Dead to Me and Big Little Lies are female-driven series met with widespread acclaim. They have a lot in common but also some huge differences
The Netflix series Dead to Me and the HBO series Big Little Lies are both incredibly popular shows due to their mysterious intrigue, strong plotlines, and strong acting.
The shows may seem to be pretty similar at first glance, but there are little details if you look closely enough that makes them totally different viewing experiences. Just in case it’s not clear up front, there are spoilers for both shows are ahead. If you haven’t binged these shows, go for it now!
Similarity: Women Protagonists
Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley while Dead to Me stars Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. Both shows weave complex storylines and characterization for the female protagonists. Big Little Lies even continues this trend by delving into Laura Dern and Zoë Kravitz’s characters instead of leaving them as side characters the audience knows nothing about. It’s encouraging to see such engaging female protagonists on two critically acclaimed shows.
Difference: Known Vs Unknown Main Death
While there are twists and turns to both of these stories, Big Little Lies chooses to hold back their big reveal of who died on trivia night. In contrast, Dead to Me reveals that Jen’s husband was killed by a hit-and-run driver and the story continues its mystery from there as more events happen and Jen searches for whoever was driving the car. Big Little Lies switches back and forth between the days leading up to trivia night and when everyone is being interviewed after the death.
Similarity: Secrets And Lies
In both of the shows, almost every single character tells lies and has secrets that they don’t want others to know about. In Big Little Lies, the entire community has secrets they’re keeping to themselves that are slowly revealed to the audience throughout. In Dead to Me, both Judy and Jen are keeping their own secrets from each other, the viewers, and even from themselves as they don’t want to face their own truths.
Difference: Known Vs Unknown Connection
Judy knows exactly how she is connected to Jen and why she becomes friends with her, and while Jen doesn’t know at first, Judy does reveal that she was the driver who killed her husband. The audience knows both sides of the story the entire time.
In contrast, Big Little Lies saves the connection between Jane and Celeste until the very end of the first season when it is also revealed that Perry was the one who was killed. It’s not completely confirmed until the second season, but Perry is also Ziggy’s father and the man who has been haunting Jane.
Similarity: Dramatic But Still Realistic
Both shows thrive on drama and shocks, but all of it seems to be deserved instead of introduced for shock value. They also seem to both always stay in the realm of possibility, while still being entertaining and dramatic. Big Little Lies’ connection between Jane and Celeste through Perry is shocking but still realistic and believable. In Dead to Me, Judy’s guilt over her involvement in Jen’s husband’s death and her need to befriend Jen to make sure she’s okay creates a twisted web in their relationship, but it isn’t a stretch to believe that could happen.
Difference: Big Little Lies’ Focus On Abuse
Although Dead to Me puts some focus on showing Steve emotionally abusing Judy in their relationship, though never explicitly talked about. It is nowhere near the time and focus Big Little Lies spends on Jane and especially Celeste’s physical and emotional abuse from Perry. Dead to Me doesn’t attempt to seriously cover Steve’s emotional manipulation, but Big Little Lies gives Celeste’s abuse storyline the proper weight, conversation, and time it deserves.
Similarity: Slow Burn
Both shows choose to slowly and naturally reveal information and this makes for compelling television. Although they hold back information about the characters and storyline differently, both are mysterious tales that have a lot to reveal throughout the series and do an exceptional job. Both stories have shocking information to share, but because of the slow burn reveal it never feels unearned or purely to shock the audience.
Difference: Community Vs Isolation
Big Little Lies focuses on the tight-knit community of the school and surrounding town where everyone seems to know everyone else and there’s constant gossip circling around. Dead to Me takes a different approach and chooses to isolate Jen from most people, except for Judy and the occasional neighbor bringing a homemade dinner by. This gives a completely different tone to each of the stories as Jen has more freedom to do what she’d like without fear of being judged. The protagonists in Big Little Lies have to constantly look over their shoulders.
Similarity: Known Actors In Ensemble
Most of the ensemble from both shows consist of very recognizable actors. Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley with a supporting cast including Zoë Kravitz, Adam Scott, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgård, and an appearance by Meryl Streep in the second season.
Dead to Me doesn’t have as much star power, but Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, and James Marsden are certainly recognizable.