Unlike many other takes on women’s grief and trauma, the show doesn’t rely on the usual obvious visual cues. Jenny doesn’t drink giant goblets of red wine in the tub or cry in the shower. While she does do “the dramatic chop” and cuts off all her hair after her husband dies, the show lampshades it with her son and his boyfriend joking about it and how she’s coping.
At a time of global mourning that is anything but ordinary, there’s something comforting about a show that acknowledges how deeply weird and inconvenient grief can be. Death has always had a weird side, something we strive hard not to acknowledge here in the U.S., and the pandemic has only exacerbated it. Transporting bodies is suddenly more complicated as states censure one another for their COVID-19 levels, and there’s a cap on how many people can attend funerals, causing some to opt for gatherings over zoom or hold off until some unknown future time when we can all be together.
The only thing stranger than grief is grief delayed, and in their own way, both Jenny and her son attempt some version of it. They flee the city. They often tiptoe around talking about him and the impact his death has had on their lives, including the immense financial toll his hidden gambling addiction took posthumously. Jenny goes to therapy and is on some form of medication, but it’s clear she’s uncomfortable opening up and mostly just trying to keep her head above water.
Jenny retreats from her entire life and especially her profession, unable to face what it means that she, a doctor, couldn’t save her own husband, laying an immense burden at her own feet. Ross retreats from the swim team – his father died at a meet, but more than that, his father was the overly-involved parent who harangued his son toward greatness. Without his father, the sport feels empty and scary.
Coroner leans into the weird in its most extreme with Jenny changing her job and moving them out of Toronto into rural Canada, but the smaller moments of strangeness are perhaps more recognizable to the average viewer. Jenny accepts an offer from Liam, the kind, hot handyman (a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who clearly has his own trauma to process) to grab drinks, and then vacillates between treating it like a date and therapy. When Jenny meets other women who have lost their spouses, she often hesitates to tell them how acutely she knows their pain, still unsure of her new identity as a widow – even more so when people see her wedding ring.