"We've been through a lot already … and we survived because we had each other."
Those are the first words of the Season 3 Dead to Me trailer, which dropped on Wednesday. And they ring true not only because of the Thelma and Louise-like escapades of Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini's characters in the the Netflix dark comedy, but also of making of this final season of the show.
After production began in the summer of 2021, Applegate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The show halted shooting for five months so she could begin treatment to manage the incurable disease of the central nervous system. When Applegate returned, her symptoms, which interfere with her mobility, made shooting very challenging — but the cast and crew banded together to finish what they started.
The trailer previews that action-packed season focusing on the unlikely — but likable — friends from Orange County. By coincidence, some of the storylines deal with illness — a storyline crafted before Applegate's diagnosis — but the seasoned actresses, who both received Emmy nods for their roles, play it in a humorous way. (For instance, Applegate's Jen is all bandaged up in a hospital bed when Cardellini's Judy squeezes her, saying she's happy she's OK. "Oh God!" Applegate replies in moaning pain. "Maybe the hugging is gonna kill me." "Sorry." "It's OK — I love you too.")
That friendship — and humor — between the wine-loving suburban friends is present throughout as the trailer teases the tying up of loose ends involving murders and other secrets. There has always been a Thelma & Louise aspect to their friendship, but perhaps no more than at the end, as they drive in the car on the open road, mountains as a backdrop, talking about adopting outlaw names. Judy, digging into a bag of Doritos while Jen drives, announces she would go with "Judy Five Fingers." After a moment of hesitation, Jen christens herself "Bitch Cassidy."
"We are in this together," Applegate's character says in a voiceover toward the end, "and we fight like we do because we are badass bitches."
Applegate said in an interview this week that making this final season of Dead to Me was the hardest thing she's done. She needed a wheelchair to get to the set, struggled navigating the steps to her trailer. Her body gave out while filming, especially in the heat, and a sound technician, at times, had to physically hold up her legs, out of camera range, to get shots. She could no longer film establishing shots, showing her walking into a room, and needed props — like a door — to lean on in scenes.
"This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am," the actress from Married With Children and Samantha Who? told the New York Times. "I put on 40 pounds; I can’t walk without a cane. I want people to know that I am very aware of all of that." Applegate — who previously battled breast cancer — added, equally fiercely, that there is no "acceptance" of MS in her life. "I’m never going to accept this," she said. "I’m pissed."
Applegate said producers offered to end the show with previously recorded footage, but she felt an "obligation" to Cardellini and creator Liz Feldman to finish the job. She praised Cardellini for taking the role of advocate as well as co-star when she returned, calling her "my champion, my warrior, my voice." (Cardellini said "just wanted the best for the person that I love and care about and have the honor to work with.")
And now that it's done, Applegate said she isn't even sure she'll watch the final season because it's too painful. And whether or not people like it, she can only worry to a point.
"If people hate it, if people love it, if all they can concentrate on is, 'Ooh, look at the cripple,' that’s not up to me," Applegate said. "I’m sure that people are going to be, like, ‘I can’t get past it.' Fine, don’t get past it, then. But hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye to these two girls."
The third and final season of Dead to Me premieres Nov. 17 on Netflix.