The third and final season of the Netflix dark comedy – released on 17 November – picks up right after the series two cliffhanger, which saw James Marsden’s Ben Wood drive off after t-boning love interest Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) and his twin brother’s ex-fiancée Judy Hale (Cardellini).
While Judy’s shown conscious and awake, Jen’s future is left ambiguous.
Warning, potential spoilers to follow
In season three’s debut episode, Judy rides along with Jen as the latter is rushed to the hospital and eventually wakes up in stable condition.
After the two undergo routine scans to ensure there’s no internal bleeding or broken bones, the doctor mistakes Jen for Judy and informs her that he’s found a potentially cancerous mass.
“Again, I’m so sorry, Miss Hale,” he says to Jen, who gasps, realising it’s Judy whose scan he’s referring to.
Judy later receives the unexpected cervical cancer diagnosis, and in the final episode, during a brief Mexico getaway with Jen, Jen gazes longingly out at sea and notices a sailboat.
The scene – which is a nod to Jen’s dream sequence in the season’s first episode – is supposed to imply Judy’s unfortunate demise.
However, speaking to Entertainment Weekly in a new interview, published on Monday 21 November, Cardellini said the ending “is up for grabs”.
“They really leave it open-ended. I do think that there are different versions of how the story ends for people,” she shared. And with Judy, Cardellini clarified: “You never know if she’s totally telling the truth.”
“[Judy’s] mother [played by Katey Sagal] always alludes to that. And I think what you see in her mother, there is a piece of that in Judy as well.”
Cardellini admitted that she was “excited, but also sad” about the ending.
“I kept sort of vying for like, ‘Okay, maybe there’s a time capsule buried so that if we ever wanna come back to this, you could see something.’ We kept joking about this time capsule idea so that Judy could sort of live forever,” she added.
“I think there is a part of it where you’re like, ‘Well she could have gone, I don’t know, anywhere,’” Cardellini lamented. “Is she gonna be in San Francisco? You know what I mean? There is an open-endedness to it that I think allows for people to make their own sort of choose-their-own adventure there.”
Ahead of the newest season’s premiere, Applegate, whose 2021 multiple sclerosis diagnosis paused production for five months, spoke about the harrowing difficulties she overcame while filming.
Not only disclosing that she used a wheelchair on set but also that, in some scenes, the show’s sound technician had to hold her legs up to keep her steady.
Dead to Me is available to stream on Netflix.