The Turtle and the Alligator
More to It Than Fun
The Twelfth of Never
Perception Is Reality
Divorce can be extremely ugly and messy, especially if kids are involved. In the case of the Betty Broderick Story, Dirty John doubles down on the nightmarish implications of a messy break-up in the most dramatic way possible. From heartbreak and anger to murder and insanity, this anthology series returns for an equally soapy, melodramatic 8 episodes.
Propped up by the decent acting from both Christian Slater and Amanda Peet, the story this time around takes place in the sun-soaked locale of California in the 1980’s. Betty and her lawyer husband Dan are due to get divorced but the former is not playing ball.
Clinging to the idyllic notion of the pair getting back together, Betty receives a serious wake up call at the end of the first episode. This ultimately sets the foundations for the show, as the episodes that follow boast several parallel timelines interwoven around the main present-day narrative.
At the heart of this though lies a story of heartbreak and betrayal, as Betty’s life slowly starts to crumble before her very eyes. It’s a tough series to watch at times and although perhaps a tad too long, with lots of flashbacks and repeated narrative themes, a lot of this can be overlooked by the aforementioned acting.
Both leads do a great job in their roles and Amanda Peet in particular is compelling and believable as frazzled, disillusioned housewife Betty. Although perhaps a tad theatrical at times, seeing her demeanour change and break across the 8 episodes feels very realistic and feeds into the tragic story being played out.
Stylistically, Dirty John does well to keep things ticking by at a relatively decent pace, with flashbacks and the court case itself interspersed around the storyline. The camera work is pretty creative, with lots of neat rotating movements and dizzying tilts helping to give this a slightly more artistic edge compared to the first season.
What’s particularly good here though is the way everything leans into the main themes. Betrayal and abuse are both showcased in their most raw state and seeing Betty’s decline really typifies this.
That’s to say nothing of Dan either, whose far from squeaky clean. Some of his manipulative and despicable actions in the past allow us to understand exactly why Betty is wound so tight and took the action against him that she did (Once again, no spoilers here!)
This conflict unfortunately spills over to the children too, who are ultimately the big victims here. Early on they only play a minor role but as the season progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that they’re being used as pawns in this divorce game. It’s yet another example of how kids can be used as a weapon in these cases, and it’s certainly not any prettier showcased on the small screen either.
Dirty John just about trumps season 1 and delivers an enjoyable anthological slice of drama in the process. The acting is great, and the two lead stars really help to elevate the material.
The narrative does admittedly feel a bit stretched at times, and perhaps 6 episodes may have better served the story being told. However, there’s enough here to enjoy nonetheless and if you were a fan of season 1, there’s plenty to like here too.