Dirty John Season 2 shows the mental effects gaslighting has

DIRTY JOHN -- "Marriage Encounter" Episode 203 -- Pictured: Christian Slater as Dan Broderick -- (Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network)
DIRTY JOHN -- "Marriage Encounter" Episode 203 -- Pictured: Christian Slater as Dan Broderick -- (Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network) /

Dirty John Season 2 gave us a slow descent into paranoia

If there’s one thing we can all agree with watching Dirty John Season 2, it’s that Dan Broderick was a horrible man. And I don’t rate Linda all that highly since she would have known Dan was married. But Episode 4 gives us more than just a few reasons to hate Dan even more.

The episode focused on his gaslighting. We open with a psychologist explaining what gaslighting is and what it does to a victim. That victim in the story is Betty, who is sure that her husband is having an affair. Plenty of signs point to it, but he keeps brushing her off.

For everything she accuses him of, Dan has some sort of answer to it. It’s Betty who looks like the crazy, jealous, insecure wife. Her actions start to spiral out of control, making it look like she’s the one who is dangerous and in the wrong.

Of course, her actions are in the wrong. But she can’t really be blamed for her mental state.

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Gaslighting leads to paranoia and poor mental state

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Something Dirty John is showing is us why Betty was driven to the actions that she took. The first few episodes opened with us seeing events that we’d heard about. Betty drove her car into the house. She needed restraining orders against her. She killed both her ex-husband and his new wife.

All these are facts. And in the first episode, she is calm as she tells her story. It’s like she no longer cares, but is it really that she’s had a break?

That’s something we’re getting to see as we learn more about Betty and Dan’s life before the divorce. We see how Betty gave up everything for Dan. She sacrificed her career and her life for the sake of her husband. And sure, that’s a common story, especially back then, but Dan never once appreciated it except for his own selfish, narcissistic reasons.

It was Episode 4 that gave us a reason for what look to be the actions of a madwoman. This isn’t just someone who doesn’t want to divorce her husband. It’s someone who has been left broken and mentally abused. Dan’s gaslighting has broken her spirit, making her paranoid about everything.

When there are simple explanations, she’s left feeling ridiculous for her paranoia. Her friends spend more time trying to convince her that Dan’s having an affair instead of actually paying attention to her. After all, they don’t really care. The one friend who does is seeing signs that Dan isn’t having an affair, but isn’t listening to the bigger picture; isn’t hearing the full truth.

At one point, Dan tells her that she’s imagining it all. She’s left feeling ridiculous, but that feeling of him having an affair doesn’t leave her. Deep down, she knows he’s a terrible man. She just needs to figure out the truth, but it’s not easy when your mental health takes a dive.

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Dirty John Season 2 airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on USA.