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Monday, December 24, 2018

Dirty John 1.5: John's Family

Other than a trenchant scene in which Ronnie (again) tells Debra off about John - which (of course) leads her to get even closer to John - episode 1.5 focuses on John's upbringing, by way of his father, who is as much a sociopath and swindler as John.

First of all, you couldn't ask for a better actor to play John's father than Shea Whigham.  Tina and I just saw him in Homecoming, where he was equally effective.  And of course he was unforgettable as Nucky's brother Eli in Boardwalk Empire.  The thing is, he plays radically different characters in each of these series, and brings home his character with searing, understated style in each of them.

In Dirty John, he's interested in earning money - by doing such things, for example, as getting his son John to eat a little glass in a restaurant, so he can extort some money from the owner.   John learns the hard way how he can play on people's vulnerabilities to not just to make money, but improve his position in this world.

Given what his father has done to him - not in terms of his school of hard knocks education, but in terms of the hardness of the knocks - it's not completely surprising that John puts his father out of his misery when he's already in bad shape in the hospital.  But this also shows that John has gone beyond his father in depravity - as far as we have seen, his father wasn't a killer.   And John has taken his father's advice to go after the families of people who oppose him to the level of threatening his own sister.

Debra doesn't (yet) know about John's murderous propensities, but how on Earth can she start taking him back, in view of what she indeed does already know about him? We got part of the story last week - she inherited her mother's insanely deep well of forgiveness - but there's something else that's deeply not quite right about Debra.

Again, I have no idea how this story turned out in reality, but I'm keenly interested in seeing how it turns out in this bizarre and compelling little series.

See also: Dirty John 1.1: Hunter and Hunted ... Dirty John 1.2: Motives and Plans ... Dirty John 1.4: The Forgiveness Gene


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