Betty Broderick designs her life around being the ideal wife to Malpractice lawyer Dan Broderick. Betty turns deadly after the destruction of her “perfect” life.
Dirty John, the series created by Alexandra Cunningham, has moved from Bravo to the USA Network. The first two episodes of Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story ” No Fault” and “The Turtle and the Alligator ” premiered last night. The first episode, directed by Maggie Kiley, establishes the tumultuous post-marriage relationship between Betty Broderick (Amanda Peet) and Dan Broderick (Christian Slater). The second episode, ” The Turtle and the Alligator,” directed by Meera Menon, demonstrates what led to Betty Broderick’s identity being centered around her marriage.
The Betty Broderick Story is based on the real-life murder of Dan and Linda Broderick. I am too going to focus exclusively on this fictionalized version of the crime. I will only refer to the fictional characters of Betty and Dan rather than the real people. If you want to know more about real Betty Broderick, Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena Broderick listen to the podcast It Was Simple: The Betty Broderick Murders produced by the LA Times. There have been three episodes so far, which I have heard. I love the informative well-produced true-crime podcast. I am sorry for the families’ loss, especially the Broderick children who lost three parents.
Amanda Peet does a nuanced job playing an ambitious woman who falls apart during her divorce from the wealthy lawyer Dan Broderick. Peet shows the versatility in Betty’s personality through her emotional fluctuations between an elegant late ’80s housewife–the perfect host who does everything for her family–and the out of control soon to be ex-wife who purposefully crashes into Dan’s house with her car. Christian Slater performs brilliantly as the cold charming Dan Broderick, who uses his legal know-how to destroy his ex-wife. He has no compassion for the mother of his children, who helped him build his career.
“No Fault” centers on Betty Broderick refusing to participate in her divorce proceedings, which only hurts her in the long run. The episode starts with her refusal to sign her divorce papers because then her relationship with Dan would be over. In Betty’s mind, their marriage is still real if they are forced to have contact with one another even if it’s through lawyers. But of course, Broderick declining to negotiate with Dan in good faith only leads to more problems. Since Betty won’t even go to their court dates, her husband won’t pay for her divorce lawyer to incentivize her to go to the legal proceedings. She can barely afford a lawyer and wouldn’t pay anyway because she doesn’t want a divorce.
During the 1970s, when the ERA and the second- wave feminist movement sprung up, Betty bought into the idea that if she married a smart, intelligent man, her future as a wealthy woman was guaranteed. She followed all the rules “You don’t lie. You don’t cheat. You don’t steal.” She believed her marriage could never end.
After Dan sells their old home without her permission, Betty rams her car into the front of his new house. Betty’s actions are a dangerous overreaction, but this is the first time we see that the lawyer is part of the problem. Dan violently pulls Betty out of the car. Broderick has their daughter call the police as he holds Betty down. He tells the officer that he is a doctor even though he has not practiced for years. Dan tells the police she should be committed, without having the medical knowledge to diagnose her as clinically insane. Nobody deserves to be murdered, but we see how Dan helped create the “wife scorned” monster that Betty turned into during their divorce proceedings.
“The Turtle and the Alligator ” documents the early years of their marriage. The Young Betty Broderick (Tiera Skovbyveas) and Young Dan Broderick (Chris Mason) marry when he is still in medical school at Cornell University. Their honeymoon gives the perfect glimpse into the essence of their marriage. During breakfast, Dan tells Betty that he asked the hotel workers to provide them with privacy during their stay. Betty asks who will make their bed. He offhandedly states that she will make the bed since she is his wife.
Throughout the whole episode, Betty has to sacrifice her body and health to prop up Dan. Their agreement is Dan will work hard to become rich so they can have a lavish lifestyle, and Betty takes care of him. She works two jobs while pregnant to support him during medical school. The family (including two babies) goes without hot water so he can have two medical coats. Betty and the kids move to the Boston area so Dan can go to law school at Harvard since he doesn’t like being a doctor. Betty cannot have an abortion since Dan thinks it’s immoral. He promises to support her during her pregnancy with their third child, but instead, he goes on skiing trips to make professional connections for his future law career.
Dan makes sure that Betty’s whole life is centered around, making him happy. She does all the child-rearing and works multiple jobs until he becomes an associate at a law firm. During the first episode, Betty seems greedy for wanting more money, but she has worked as hard as Dan for his finical success. Without Betty paying for everything and acting as his cheerleader during two graduates schools, Dan would not be a top lawyer.
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story feels a little more down to earth than the first season. The show jumps around time to help the viewer understand Betty’s state of mind during the murders. Because of this non-linear structure and Peet’s naturalistic performance, Betty’s character becomes more human throughout the first two episodes.
The next eight episodes will further reveal why Betty Broderick killed Linda, and her ex-husband in the eyes of the television shows writers.