Dirty John: Full Series
November 24, 2017 8:04 PM - Subscribe

A true story about seduction, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. From Wondery and the L.A. Times. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard.

Debra Newell is a successful interior designer. She meets John Meehan, a handsome man who seems to check all the boxes: attentive, available, just back from a year in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. But her family doesn’t like John, and they get entangled in an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival.
posted by soren_lorensen (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I downloaded a couple of episodes and listened to them while walking the dog...it's pretty riveting! I am only halfway through episode 2 but even so I know I will listen to the rest of the series. I thought it was quite well done and a really interesting story.

(Even if I hadn't known going in that there was something wrong with John, the fact that he claimed to be a "freelance anaesthesiologist" and wore medical scrubs all the time outside of work would have raised red flags for me, as it did for Debra's daughter Jacqueline.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:32 PM on November 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had very mixed feelings after bingeing this across a few days of commuting: although it was compulsive listening, it felt a little tawdry, a little exploitative, and a little shallow. Like for example: it clearly wants us to tut, roll our eyes, and swear out load at Debra's endless parade of second chances for John; but it never really digs in on being "a story of seduction". It never really casts much light on why and how he was able to manipulate and isolate her so effectively.

I also found the ad breaks very distracting; they felt a lot more frequent than other podcasts. And as the New Yorker review noted, not always in particularly good taste:
The tone of the podcast’s advertising made me cringe a little, too—for example, when the show veered from a description of a woman fearing for her life to a boisterous ad for ZipRecruiter. We also hear ads for a “monthly murder-mystery box” called Hunt a Killer, which sends you clues from a “serial killer.” “It’s up to you to piece them together and find the killer before he finds you,” the ad says. “See if you qualify by taking their murder quiz.” Oof.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:20 PM on November 26, 2017

Yeah, that Hunt a Killer thing was crazy and really tone deaf.

I enjoyed it but it's definitely more tawdry. And I also wanted more on the why and how, because he was fighting against a lot of family disapproval (except Debra's mom, if I remember correctly) and Debra seemed really close with her family.
posted by PussKillian at 2:25 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh my lord, who thought the Hunt a Killer ad was appropriate?!? Sheesh.

I have not gotten much further yet, but I am disappointed to hear that they don't delve further into why/how he was so able to worm his way into her life so easily.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:41 AM on December 1, 2017

That Hunt a Killer box crops up in the ads for all sorts of true crime podcasts. It's super weird.

Anyway, I think the answer to the why/how is in episode 4 about Debra's sister's murder and how the family reacted. She seems to have been raised in a very religious environment that valued extreme forgiveness almost to the point of infantalization or willful naivete. That episode was actually the most disturbing to me out of all of them. The mother of a woman murdered (premeditated! he had to borrow his buddy's gun to do it!) in a domestic violence situation testifying on behalf of the murderer is weird. The fact that Debra's daughters don't perpetuate this attitude (at least, not to the same extreme degree) is heartening, but Debra seems really still knee-deep in it.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:19 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just finished episode 4, and it was painful, but yeah, it explained so much. What strikes me is not just the forgiveness, but forgiving men for violent/abusive behavior against women. It reminds me of something I read about #metoo and the culture of forgiving men in the Evangelical community, and how some women feel like this tradition is being used to sweep things under the rug. This seems like an extreme example of that.

Agree that this is tawdry but gripping. It's like the podcast version of Dateline.
posted by lunasol at 6:35 PM on February 9, 2018

I'm about halfway through this podcast now. I am a mean and unforgiving person, but I kind of hope that Debra's kids never forgive her for bringing this horrible man into their lives. Good lord. She ignored so many ridiculous red flags and let him cut her children out of her life. Ugh.
posted by Aquifer at 7:11 AM on October 2, 2018

Has anyone else also seen the series?

I found it riveting and can't wait for the season finale.
posted by porpoise at 4:49 PM on January 12, 2019

The TV series was amazing. I never understood how women went with or stayed with this kind of man and now I kind of do. Connie Britton was incredible. All the acting was really good but her and Eric Bana were the standouts. Eye opening series.
posted by fshgrl at 2:36 PM on December 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's on Netflix right now.

The casting was so great, with cool cameos and small parts. Loved the Christina Ricci and Shea Wigham parts. I'm watching Alaska Daily and Jeff Perry is really redeeming himself from all my hatewatches of Nash Bridges. As far as the story goes, I thought it was exellent that while lurid, it really illustrated the tendency of the abused not to break contact in these situations. The ineffective law enforcement and civil processes were done well (as much as I hoped that they would finally help with the problem!).

One criticism was that the flash forwards and backwards were disorienting sometimes, and took a while to figure out what was what. There may be a couple of pieces that I'm still not sure where they fit, like they were left as exercises for the viewer.

The end was a bit bolted-on and maybe anticlimactic, but the aftermath of that was important stuff and they would have had to cut something important. Maybe his addiction scenes were a bit numerous and baroque, but they weren't in the beginning and that part gained steam as he lost it more and more.

It's been a while since a binge series has made me go "GAH!" at the end of an episode, which is a mark of quality in my book. I'm gonna take a few days and then start in on the second season. Peet! Slater! I have high hopes.
posted by rhizome at 2:15 AM on March 8, 2023

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