WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Businesswoman Debra Newell's life unravels when she falls for the lies and manipulation of con man John Meehan. Based on the true-crime podcast.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
This series is a fictionalised version of what happened in the original story and includes a few more details than the original podcast, but also changes some things and even completely fabricates them for the purposes of the story.
Connie Britton plays Debra Newell in this series and her performance is excellent. She conveys so well what many women feel when they know they have to leave, but can’t. She’s pulled in by John (played by Eric Bana) and believes all of his lies even though she finds insurmountable evidence to the fact that he’s not who he says he is and that he’s been doing this to many other women. Also she has the best heartbroken face. You really feel for her when she’s standing looking over at John as he tries to explain his lies and you can tell that she’s completely torn between the love of her family and the love of this man who has manipulated her life so completely that she cannot be without him.
Eric Bana is convincing as John, but while he plays his part well, he’s not as charming as his real-life counterpart was made out to be. Something just feels like it’s missing somehow. Not taking anything away from his acting chops, but the performance didn’t live up to my expectation of what John should have been.
Juno Temple as Veronica and Julia Garner as Terra did a great job as Debra’s children. You might find them annoying and spoilt, but then you begin to understand their viewpoint and why they fear for their mom and that even spoilt children can be right about some things. They get the 'valley girl' accent spot on which is quite a feat for Temple as she’s actually British. I struggled to like their characters at first because they seemed a bit over the top, but then realised that this is actually exactly how they’re supposed to be and once their characters get a bit more airtime you can see they have their hearts in the right place and are just trying to get Debra to see what’s really going on and extract her from John’s web of lies.
The show’s pacing feels a bit off as it establishes John as a bad guy quite quickly, but then starts to give his back story in bits and pieces in-between telling the current day events. There’s also the background story of what happened to Debra’s sister Cindi which feels a bit tacked on and doesn’t really explain much about Debra’s backstory or her reasons for not wanting guns around her although they try to do that (badly) when Veronica finds out John is a “gun guy” and you find out two episodes later what exactly that means and why it’s bad.
If you’re into true crime stories or anything about wronged women then watch this. It’s entertaining, but can also get quite dark so you might want to take a break halfway through and watch something a bit more light-hearted just so it doesn’t make you miserable.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: