Sometimes life doesn’t quite go the way we’ve planned. I think this is a sentiment that we can all relate to at one point or another. Perhaps you thought you’d go to law school and headed into teaching instead. Maybe that relationship you thought would last forever ended abruptly, thrusting your life into another direction. These are just two examples, but those feelings of disappointment in the direction life has turned to are universal. Every so often those detours, while not expected, push our lives in rewarding ways and allow us to flourish and thrive. This is the core message at the center of Not Dead Yet, which returned on ABC for its second season.
Based on Alexandra Potter’s novel Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up, Not Dead Yet follows Nell Serrano, a feels lost in her life after breaking off her engagement. However, through supernatural help, Nell begins to find herself and develop a new normal as a journalist who writes obituaries.
Created by David Windsor and Casey Johnson, Not Dead Yet charmed this reviewer from the first moment of the first season. Gina Rodriguez leads this sitcom’s ensemble cast, bringing the laughs and heart in every episode. Does the Not Dead Yet season 2 premiere continue the pattern from season one? Read on for more!
[Warning: spoilers from the season 2 premiere of Not Dead Yet are below!]
Nell finds herself in ABC’s Not Dead Yet
Nell Serrano (Rodriguez) has been through a lot since viewers first met her at the beginning of season 1. Returning to America from the United Kingdom after breaking off her engagement, Nell is the definition of lost. She doesn’t know who she is, and her life feels like a mess.
Having worked in journalism before, she decides to go back to the writing desk with the help of her best friend Sam (Hannah Simone), the style editor at the SoCal Independent. Surely, when your best friend is a higher-up at a prestigious paper, you’ll get a good position, right?
Unfortunately for Nell, the only position open is writing obituaries, the equivalent of a dead-end job. At first, Nell isn’t sure if she’s going to stay with it, as it doesn’t align with where she wants to be in life. However, when the ghost of her obituary, Monty (Martin Mull), appears out of thin air, she has no choice but to finish the assignment. What she doesn’t expect is the eye-opening experience and life lessons she learns from the recently deceased.
After that first lesson from the dead and throughout the first season, Nell discovers herself again. No longer is she the depressed, self-proclaimed fuck up, renting a room in an apartment from Edward (Rick Glassman). She gained an understanding of those she didn’t get along with, such as Ed, and her boss Lexi (Lauren Ash), with the latter being out of touch with the reality of people below her career and financial status.
In the season 2 premiere, Nell looks to step up at work
When we join Nell in the season 2 premiere of Not Dead Yet, she’s working on the obituary for successful real estate agent Teddy (Nico Santos). Nell, who has been working incredibly hard on self-improvement, finds herself negatively impacted by Teddy’s assessment, who examines her life as if it is a property. She’s not a top property in Malibu because she is just coasting through her life. Teddy pushes her to be more engaged with her environment and the people surrounding her.
Nell becomes emboldened, pushing for more responsibility at work, which Lexi gaffs at. Not only does she believe that Nell can’t handle more responsibility, but it’s also one of the most important days at the SoCal Independent. Today is the day that Lexi’s father, Duncan Rhodes (Brad Garrett), the publisher of the paper, stops in for a visit. The arrival of her father stresses her out because it comes with a ton of questions and disapproval from father to daughter.
What she, and everyone else who works at SoCal for that matter, don’t expect is that Duncan came to the newspaper to speak with Nell. Turns out, Duncan would like to have his obituary written ahead of time, so he can control his narrative. The only thing is that Duncan isn’t a nice person, which means that all the obituary can focus on is his accomplishments. Nell, with the help of Teddy, takes it upon herself to teach Duncan how to be a better person, a task that isn’t easy.
While Nell and Duncan are off having a moment together, those still at SoCal Independent are left in a frenzy. Lexi needs to find a way to make the paper more profitable, but truthfully, she needs to find a way to let off some steam. So when Edward arrives at the paper to bring Nell her lunch, Lexi sees a perfect opportunity to take her mind off her work problems.
The positives and negatives of ABC’s Not Dead Yet season 2 premiere
What initially drew me to Not Dead Yet is how well it balances comedy and heart, which isn’t always something sitcoms are good at. Most in this genre tend to lean more into the comedy aspect but Not Dead Yet wraps up its episodes with a healthy dose of heart. It pushes the viewers to look internally, taking a life lesson away from the episode. Thankfully, that pattern continues in season 2.
The premiere episode explores the topic of self-worth and what we should value in ourselves and others; something that everyone should take a moment to look at in their lives. Part of the running gag with Teddy was both looking at what we own or comparing ourselves to houses, which is a more materialistic look at worth. However, Nell can use the lessons from Teddy to not only teach herself but another about what’s actually important in life.
I think it’s a good choice to bring in another “fuck up” into the series, who serves as a foil to Nell. We are early in the season, so it’s bound to change, but Nell figured out a large part of herself by the conclusion of season one. When we see her in this premiere, she does come off a bit more self-assured, although still clumsy and accident-prone.
However, with Duncan on the scene, we can see that status and money don’t mean you have your life figured out. In fact, Duncan now has the harsh reality that not only does he not have his life in order, but he has messed up his daughter Lexi irrevocably because of his actions. Lexi is who she is because of her father and his actions. Hopefully, season 2 provides growth and closure for both as the show grows beyond just Nell.
Many of the supporting cast felt underutilized in this episode, which seemed like a step in the wrong direction for the series. Nico Santos didn’t have nearly enough of a role as Teddy compared to other ghosts in the series. The dearly departed are an integral part of the premise, but that storyline took a back seat to the relationship and dynamics between Rodriguez’s Nell and Garrett’s Duncan.
This isn’t just unique to him. Others, such as Cricket (Angela E. Gibbs), Sam, and Dennis (Joshua Banday) all felt unceremoniously relegated to lesser roles than the main cast they were last season. I’m hoping that this course corrects in future episodes, as the entire cast is what made this show and shouldn’t be glossed over for the arrival of Garrett’s character. That being said, it’s entirely likely that they just took an episode to reintroduce characters and setting, while also expanding it with new arrivals. I’m no less excited for what’s to come, as I still thoroughly enjoyed the episode.
You can watch Not Dead Yet season 2 on ABC and Hulu
Overall, I was satisfied with the premiere that we got, as Gina Rodriquez continues to shine in the role. She’s perfectly cast as the silly, messy, Nell, who is the driving force for both the comedy and heart of the series. The entire cast is strong and helps support her, making this ensemble comedy something special and not just run-of-the-mill. I’d love to see more from the other cast as the season continues because the dynamics and antics between them all is truly what brought this series alive.
Not Dead Yet airs on Wednesdays on ABC and the next day on Hulu. Do you watch this series? Let us know your thoughts on the season 2 premiere on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!