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TV Review: “Dirty John” (2018 – ) ★★★


Loneliness has so many implications that we simply can’t list all of them. But it’s worth mentioning that depression, paranoia, mental illness and the willingness to be with anyone, if that anyone is a criminal, is still okay as long as that person eases the pain of feeling unneeded. I never listened to real life podcast of the events that led to the making of the TV series called “Dirty John.” Yet it is enough to feel stunned and become completely shocked as to how Debra Newell (Connie Britton) allowed the master of manipulation, John Meehan (Eric Bana), to turn her sanity around, switch her brain’s mode from intelligent to silly and hopeless so she can think he loves her while stealing her money, her wisdom, family and maybe life which she knows as fulfilled and happy.

Debra’s seemingly perfect life has given her everything; she has three grown up children, loved by them so dearly, admired at work, and friends that never mind being by her side. But there’s one thing which was missing and was noticed by John Meehan, who knew right away what this wealthy woman wants – she needs love, care, breakfast in bed made by a man that can love her till the rest of her life. John secretly knew that there’s no way he can give all of these to her, but the game he was playing was profoundly believable so it was not a problem for him to play his part. Debra, on the other hand, becomes extremely happy as a woman, while everything else is falling apart – her family, children’s affection, and the money that will get less and less since the vacuum she has adopted with no knowledge about it is known as John.

Watching the first seven episodes of “Dirty John” was not easy. Veronica (Juno Temple), Debra’s elder daughter hires a private detective to investigate John. Even Debra herself succeeds at finding out many disturbing facts about John, but her heart still positively responses to John’s advances, while her eyes blindly ignore all the facts presented to her, which, anyone with a sane mind would run away from him as far as possible. But the juicy part of this series is not about John or Debra, or how John successfully fools Debra or how Debra so willingly falls into his trap. It goes way beyond that by exploring Debra’s late sister who dies years before due to her husband who did not want to divorce her. It gives a sight of what and how John became such a master at lying, faking all the medical conditions, or how he worked as a nurse at the hospital with zero knowledge of medicine.

Saying that John had no knowledge of medicine would be an misleading, but one fact is undeniable – he knew how to play with the information he had, and how to present his version as the only that should be trusted. Directed by Jeffrey Reiner and based on Los Angeles Times report and podcast by Christopher Goffard, it is a decent show based on a true crime that will disrupt the family as it was. But it may fail to mark certain aspects of real stories, but that again is something that probably should have been reshaped and spiced up for TV. As you know, TV or films can’t replicate real life events, and “Dirty John” is one of them. But it’s a good dramatization so that women like Debra can have an open mind and be more careful to avoid the same situation.

In conclusion, “Dirty John” is a series worthwhile seeing, but do not expect from it to deliver more than it intends. Eric Bana as John is so terrifyingly believable, while Connie Britton’s version of Debra, a naïve and wealthy woman in search of love, is kind of scary in its own way when the interpretation delivered by Britton answers the most damning question – why women fall for wrong men. So, at some point, it’s an educational series that kind of provides life lessons in a harsh way, or ignored hard facts that will, and undoubtedly, lead to events that could have been avoided if someone had the right amount of checks and balances of heart and mind to know how to use them properly.

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