Throughout the three seasons of “Dead to Me,” if there is one description for Judy, it is that she is a “literal angel.” One might think that her initial actions as we see them in Season 1 of “Dead to Me” were driven by guilt. Like when she befriended Jen at the grief therapy to take some accountability for her actions. Her and Jen becoming such good friends can be attributed to the latter needing a friend through her grief and Judy being that person for her out of her guilt. Yes, they clicked in a certain way—the very unique way that takes a relationship into the realm of best friends. As the days went by, Judy wanted to hide her secret, not just out of fear of going to jail but also to save her friendship with Jen. She had ample chances to come clean about her crime, but she only did it when she heard Jen blame herself for Ted’s death. That was the line that she refused to cross—the one that negatively affected somebody’s welfare.
When Steve was killed by Jen, Judy could have easily rid herself of the whole situation and the guilt. It was a twisted tit-for-tat, but nobody would have held it against her. Yet she chose to incriminate herself by continuing to help Jen through Season 2 and 3 of “Dead to Me.” We all have people we love and care for, but which one of us would help our friends cover up a murder? Judy did that. She was someone who possessed a high level of emotional intelligence, but often at the cost of herself. She was extremely sensitive to what other people were feeling, and her first reaction always seemed to be empathy. The greatest example of this is when Jen finally confesses to Judy the exact reason, she killed Steve. She tells her that it was an act of rage and not self-defense. That should have changed things for Judy, yet she understood. She understood the entire complexity of Jen’s untreated trauma and insecurities and how those could have been triggered by Steve’s words. Not only that, she had it in her to forgive Jen for it and even reassure her that it was alright. To most people, it would look bonkers, but let us understand this from Judy’s perspective for once. She had been in an emotionally abusive relationship with Steve, yet she had come close to forgiving him and probably still loved him. We see this somewhat when she is under the impression that she is pregnant and thinks it could belong to Steve.
To be able to understand and forgive Jen for killing a person who meant so much to her and, in fact, take the task of reassuring her, what must it have taken for Judy to do that? Nobody said it was easy to be emotionally intelligent, especially in a world that runs on anger and selfishness. Because honestly, what do you get out of believing in the goodness of people? Let us say your efforts win the day and the other person’s goodness shines. How is that ever going to benefit you? Trying to understand and believe in this hidden goodness or make concessions for the occasional scraps of it is a huge emotional labor that often goes thankless. However, Judy finally had one person worth it, who understood her value and was as willing to move heaven and earth for her. But maybe she found her a little too late. Judy had been disappointed by the people in her life way too many times. Be it her mother, who forced her to take care of herself, or Steve, who would walk all over Judy all the time, Judy was never fully able to count on anyone. Even when she came close to opening her heart to someone, that person was unable to be there for her. We are talking about Michelle in Season 3 of “Dead to Me.” She was the first person that Judy had dared to talk about her cancer. It would have been better if she had actually been asleep. When she confessed that she had just pretended to sleep because she did not know how to respond, Judy understood that not everyone has the bandwidth to deal with such news. But it also reiterated in her mind that there were not a lot of people who could support her with her emotional needs.
When Judy learned about Jen’s pregnancy, it was probably her most devastating blow yet. The only thing Judy had ever wanted was children of her own. But fate had denied her that throughout her life. She knew it wasn’t Jen’s fault. She also knew that her friend deserved the happiness coming her way. But the injustice of it all was too much for her. And maybe that’s why Judy accepted her terminal diagnosis with such calmness. Because there was finally an end to her suffering.
Jen loved her and was one of the few people who appreciated and accepted Judy wholeheartedly. She was also the first person who had fought so hard for Judy. But Judy knew that Jen had other things to live for. She had two children and had another one coming up with a man she loved. Judy would have taken up all of her time and energy, and she was unwilling to do that to her best friend. Also, Judy was tired. She had the strength to fight her battles alone; she had always done that. But she did not have it in her to spend her last few days thinking about anyone other than herself. Freedom was something Judy had always craved and staying back in Mexico was the one decision she made that granted her that, a final wish she granted herself.