Dan Broderick manipulates Betty and the legal world so he can appear intelligent, prosperous, and entirely in control.
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode Three “Marriage Encounter” directed by Kat Chandler flashes between Dan at Harvard Law School and the Brodericks’ toward the end of their marriage just when Dan is opening his law practice. Betty Broderick becomes manic when Dan lies to her and rules the house with an iron fist. He never hits Betty, but he frequently demeans her. During the flashbacks to law school, Dan manipulates facts to appear better than his classmates while using a crutch that nobody else has at their disposal, his wife Betty.
The opening scene reveals that Dan Broderick believes that the law supports lying in order to win a legal argument. The first scene is a flashback to Dan back at Harvard attending a seminar. He explains Frazier v. Cupp, where the Supreme Court ruled that police are permitted to lie to defendants to get a confession without it being coercion. The professor questions if lying to defendants has ethical dilemmas, but Broderick pushes those concerns to the side. He believes that many people lie to achieve their opposing objectives. Broderick finishes his argument by stating that lying can be for the greater good. For Dan the greater good means the win.
Betty is always the tool, or the victim of Dan’s lies for the “greater good.” While in Law School during a library session with a group of fellow Harvard Law students, he bows out of a study group saying he became accustomed to studying alone during Medical School. One student questions how he could have the time to type up all of the cases on his own. Dan shrugs, and says he “makes the time”. Meanwhile, at home, Betty quizzes Dan on case law while taking care of two children. She types everything up while Dan dictates notes to her. Dan never mentions all the support he receives from Betty to his fellow students so that he can appear like a superhuman.
Tiera Skyovbuyeas (Young Betty) and Chris Mason (Young Dan) do a fantastic job maintaining character continuity with such experienced actors.
Dan’s obsession with perfection starts to affect his marriage. Betty falls out of Dan’s favor because she has her own opinions and knows too much about his past. The troubles begin to pop up when Betty talks openly to one of his colleagues about how they used to live on food stamps. Dan bites her head off for revealing that they were not always wealthy. He claims he doesn’t want to talk about their past poverty because he wants to remain mysterious, but I think he doesn’t want to appear weak. Poverty equals weakness to Dan, which is why he excessively dines at expensive restaurants and joins exclusive country clubs in San Diego.
Betty senses their marriage falling apart. Dan starts spending all of his time at home working, and no longer gives her any affection. She often confides to her best friend Yvonne. Yvonne’s husband, Martin, divorces her and gets engaged with a much younger woman. Betty feels that Martin violated Yvonne by getting engaged before their divorce was official. She promises Yvonne that none of their friends will attend the marriage ceremony. Betty is shocked when everybody, including Dan and all their friends, attend the wedding.
At that moment, Betty realizes that her marriage is not secure. In a panic, she asks Dan to go to Catholic marriage counseling. He agrees to go though he doesn’t take Catholicism or God seriously. At therapy, Dan says all the right things about trying to be a more present loving husband. But soon, the “real” Dan emerges through his actions.
Dan bullies Betty after realizing she can no longer be pacified with material goods and some kind words. Betty overhears her husband, talking about a beautiful woman. She learns that he is talking about Linda Kolkena the receptionist in the lobby where he works. Linda looks like a much younger version of Betty. Betty becomes neurotic, spying on the receptionist at her work.
Betty knows that Dan has lost interest in their marriage. He has feelings for this twenty-year-old “new model” who doesn’t know about his past financial struggles. Dan can be a mysterious, wealthy, and all-knowing man with Linda. Dan gaslights Betty by acting like her jealousy is ridiculous, then hires Linda as his clerk even though she has zero law training or even a college degree. Betty insists Dan fires her or find another place to sleep.
A couple of weeks after her ultimatum, Betty calls the law office to check if Linda has been fired. Linda answers the phone proving that Dan did not fire anybody. When Dan comes home, Betty yells at him to get out. Dan coldly tells her that she had the wrong impression of the situation. He pays for Betty’s whole lifestyle, including the home she lives in, so if anybody were going to be kicked out, it would be her. Dan betrays that he never saw Betty as a true partner or took her sacrifices seriously. In truth, Betty paid for that home through all the hours she spent working, caring for their children, and helping Dan study.
” Marriage Encounter” effectively cuts between Dan’s law school days and his interaction with fellow lawyers showing how he became this morally grey man. Dan appears charming to the rest of the world but coercively controls Betty through lies and verbal abuse. Editing between the past and present in the television show helps us understand Dan’s personality and the unloving nature of the Brodericks’ marriage. This show impressively depicts the way a husband abuse of his privilege drives his wife insane and ultimately leads to his demise.