Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Series Premiere Review: An Ugly Marriage

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If you've ever wondered if things have changed for women in the last 40 years or so, watching Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story might give you answers.

Then again, it could just be that nothing about Betty and Dan Broderick ever meshed, and that's why their marriage ended nastily and with one of them dead.

Honestly, after watching Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 1 and Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 2, it's hard to tell if one or both of them were completely bonkers.

Annoyed Betty - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 1

And since Dan wasn't really around to share his side of this sordid tale, it's also kind of hard to know what to believe. Yes, even this early in the story, it seems like a "he said/she said" story that leaves nobody looking very good.

Even worse, the way the episodes themselves didn't make a great impression, either.

On the premiere, we caught up with the Brodericks well after their unhappy ending left them in separate houses and battling over custody of their four children.

Snappy dresser Betty seemed to think that various divorce proceedings couldn't happen without her, and Dan believed he was above the law and could like to Betty about pesky things like court dates.

I know you think if you don't play, you can't lose, Betty. But you can. You're losing already.

Bob

Amanda Peet as Betty Broderick - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 1

We're to believe Dan is incredibly shrewd and at the top of his game as a malpractice attorney because of his smarts.

Instead, he's portrayed as cruel in both episodes. And if he's so smart, why didn't he read Betty a little better? Shouldn't he have stopped poking the bear if he wanted to, you know, live?

Dan dangled emotional carrots in front of Betty's face, and she jumped at them. Then he'd pull the carrot away, leaving Betty utterly defeated.

I'm a woman getting divorced in America. I have no rights. I'm an obstruction. I am! A judge said so.

Betty

Taking into consideration all of the events of both episodes, Betty was a pretty normal young woman despite having stern parents. Dan saw her and set out to win her over. Then, once he had her, he turned her life on its head by denying her the life she had been accustomed to living.

It's Poetic - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 2

He dangled the carrot of his success out there for her to grab and yanked it away on their wedding night. He did a lot of yanking and a lot of dangling, too. Why Betty didn't want to divorce him is a great question.

Betty: We'll have to leave the room for a little while, won't we? Not to be in the way of housekeeping?
Dan: Ah, they're not coming. I told the desk not to send them. We're married now. We want to be alone.
Betty: What? You want to sleep in an unmade bed?
Dan: Why would I have to? You can make a bed.

Dan wanted his wife barefoot and pregnant without much money, doing what she could to keep the family growing and prosperous, but he wanted to do whatever he wanted, however he wanted, in the meantime.

It was gross, that kind of life, especially since the fun and caring man he was before they married wasn't who Dan ever intended to be after they married. Dan was a man who enjoyed the game, and once he won, he changed the rules.

Woo the girl, win the girl, toss the girl aside but keep her close enough that you can take advantage.

Young and In Love - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 2

Pursue the medical degree, get the medical degree (and three handmade coats when the family was practically impoverished), and toss aside the degree for another degree.

Image inspires confidence; confidence breeds success. I just wish success brought a love in your work. But, I guess success is its own reward.

Dan

Watching their relationship gave me whiplash, and I have to wonder if that's why the episodes were delivered so haphazardly from one timeline to another to another and back and forth until I was dizzy.

If that was intended to emulate the way Betty must have felt with Dan, then good job! What they didn't manage to convey was why Betty didn't toss his butt to the curb.

Sure, he eventually offered a comfortable life for them, and she couldn't stop sharing with her friends that financially, she was pleased as punch.

First Night Jitters - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 2

But if that were true, then Amanda Peet wouldn't have portrayed Betty as so damned disappointed. Peet lit up Betty's face with a brilliant smile that was devoid of happiness and full of pain.

And on any other show about a woman who killed her husband, that husband might have been portrayed with some sympathy. But there was very little of that here.

It's like a cautionary tale from both directions. Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it -- and what you see is not always what you get.

From what we've seen so far, their entire life was an illusion.

Betty Checks Her Hair - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 1

Peet is exceptional as Betty, and she makes her a lot more sympathetic than she is probably supposed to be.

So far, Christian Slater hasn't done the same for Dan. He delivers those smarmy looks Dan has in the courtroom and as he feigns disinterest in Betty's suggestion that she get her tubes tied since he won't use birth control.

Kudos to Chris Mason as the younger Dan, as his voice affectations mimic Slater's so well that I considered Slater had dubbed the part. With the amount of screentime Mason gets, he's doing a better Slater than Slater himself.

This is an ugly story about very pretty people, and if we've seen this much so early in the event series, what awaits us as the season continues?

Turning Point - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 2

And does anybody else think it's weird to have the "Dirty John" designation in the title?

These are, after all, event series. Nobody knew what a Dirty John was until the show aired, and Betty Broderick isn't a Dirty John in the same sense as Dan, at least not in the way they're portraying the story so far.

I've known about this story for what seems like my entire life. I'm interested in finding out of this is an honest portrayal of the events as they happened or if, by the end, we'll have a different view of Betty and Dan.

If you take into account how everyone around Betty and Dan are portrayed, it seems almost cartoonish.

Comical Friends - Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 1

It's a little crass for a story that ended with a destroyed family and two people dead to be so colorful, but there is almost a whimsical element here that's a little hard to swallow.

Betty: Divorce is the closest most people will come to war in their lives. And that is what war is, who controls who. If you don't control them, they control you. I never hated him, you know. I hate what he did, but I don't hate him. Maybe inside I still think he'll see reality for what it is. But what are you doing to do? I can't make him do that. I can't make him wake up.
Detective: You can't because he's dead, isn't that right?
Betty: Yes, no, that's right.
Detective: You gave us a statement. Do you remember doing that?
Betty: I do, I know. I just. I think I just, I. I'm amazed it only took one bullet to kill Dan Broderick.

Right now, based solely on the events in the first two episodes, I understand how Betty felt driven to such a desperate place. If she's the Dirty John in this scenario, that seems counter to how I should feel.

What about you? Where do you stand on Betty and Dan after the two premiere episodes?

Is there anything you would have done differently to tell their story?

Will you be back for more in the coming weeks? Hit the comments to chat about it!

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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Season 1 Episode 2 Quotes

Betty: We'll have to leave the room for a little while, won't we? Not to be in the way of housekeeping?
Dan: Ah, they're not coming. I told the desk not to send them. We're married now. We want to be alone.
Betty: What? You want to sleep in an unmade bed?
Dan: Why would I have to? You can make a bed.

Image inspires confidence; confidence breeds success. I just wish success brought a love in your work. But, I guess success is its own reward.

Dan