In the first episode of the first season of Dead Like Me, none of this was expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start watching Dead Like Me.
WELL, THAT WAS PLEASANT.
- So, I’m entering the Bryan Fuller universe so unprepared that I’m just plain excited for it. All I know is that his shows are loved by many people, they’re funny? Yes? I’ve heard they’re witty? And stuff happens in them. Oh lords, I don’t even know the general synopsis of a single one of his shows. I don’t! This is not just an issue of me not knowing anything by osmosis. Like, I DON’T EVEN HAVE FRIENDS WHO WATCH THESE SHOWS.
- Wait, I probably do, and they just haven’t told me about it? That’s most likely the case.
- So I went into Dead Like Me knowing absolutely nothing. Not a single plot, not a character name, not an inkling of what the show was about, no actors or actress… nothing.
- THAT MADE THIS SO FUN. A show about death that’s both deeply hilarious and emotionally moving? Sign me up.
- And that’s immediately clear to me: this show straddles between two tonal existences, and it makes it work. Centering an entire premise around death in a way that’s gruesome and depressing is a difficult thing to do, but I laughed and teared up multiple times during this pilot.
- HOLY SHIT, I HAD NO IDEA MANDY PATINKIN WAS ON THIS SHOW. I REALLY LIKE HIM A GREAT DEAL. I’M SO EXCITED.
- So, after I had to drop out of college when I was fired from the job that was keeping a roof over my head, I spent just over a year having my soul sucked out of me (not quite as literally as it is on this show) by working in corporate America. I once did a seven month gig at Ticketmaster, y’all, and let me just confirm to you that is one of the absolute worst places you can ever get a job. It’s a toxic combination of inefficiency, redundancy, absurdity, and downright insulting policy making. I would come home from that job believing that my life was over, that I was doomed to this sort of existence forever. It’s not hard for me to understand why George reacts the way she does to the temp agency. I also spent time working for a temp agency, and that’ll ruin you, too.
- Of course, the irony presented to us is that George finally figures out that she’s been aimlessly drifting through her life after she’s killed. By a toilet seat. From space. Man, what a way to go, y’all. This pilot does a good job of hiding the point of the show from us for nearly twenty minutes before unloading a fictional world on us that’s both fascinating and viciously overwhelming. Because people like Betty, Rube, Mason, and Roxy are the initial folks who introduce us to the world of the grim reapers, it’s not like they’re making it easy for us or for George. In fact, they all seem pretty entertained by it all. Why wouldn’t they be?
- It’s no secret that I love worldbuilding. I do! It’s one of my favorite things about fiction. And this pilot has some of the best exposition I’ve ever seen. We learn about the logistics of the grim reapers and how their undead bodies manifest in our world. We find out their rules, their bureaucracy, the details of how they show up at the right time to help souls to their next destination, and how they live. Oh god, of course I have a billion more questions that I want to know the answers to. (Are grim reapers assigned geographical locations in addition to divisions? Did they do something in their lives to get chosen as reapers, or has that always been random? Did the man who chose George designate her as the next reaper, or was that because she was his last soul? Are we ever going to see an example of a soul “spoiling”?) Yet “Pilot” gives me so much right from the start that I feel comfortable in this universe. I get the gist of things. And I want to know more.
- As funny as a lot of this is, the pilot gives us a great deal of scenes that are enormous punches to our hearts. Like the shot of Reggie appearing lost and depressed at the funeral. Or the sadness Joy surprisingly demonstrates at the yard sale. Or the absolutely devastating end of the episode when George finds out her first soul assignment is a little girl who dies in a train derailment. God, THAT’S IN THE VERY FIRST EPISODE. Shit, I’m so not prepared for this show.
- But I do like that Dead Like Me can be so whimsical! I know that the bank sequence ends rather brutally, but we essentially get to watch a Rube Goldberg device unravel, and it makes for good tension. (Oh shit, Rube. Is that intentional???)
- AND THEN THERE ARE THE GRAVELINGS. JESUS, NO. NOPE. NOPE FOREVER. Holy shit, I was able to deal with the comedy, the unsettling nature of the show, and the sadness, BUT I’D LIKE THIS SHOW TO TAKE BACK GRAVELINGS. NO THANK YOU.
- It seems extra cruel that the undead can’t move on, so they’re cast as grim reapers in physical human bodies, but they STILL HAVE TO HAVE JOBS. Well, okay, they don’t all have to. Betty and Rube don’t seem to have a profession. But they don’t get any sort of payment to remain in the mortal world? Dudes, what? Who is running things? Oh, it’s probably that damned frog, so they’re all screwed regardless.
- Yeah, so this pilot stops being funny as soon as that young kid steps onto the train. Again, FUCK. You’re going to put this in your pilot??? Through this, Bryan Fuller is able to elaborate on what death means to humanity. The whole thing is cruel by the very nature of it, and George’s instant rebellion is a sign that she’s unwilling to accept the idea of the inevitability of death. It takes Rube’s sober wisdom to get her to turn back and take that young girl’s soul. I don’t personally believe in an afterlife, but I’ve definitely thought about what I’d want it to be. We get a hint of that in the end. Perhaps it’s another adventure, like the amusement park we see beyond the trees, one that lasts an innumerable length of time.
- But that’s not for us. I like that idea. The grim reapers don’t know where they’re leading souls. They’re just delivering them to the next life. So what’s in store for the reapers, then? Is this a way to do penance? Or were their fates sealed a long time ago?
- I guess I’ll have to watch more to find out!
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Mark Links Stuff
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