The slip into paranoia is about the approach of loss versus simple narcissism. Episode 4 “More To It Than Fun” of “Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story” provides, in perhaps a more diametric way than some of the episodes, the psychological framework for the structure of Broderick’s breakdown. It is an interesting character study but one that is of course shown in different perspectives but also simmers in the frame of human frailty of will. Christian Slater continues to inject his possibilities of intention with a sense of knowing in Dan Broderick. At certain points the “Heathers” and even “True Romance” parallels comes through but the callousness of the character is simply unwavering. The reasoning, pointing to an aspect of power versus loyalty, is summed up by Betty in passing later in the episode which is undeniably true. He is reacting to what all these people are seeing in him whereas she is the one that can see his truth because she was there from the beginning.

Peet plays Betty as so wanting to forgive but also being in parallel that she is as much responsible for his success as he is. That narcissistic streak that was seen in their younger selves would be nice to flash back to now and again, and would give a sense more of the flip. The reality of the essence of purpose of the betrayal is icy cold, especially with Slater at a couple points since at many times he is tring to hide in the open with no sense of couth. It all comes down to the individual of course. But having a pscyhologist in a book end really gives a sense of the intricacies of how Betty’s psyche could be trapped in a corner and coming undone. Dan Broderick was an effective lawer, Harvard trained. He began using these tactics on his wife perhaps not even realizing it, to protect himself although he surely became aware he was using it soon after…yet does not stop.

Betty as Peet plays her is always willing to move back and forth in blame and rage. It is not alluded to in either of their characters if there was ever any mental health aspects or diagnoses either of them possessed. But back in the 80s, that would not have been paid any attention to. As the rabbit hole continues to spin for Betty, it is simply reflected in the idea that she wants to have it all. Her husband thinks he can have it all, ever single way, which is the difference. Some of the actions when he stays out later and returns home flagrantly shows that. He is a silent aggressor which makes admission of guilt in a response mechanism too little too late and is delivered with a sense of snarkiness that paints an idea of egotism while giving no satisfaction to his target. It is an interesting case structure again because the ending is known so watching it unravel is like watching a top spinning out of control.


By Tim Wassberg

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