Dirty John: Betty Broderick Finale Recap: So This Is How It Ends

Photo: Courtesy of the USA Network.
Over the course of the past seven episodes, Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story has laid out two parallel narratives in its titular character's life. First, the indisputably true fact that on November 5, 1989 Betty Broderick (Amanda Peet) made the decision to enter the home of her ex-husband, Dan Broderick (Christian Slater) and his new wife, Linda (Rachel Keller), and murder them both as they slept. And second, that the events leading up to the murders — including gaslighting, emotional abuse, manipulation, and cruelty — pushed Betty over a ledge that she might not have otherwise crossed.
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The most important thing to remember about both of these stories is that they can both be true. "Perception is Reality" is the title of the Bravo-turned-USA Network series' second season finale, and the episode reminds viewers that, while the person culpable for murder is Betty, the external factors involved in her divorce affected how she perceived the situation, and how she ultimately reacted in the face of what she perceived as persecution.
The season began by jumping back and forth in time to different points in Betty and Dan's relationship, including the earliest days of their courtship and the most contentious legal battles. The later episodes were much more linear, and the finale culminated in Betty's two trials for Dan and Linda's murders (the first ended with a hung jury and the second with her conviction and 32 years-to-life sentence).
The episode begins with Betty testifying during her trial, and spending her free time replying to the many women who wrote her sympathetic letters in prison — they were watching on Court TV and understood the plight of a wronged woman faced with "no fault" divorce, especially when their spouse is a prominent figure in the community. Betty is at first touched by their letters, replying to many of them.
The trial ends with a hung jury, and several members give press interviews saying they believed Betty was provoked and abused and that's why they couldn't convict her of first-degree murder. But as the second trial begins, Betty's extremely confident that different jury won't convict her either. Her lawyer isn't as sure, and warns her that the prosecutor will surely mount a different offense this time. But Betty continues with her media onslaught, granting interview after interview to national and local publications. She also continues her unhinged behavior, leaving messages for her friends about helping her escape from jail (they're jokes, she says at the end — April Fools). Her sons come for a supervised visit, but they're silent and dejected (and accompanied by a lawyer and social worker).
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In the new trial, Betty's friends turn from the sympathetic and shocked observers who were shown testifying in the first trial to betrayed frenemies who were sick of her poor behavior. The prosecutor goes hard in presenting the events of Nov. 5, pointing out that after Betty shot Dan and Linda she tore the phone from the wall so they couldn't call for help. The DA also points out that although Betty had only apologized for her actions that day, she'd spent plenty of time giving interviews and writing to randos from jail.
And although some of Betty's friends wonder if her lawyer should focus on Betty's mental fitness (or lack thereof) at the time of the murders, he ultimately rejects that defense. Ultimately, as anyone who's read about the case knows, Betty is convicted by the second jury. Some jurors say publicly that they only convicted her because they thought the judge would give her a lenient sentence, but it doesn't matter — she's convicted of 32 years to life in prison.
Betty reminisces about the important moments in her life that led to this point, but ultimately she can't change what happened. Even in her conviction, it's not a cut and dry case. With a different judge, would she have received a lighter sentence? Did she deserve the punishment she got? No matter how you perceive Betty's case, she is guilty, and she's still in prison for her crimes today.
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