How ‘The Walking Dead’ Played A Pivotal Role In The Real-Life Conclusion To Bravo’s ‘Dirty John’


Spoilers for the finale of Bravo’s Dirty John

The finale to Bravo’s eight-part miniseries Dirty John starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana aired this week. The series itself is based on John Meehan, a stalker who scammed his way into a marriage with Debra Newell and then terrorized her and her family when she broke it off, following a pattern of abuse he had inflicted on an ex-wife, previous ex-girlfriends, and even family members. The nightmarish ordeal with Debra Newell, however, ended differently in one very important respect: John Meehan was killed by Debra Newell’s daughter, Terra Newell, in an act of self defense after he attacked her with a knife in a parking lot.

On the Bravo series itself, Terra (Ozark’s Julie Garner) attributes her ability to fend off her attacker, take away the knife, and stab him multiple times (including through the eye) to watching zombie shows. “A shot to the head, or a stab to the head, and you kill the zombie … I’ve had dreams of this moment, but I never thought it would happen. I just thought if there were ever a zombie apocalypse, I’d know what to do … [it was] kill or be killed.”

In reality — as the real-life Terra Newell relayed on the L.A. Times Dirty John podcast — Terra attributed her fighting skills to The Walking Dead, specifically.


“She wasn’t a fighter, and had no background in the martial arts, though she studied television violence with uncommon intensity,” Chrisopher Goffard relayed on his Dirty John podcast.

The Walking Dead was a reservoir of survivor skills, like biting” Goffard continued. “As demonstrated in the season four finale when a character escapes a tight spot by opening a bad guy’s jugular with his teeth.”

“They got surrounded by this group of guys,” Terra Newell added. “And they were trying to harass and do other stuff to them, and Rick just bit off this guy’s neck … like, you pick up stuff from watching stuff, or hearing stuff. I’m more of a visual person, so how they hold the knife, I knew how to hold a knife automatically [from watching The Walking Dead].”

Newell said that she learned all of her fighting skills not from training, but from watching “The Walking Dead, Dexter, and all those CSI shows. A stab to the head, or a shot to the head, and you kill the zombie … you need to kill their brain.” Terra said that she absorbed from The Walking Dead a particular mindset: “Kill or be killed.”

In other words, The Walking Dead is not just the most popular show on cable, it also provides life-saving skills.

(Via The L.A. Times)