Created by Alexandra Cunningham and based on a true story, Dirty John aired on Netflix in February 2019 and is based on the articles and breakout true-crime podcast from Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard. The series tells the story of how the seemingly perfect life of Debra Newell (Connie Britton) is disrupted as she falls for a handsome doctor, John Meehan (Eric Bana). But when their fast-tracked romance creates tension between Debra and her two daughters Terra (Julia Garner) and Veronica (Juno Temple), leaving the girls no choice but to investigate the man who has swept their mother off her feet, their lives spiral into secrets, denial, manipulation, and ultimately, a fight for survival for an entire family.
What we love most about Netflix is that it introduces us to true crime stories about shocking cases that we often know nothing about. However, they are usually in documentary form and hit us only with the facts. Although there is also a documentary about this story on Netflix, I was more intrigued to see this adaptation of the podcast due to the brilliant cast involved.
Based on truth, Dirty John is a thrilling story that combines a crime heightened with abuse, manipulation, and betrayal, with a central family drama about courage, trust, and the strength of a family bond. The family relationships are explored remarkably well as the series explores how one’s desires can cause you to act in the strangest ways and of how easy it is to be blind-sighted by someone so seemingly caring.
Most of all, it is the casting for this series that will grab your attention and ultimately keep you watching. Connie Britton is perfectly cast as the strong but vulnerable Debra who is torn between her family and her husband, unable to come to terms with the truth that her daughters are desperate for her to see. Eric Bana is great, too. I haven’t seen him anything in a while so to see him cast as someone so dark and manipulative was a real surprise. He plays the character incredibly well, making me instantly change my thinking of him as a rom-com heartthrob to a disturbing evil genius.
The performances from Juno Temple and Julia Garner are equally phenomenal. I’ve always been a fan of Temple so I’m always happy to see her involved, but I haven’t seen anything from Garner before so I will certainly be looking out for her from now on after the amazing performance she gives in this.
Whilst it is the talented cast and the curiosity of the premise that will tempt you into watching this series, it is the shocking revelations of the true story that will keep you engaged. It does slow down in the middle of the series as the story is stretched out quite noticeably, but it quickly picks up again with the final few episodes and is most definitely worth keeping up with.