So far, Bravo's 'Dirty John' hasn't quite hit the horror notes of the real story, but after watching the third episode of the series one can only pray that they never have to be in Debra Newell's shoes. 'Remember It was Me' put the real back in the story based on true events thanks to Connie Britton, who has finally found the right nerve - and she's injecting a lot of fear into the story.
The last episode had already picked up a lot of pace in terms of the plot, but this one went deeper in John Meehan's life than ever before. This time, Debra finally sees John for who he really is. While she finds out about his criminal past, dotted with violence and gruesome encounters, the audience is told the story about his past. This episode uses a lot of flashbacks to let us know how he trapped his last wife, Toniya and manipulated his way into working as a nurse. It also connects to the first episode of the series where we saw Meehan potentially stealing drugs from a patient, making us realize that he had jumped onto Debra right after he got kicked out of the hospital.
Britton's character is almost relatable in the latest episode. While perhaps only a few of us would have had the misfortune of meeting and falling in love with a conman as dangerous as Meehan, every one of us have taken leaps of faith in relationships that have landed us in muddy puddles. You can sympathize with Britton's Newell and it is simply because of how toned down her melodrama has become.
Britton's Newell is an incredibly successful, 59-year-old interior designer who has everything going for her on the show. She's independent, has raised two beautiful girls and knows how to get the job done. However, none of these things seem to matter when the truth is revealed. Earlier in the show, all we saw was an aging woman, who is rich and stupid and refuses to use her brains, after being blinded by infatuation. 'Remember It was Me' brings out a certain fierceness to Newell that we had been dying to see. It's almost as though she's been shaken from a dream and has decided to be a gladiator, fighting her own battles.
Newell gets back with her family and flees the house. Being an interior designer, she packs up everything and leaves in her company van. She leaves John at the hospital, where he's supposed to be going through a surgery. She figures out that he's trying to steal her money and plays it cool the whole time. Although she's jumped back into action, she still doesn't know what to do or how to do it - all she knows is that she has to protect herself, her family and everything she's worked for.
Britton transforms Newell from a woman who looked tired all the time into a complex character with layers of vulnerability, strength and astounding courage that we never expected her to have. It is an absolute pleasure to see her knowingly getting conned - just so she can figure her way out. At this point in the story, she's smarter than Meehan and Britton makes us feel like she had been all along. Totally buying the fake laughs and greetings, Britton. Totally.
This is also the first time that this original scripted Bravo series has felt less like a reality show and more like a serious thriller drama. It has a lot to do with the fact that the show is now diving into the deep ends of what really happened and than focusing too much on the glitz and glamour, although it is finally making sense why they did it in the first place. While Eric Bana has been great as Meehan from the get-go, something tells us that this is about to become Connie Britton's show and we are here for it.
'Dirty John' airs every Sunday at 10/9c on Bravo.