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'Dirty John' Recap: She Learned It By Watching Rick Grimes!

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 14, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 14, 2019 |


As someone who specifically avoided the Dirty John podcast or any other sources on the real-life events that take place on the Bravo series so that I could review the series on its own, I actually found myself surprised by the death of John Meehan. The opening episode portended violence, but I never expected that it would be perpetuated against John, and I was even more surprised to learn that it was Terra — an almost tertiary character — who killed John.

Of all the terrible outcomes I envisioned from the nightmare scenario in play on Dirty John, this actually ended up being one of the best possible results. I hate to call the real-life death of anyone “satisfying,” but getting a knife in the eye is fitting … and incredibly satisfying, because f**k John Meehan. Honestly, someone’s death seemed inevitable, and I’m just glad it wasn’t Debra or Terra or Veronica who ended up on the other side of that knife. One of those outcomes is what I was expecting at the end of Dirty John, because more often than not, it’s the real-life outcome.

It’s also very strange to watch the finale of Dirty John on the same week that I watched Netflix’s You, and in many ways, it puts into perspective how disconcerting (though admittedly compelling) You is while also highlighting how close to real-to-life You can be. No one, however, is rooting for John, or finds him weirdly attractive, or secretly wants to bang him, and it’s not like Eric Bana is a downgrade from Penn Badgley. Both shows have an addictive quality about them, but at least the one based on reality sees the stalker for who he is (and provides a more satisfying conclusion, since a second season of Dirty John is obviously out of the question). There’s nothing “sexy” about a dude who stalks you into a relationship and tries to murder you when you attempt to extricate yourself from it.

As a stand-alone episode of television, however, maybe the finale of Dirty John is not quite as successful. The episode plays like the chase-and-fight sequence at the end of a movie drawn out into an hour-long episode. With John’s whereabouts unknown, Debra decides to say f**k it and go on with her life, understanding that she may be forced to confront John at some point, though she seems oddly unconcerned. Even Terra’s level of fear seems to be at a low-level — she has plans to attend a concert out of town, before she’s attacked by John. Only Veronica truly seems to appreciate the danger for what it is — life-threatening. She spends much of the episode with an Uber driver first trying to track John down and then standing guard in front of Terra’s apartment in case John comes by. The lack of concern both Debra and Terra have is confounding, especially given the nature of Debra’s sister’s death. Like, “my sister was murdered by her insanely jealous husband, and there’s an active stalker out there trying to kill me, but let’s order pizza from Angelina’s!” I would never buy a gun, but if I were Debra Newell, I would have totally bought a gun.

The dramatic conclusion finally arrives when John confronts Terra in a parking lot, and somehow, she manages not only to survive a knife attack but to turn the knife on John and kill him. On the show, she attributes her ability to defend herself against John to skills she picked up from watching zombie apocalypse shows, but the specific reality is that she attributed her fighting techniques to watching The Walking Dead. SHE LEARNED IT BY WATCHING RICK!

I am so glad that it worked out for Terra. I am so glad that Debra and Veronica survived that ordeal. But, FYI: If a murderous stalker is following you around, please don’t rely on knife-wielding skills you picked up on a fictional AMC series to save you. If you have enough money to live in a beautiful apartment despite working at a dog wash, and if you have enough money that you can keep $80,000 or $90,000 lying around in a bag “just in case,” for God’s sake, hire some protection.

The last 15 minutes of Dirty John felt vaguely perfunctory, although one may be able to chalk that up to reality. Debra begged off on pulling the plug on brain-dead John, leaving that responsibility to John’s sister, who also stopped in to see Terra and deliver some platitudes. Debra indifferently cremated John’s body, and then expressed some reservations about online dating. Terra — who is cleared of any charges — feels a level of PTSD over the incident, but that’s nothing looking at the crime-scene photos can’t fix? Finally, Debra calls the L.A. Times reporter to tell him that she’d like to share her story, which sets off the chain of events that leads to the very television show we were watching last night. The snake, in the end, finally eats its tail.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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