Netflix sure does love a good true crime show, and one of their latest releases, Dirty John, is sure to intrigue and terrify you! Dirty John is based on a true story, surrounding the treacherous life of John Meehan and the circumstances that led up to his untimely demise
There’s a reason this show has gained such high acclaim during award season. The script is chilling, the drama is nail-biting and the cast is excellent. The way Connie Britton and Eric Bana perfectly deliver the tense dynamic between Debra Newell and John Meehan makes you almost forget it’s just a show and not the real thing. I assume the reason why the reenactment feels so close to the truth is due to the involvement of the Newell family who helped ensure the show retell the story authentically.
Bana’s John is an unsettling character from the get-go but when he turns up the charm you do feel like perhaps you’re judging him too harshly and in fact, he’s just misunderstood. This is such a fine line and Bana plays into it perfectly especially later on in the season when John’s true colours are unravelled and there is no hiding behind his charm and flawless lies.
Too often people will cast judgment about domestic abuse situations after the worst is revealed. With hindsight as an advantage, they may find it difficult to understand how someone could initially be deceived by a person so clearly evil. Even more so people fail to comprehend why an individual might actually go back to that dangerous situation despite escaping. Thankfully, Dirty John dives into this poorly understood situation and notably reminding viewers nearing the end of the season that most victims of domestic abuse return seven times before finally leaving for good.
The show is most powerful when it picks up on the subtle details of this slow decline into a truly horrific situation. The smoothie scene where John wakes Debra every morning with a delicious new smoothie to try, I thought was particularly critical. It shows how John as a very manipulative and devious individual constantly used small shows of affection and care to filter and almost disguise his disturbing behaviour. It reveals how and why Debra might have struggled to accept what was in front of her even after her family had all figured it out and tried to show her.
To Debra, John couldn’t be this deceptive, vile man with a drug addiction and an arrest record of abusive behaviour towards women longer than her arm, because at the exact same time he was the man who made her a smoothie every morning and made sure the shower was the perfect temperature for her and even did all her errands for her. Those two personas are so contradictory, but that is what is so terrifying about the real John Meehan who pulled the wool over so many people’s eyes. Ultimately, John was indeed both those people and not only that but he was able to flick between good and bad John, almost seamlessly.
Dirty John tells the tale of a truly dangerous and psychopathic individual who had no care for law enforcement or other people and instead played the game of life by his own rules. When he decided to make other people’s lives hell, there was no stopping him and ultimately it had to come down to death to put an end to John Meehan and his reign of terror over so many women’s lives.
Perhaps a slow starter but this Netflix original is a true crime story that is sure to play on your mind long after you’ve finished it.
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