It’s difficult to find anyone to wholeheartedly like in Bravo’s Dirty John. Debra Newell might be the show’s stunning leading lady, complete with the inherent likability of portrayer Connie Britton, yet she also returns to her con-man husband, the titular Dirty John (Eric Bana). Debbie is deeply frustrating. Her youngest daughter, Terra (Ozark’s Julia Garner), is sweet, but might be accused of being too emotional, too ready to coddle her mother’s alarming romantic behavior. As we see in Sunday night’s “Lord High Executioner,” it’s Terra who lets Debbie go to the family brunch she’s eventually tossed out of over her relationship with John. And then there’s Eric Bana’s John Meehan himself, a dangerous criminal whose violent behavior only becomes more erratic throughout Dirty John.
With a cast of characters like this, who should you actually like? The answer is Debbie’s oldest daughter Veronica Newell (Juno Temple). Ronnie is the Real Housewives-ready firecracker in the middle of a sea of depressing or maddening Californians — just look at “High Executioner” for proof.
Veronica has two standout moments in the latest installment of Dirty John. The first arrives when Terra stops by her older sister’s place of business. We get to see how Ronnie’s Type-A-style dogged focus — the kind of fixation that alienates her from her love-drunk mother throughout the series — works in a professional setting: she’s a hyper-competent wonder to behold. This level of capability leads to one of “Executioner’s” few genuinely hilarious moments.
When Veronica’s boss offers Terra a job if she’s even “half” as good as Veronica at sales and logistics, the older Newell sister cannot let such a comparison stand. “No she isn’t. She’s not… as good,” an anxious-but-proud Veronica says, turning towards her little sister. “It’s true.” In one moment, Ronnie isn’t just Debra Newell’s most critical daughter, she’s Erika Jayne during Pantygate, she’s Sonja Morgan during her simmering Tinsley Mortimer feud, she’s Stassi Schroeder all the time.
The same comparisons stand when Terra asks why Ronnie is “mad” at her. “I’m not,” Veronica responds before quietly adding, “…yet.”
In a far more serious portion of “Executioner,” the older Newell sister continues her air of affronted Housewives HBIC. When Debra shows up for that previously mentioned family brunch, a stone-faced Ronnie greets her. “What are you doing here, mom?” Veronica asks with a blank poker face. “You weren’t invited.” It’s impossible not to think of Bethenny Frankel’s reaction to seeing Ramona Singer anywhere. As Debra tries to ignore the fact that she has returned to a dangerous man capable of killing her, it’s only Veronica who lays out why everyone is so upset.
“Aren’t you talking to him? Are you seeing him? Are you paying for him? Are you defending him?” she asks, reiterating her points from a previous conversation with her sister. Both Terra and Debra want to pretend the latter hasn't returned to her relationship with John. Ronnie’s evidence proves that’s a lie.
And that is ultimately why Ronnie deserves your respect: She’s been right about John since the first minute of Dirty John.
Unfortunately this fact leads to one of John’s most upsetting schemes of the series. When Debra comes home to John from the catastrophe brunch, he creates a revenge plot against his least favorite stepchild. Towards the end of “Executioner,” Ronnie’s boss informs of her a new problem. Someone has been calling the office “constantly” and leaving upsettingly sexual messages for Ronnie. Plus, a lot of one-star reviews mentioning Ronnie have started popping up on the internet. Until Veronica makes them stop, she can’t come back to the job she is so obviously good at. John isn’t only slowly ruining Debbie’s life, she’s also infecting her children’s worlds as well.
Although John is obviously hell-bent on ruining Veronica's life, the Stassis and Bethennys of Bravo have proven she'll still probably come out on top.