IR TV Review: DIRTY JOHN – THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY – EPISODE 8 (“Perception Is Reality”) [USA]

The eventual resolution of “The Betty Broderick Story” in the “Dirty John” anthology is an expected one. From the beginning it is apparent what Betty was going to do. The final episode goes through the texture of the trial and what necessitated a certain reaction. Betty’s response is seen by some as warranted while others rally against it for obvious reasons. However how much psychological abuse leads to the break that leads to murder is an interesting quandary and what determines that psychotic behavior. The progression shows a hung jury in the first trial but then it is specifically overturned in the 2nd trial. The tone seems to push that Betty in fact liked the attention and in a way felt vindicated by those rallying behind her. She however comes off as a bit too flippant. But again the key of the show , despite how vehement it shows Dan. is what dictates a certain consequence of action.

Betty is a tragic figure but there is a disconnect in the elements of whether her actions were the result of a nervous breakdown, a conniving mind or a mixture of both. This degree of responsibility is not debated in the end of this series but it is certainly brought to mind. The texture though places it in the essence of what dictates in her mind and the general populace the greater good. Her kids are now without a mother who is in jail or a father who is dead. Even her daughters, as is shown in the 2nd trial, are against each other in who they support. Despite what causes this degradation, it speaks to an idea that human behavior is messy and some situations have no true solution. Betty still to this day believes, as a certain parole hearing reinforced very recently, that she did the right thing and was driven to it. Yet she supposedly still shows no remorse over the action. It is an interesting conundrum. The final shot is the most diametric with Amanda Peet singing an interesting song into a phone to an unknown caller, a life lost but claimed despite an outcome.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DIRTY JOHN – THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY – EPISODE 7 (“The Shillelagh”) [USA]

After the dust settles, depending on the personality, that is the tricky part of moving on. With “Dirty john: The Betty Broderick Story” that has been the pendulum in Betty’s mind over the season. Her essence of accepting versus obsessing over the smaller details plays a big part in her trajectory. Granted perception of what people think means a whole lot to her. But in this episode, against her own judgment, her friends even seem to be putting up a wall against her. In the essence of how she was raised, this idealism of what a family is supposed to be seems to be continually drawn from her (even in refection of her parents which might have been initially part of the problem. She tries to fight fair and then not fight fair but she is woefully outgunned. The title of Episode 7 “The Shillelagh” refers to an Irish weapon of blackthorn and oak which acts as a blunt instrument even after an initial attack. This seemingly reflects the continuing onslaught of happiness that Dan’s new wife flaunts in her face.

There is an interesting diametric though that happens at one point though when the issues that Sam (the new wife) have parallel exactly certain elements of Betty from before in terms of her complaints. The way Slater plays it shows that he could in fact turn on his younger wife at a later date as well. One action that is simple and not right (but then none of the way some of these characters act is “right” per se) sets certain actions in motion. Again certain actions Betty commits could be misconstrued one way or another but the space seems to be tightening on her. Peet again knows how to construct this women’s feelings while still reflecting her love of her children. Then at times her mania in a way takes over. It is an interesting continuing character study for sure. And again Slater in one specific moment gives a link of civility telling his new wife to “put it back”. And yet as the first scene with him in front of a class dictates, sometimes it is s not exactly what one says and if it is understood but how it is being said.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DIRTY JOHN – THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY – EPISODE 6 (“The Twelfth Of Never”) [USA]

The rabbit hole that “Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story” continues to go down is a slippery slope. With Episode 6: “The Twelfth Of Never” one would think that Betty (as played by Amanda Peet) has reached her lowest point but the episode shows her resolve and redemptive ways to a point. But unlike her ex-husband, she tries to play fair whereas he doesn’t. Why a husband would treat the mother of his children so recklessly even if he remarried is beyond reprehensible. Again this is a dramatization though so parts of the story might not have the full fact represented at certain points. However what is undeniable is the sacrifice that Betty endured to get Dan (played by Christian Slater) where he is but he does not see it that way. There are some bright points that indicate Betty’s potential but also many wrong decisions or perceptions. There are two possibilities for light at the end of the tunnel but the situations don’t quite play out as one hopes or Betty hopes they would. It is about wordplay and coming to bear. The system is stacked against Betty at her best points to gain ground, mostly shrouded in the smugness of the boys’ club and legal jargon. Slater plays the character with an inherent smugness of course but his character ends up being very two dimensional which likely is by design. Giving away too much more would reveal how the descent happens. Either way the path will always end darkly. The issue is that seeing the destruction of such a positive soul, whatever her perceived shortcomings may be, is a tale in unnecessary tragedy.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DIRTY JOHN – THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY – EPISODE 5 (“Scream Therapy”) [USA]

The further detriment that visits Betty Broderick in the wake of her husband breaking down her resolve reveals something nihilistic in the bran of Dan Broderick. The essence of his two faced conniving personifications to his ex-wife maybe are meant to be a reflection of America at the time. With Episode 5 of “Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story”, “Scream Therapy”, the progression of Betty’ s path to possible redemption which skews to a wanton path of destruction is undeniable. Even without full support, she almost finds her way almost to balanced ground. There is however an imbalance and lack of control. The downfall is not primarily or even remotely her fault. it is a world bought out of Dan’s belief that he is right. He only admits at one point in an earlier episode that he is wrong and what is interesting there is that he seems almost on a mission to show that he was not. It as if his truth was a victory when in actually it shows that she is the victor but she doesn’t have the tools or a feeling of focused vengeance…hers is uncontrolled. Dan Broderick’s new girlfriend has her own issues (as she displayed in an earlier situation). Her parents didn’t want her to be a homewrecker but she is just worried what the outside thinks. Once she is inside the den, she doesn’t care. At a certain point inside a therapist’s office Betty asks that question in “Is anybody else asking about the well being of the children but me?” It is a dark place that Betty exists with no money, and no support. Even worse there are summons against her because she cannot control her rage. While it is a hopeful element that she might be able to find a power base, she makes small understandable mistakes that undermine er position.

The situation is vicious and immovable. It is a tale of love lost and love rebuked. As much as Dan does, Betty still harbors some love for him which is why it makes no sense to her as to why he would shun and destroy her so. This series has been dramatized but it is hard to think that someone would be this cruel to the mother of his children and then manipulate their minds (especially one son) into the idea that his mother was always disturbed. This is, of course, a reflection back to code cinema in certain ways of the metaphor of what is right just because society deems an action at the time as acceptable as long as it is swept under the carper. However in the modern age it might be a Shakespearean metaphor on the inherent unfairness that reigns in some circles. “Scream Therapy” is just that: the continuation of Betty’s maddening decent into oblivion is based not so much on her mistakes but her blindness to the lousy and cruel person her husband has become. Slater plays that darkness as light for all its worth and that is part of the charm of why the character can continue to function. But like the title namesake of “Mr. Robot”, Slate understands the necessity of a villain as the dark specter who simply turns the knob a little but more against his opponent each time.

B-

By Tim Wassberg