Dirty John continues to frustrate in “Red Flags and Parades” with its overly annoying characters and cringe-inducing dialogue.
This recap of Dirty John Episode 2, “Red Flags and Parades,” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The second installment of Dirty John is called “Red Flags and Parades,” and if that is any indication, if we can spot the red flags miles away, why can’t the characters begin with? Yes, it is based on a true story, but that doesn’t make the complaint any less true. They could have also called it just Red Herrings.
The episode starts with Debbie (Connie Britton) and John (Eric Bana) coming home and inexplicably finding a homeless woman in their bedroom. She is wet from head to toe, with long dark hair practically covering her face like she stepped out of the television from the movie The Ring and began speaking bits of gibberish until a sentence finally forms: “You’re so pretty.” As she corners her in the closet, Debbie calls for John, who then grabs her by the neck, throws her on the bed, and tells Debbie to call 911.
Debbie is distraught, so John suggests they add cameras to the home so that they can feel safe, inside and out. Apparently, it has nothing to do with the $80,000-$90,000 Debbie keeps in a Gucci bag under her bed, you know, to have for emergencies (more money, more problems, right?). Nor is she concerned, more surprised than anything, that her new husband’s patients are mostly uninsured, so they pay him with cash (and he now would like for her to deposit it into her bank account for him, you know because banks don’t like to open accounts for doctors). They eventually install the cameras in the home and even her business, and her employee Nancy (Gilmore Girls‘ Keiko Agena) shows her how to access it from her phone.
Meanwhile, Debbie’s adult daughters still don’t trust John and have difficulty accepting him as he intrudes into their privileged world. When John wasn’t there, their Mom would take them out wherever they wanted to go, buy them anything they fancied (so many purses, her oldest needs a safe to keep them, well, safe), and allowed them to borrow the Maserati anytime they wish. In the pilot, John tries to convince their mother that the kids are intruding on their lives and need some much-needed discipline. Things haven’t changed, so Veronica (Juno Temple) goes shopping for private investigators and comes across a no-nonsense one (Scrubs’ Judy Reyes, always a welcome addition) who wants to charge her $3,000 for her services. After planting a tracker on John’s car at the family’s Christmas Eve dinner, Veronica later sells her most prized purse to a local store to help pay for the investigation.
Debbie finally comes around and finds some of John’s behaviors odd, even frightening, if that wasn’t enough. He goes through her phone, corners her about who was texting her, then blames his jealous ways in part on his family line being directly responsible for Murder Incorporated (apparently, that might make her feel better?). He appears to emotionally abuse Debbie’s favorite nephew (Kevin Zegers, of Air Bud film series fame) by claiming ignorance over family tragedies and later violently ripping a letter from Debbie’s hand that was mailed from the department of corrections.
All of that is nothing compared to what her family finds out. It turns out John, who was telling them he was a soldier in Iraq, was never stationed there. In fact, he was living in the middle of nowhere in a desert in a mobile home at the time. Why would John lie about being a medic and soldier in the armed forces? Speaking of being a medic, they find out John doesn’t have a medical license either, so where does he go every day when he leaves the house with scrubs? Where is the money coming from that he basically wants his new bride to launder in her private bank account? Debbie doesn’t know any of this yet, but she is so concerned about the letter he ripped out of her hands; she goes through John’s drawer and finds stacks of papers sent to him charging him with crimes like stalking, with several restraining orders. Why are these women charging John with these crimes (even more head-scratching, why would he keep these in an unlocked drawer for anyone to find, but series’ like these don’t ask us to be logical), and why hasn’t John told her about them?
Dirty John is now settling into its Lifetime movie vibes, which is good news. It asks Eric Bana to pick up the creepy behavior and abandon the charming act that plagued the pilot episode. The overtly over-the-top bratty daughters are more eye-roll-inducing than offering comic relief, which has me questioning if the writing is the issue or the actor’s portrayal in the show. The addition of veteran television actors like Smart, Agena, Reyes, and Zegers are welcome and help the show rise to the level of Britton (where the first episode suffered from her performance being clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the cast).
Now that Dirty John is entering its sensationalized format, the series can settle nicely for fans of the genre (think Eric McCormick’s television film Who Is Clark Rockefeller or John Stamos’s The Two Mister Kissel’s). This is basically a very long Lifetime genre film, so I don’t expect things to improve, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying some indulgent television. I’ll keep pointing out the flaws of its poorly-outlined plot, the cringe-worthy dialogue, and the disingenuous character reactions in the hopes it gets better. It’s how I show my love.