voluntary. I think part of the structure of the season was to analyze this aspect of how we move on form the passing of one so close.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of both seasons of DLM, one that was continued in season 2, was the idea of a series that is directly and inescapably about death with almost no direct references to religion in any way. Sure, there was the odd story with a religious tinge … Daisy‘s theft of the bejeweled cross, and brief flirtation with Catholicism, ending in her reap of a drunken priest, certainly had a strong religious theme over several episodes in season one … but the religious stories were, significantly, all about the living. For a show that has 30-some episodes dealing directly with death, the lack of religious explanation or focus for the crew of reapers is remarkable to me. Even when Daisy reaps the soul of the priest, we get no deeper answers into whats going on, though there is certainly indication from the script that he, along with others reaped by the group, find in death what they were looking for in life. Beyond that simple statement … the after-life gives us what we most search for in life … Dead Like Me is remarkable because as focussed on death as it is, it makes no claims about what death actually is, or the greater purpose, or even that such a greater purpose exists at all.

Even the metaphor of faceless ‘temps’ in a giant empire of ‘Death Incorporated’ seems beautifully chosen to me here, and that theme is further expressed in season two. But rather than just explain the inner workings of whats going on, we are given hints and clues, and partially hidden picture, where the important bits remain hidden, but what is revealed gives tantalizing clues to the full picture. Through stories like George’s attempts to meddle with her family, and Rube‘s heart-rending search for information on his long lost daughter, we learn some of the rules of corporation behaviour without ever seeing the corporation itself. Likewise, guest characters like Penny (played by the remarkable Yeardley Smith … as an aside, how CAN you go wrong when you cast the voice of Lisa Simpson) or the young boy who reaps animal souls, show different departments of the corporation, again without really showing us anything of the corporation itself. The notion of being so focussed and isolated in your own little department that you have no over-all view of the larger purpose is a familiar theme expressed elsewhere in places as diverse as Dilbert.

Its wonderful to see such subtle story-telling, both on the small scale of individual episodes, and the larger scale of full-season story arcs. Like exquisitely carved jigsaw pieces, each story fits nicely into place in the larger narrative, and like any great picture, the image we are left with when we put it all together forces us to probe and ask questions about it even as it explains certain aspects. I certainly recommend the full 2-season set of Dead Like Me to anyone who enjoys subtle story telling coupled with some fascinating insights on both death AND life.

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