TV-14’s “Bad Behind Bars: Jodi Arias” (2023) is the newest crime thriller by Rama Rau and tells the story of the conviction of Jodi Arias, a woman in her late 20s suspected of killing her boyfriend. It is based on real incidents and deals with the actual case filed against Jodi in a court of law. The film features Celina Sinden in the role of Jodi Arias, the infamous murderer with psychopathic tendencies who has been imprisoned after being arrested under suspicion of having murdered Travis Alexander, her boyfriend, in cold blood. It is a telling tale of how appearances can be deceiving, as Donavan Bering realizes the same after being used as a pawn in Jodi’s game. The film begins with Donavan’s polygraph examination, where she narrates her experiences with Jodi, beginning from the time she first encountered her in prison. Through her narration, we are introduced to the gradual revelation of Jodi’s character, her manipulative nature, and her need for control. Starring Celina Sinden, Tricia Black, Elias Edraki, Adesola Adesina, and Lynn Rafferty, the movie is a psychological dissection of what constitutes the motivations of a killer, vividly documenting the accounts of those whose lives were almost destroyed owing to the manipulation of Jodi Arias.
Jodi Arias: The Facade Of Innocence
As Donavan begins narrating her account, she refers to Jodi as the ‘devil’ herself, but the reason behind such a definition can only be understood after observing her testimony in totality. She recollects her life in prison before Jodi arrived, reminiscing about the small pleasurable moments she shared with her girlfriend, Tracy Brown, and how they dreamt of a life together when they were no longer within the confines of a jail cell. From the moment Jodi entered the prison, it became almost all about her. At first, she appeared as an innocent young girl with slim chances of survival in the harsh prison environment and was made to share a cell with Tracy, who, being a strongly territorial person, did not initially like her. But Jodi, switching on all her charm, won her over in a matter of days. She used her wit and ‘innocence’ to garner sympathy from Tracy and Donavan, and in no time she gained their trust and protection. Tracy nicknamed her ‘Songbird,’ owing to her sweet singing voice and charming personality, which holds quite an ironic significance on account of Donavan’s later description of her as the ‘devil’ who lulled them all into her malevolent trance. As the days went by, Jodi started inserting herself even more into the lives of the other inmates, helping strangers with their problems, designing tattoos for Tracy, and paying flattering compliments to Donavan. She even resorted to sleeping with a few prison guards to garner favors from them. Slowly but steadily, the trio of Jodi, Donavan, and Tracy grew inseparable, with Jodi adamantly trying to con the two into believing that she was wrongfully convicted.
Things begin to rattle as Donavan’s sentence is reduced and Tracy is put in solitary confinement for being romantically involved with a fellow inmate. Donavan wants herself to be put in solitary, to stay close to her lover, but Jodi acts out in the fear of losing her only protection within the prison ward and states that she would never forgive Donavan if she left her to fend for herself in the midst of all the other violent criminals. Despite her guilt, Donavan chooses to push herself into solitary because she feared she wouldn’t be able to see Tracy for a long time as her release date had been announced and Tracy would have to remain in prison for a few more years. But Jodi, cunning as she was, did not give up, convincing Donavan, trusting as she was, to speak on her behalf once she was released. Thus, she accomplished the first step of her ingenious plan to install a mouthpiece for herself in the world outside the prison.
By the time Donavan is released, Jodi has become nationally recognized as a murderer, owing to her public interviews and the grisly nature of her crime. But she maintains regular contact with Donavan, getting her to do all her bidding in the outside world, from running a social media account to clean up her image and rallying all her other outside ‘friends’ to her aid to defending her on national television. In the meantime, everyone close to Donavan warns her not to aid a murderer, including her family, who cut all ties with her after she refuses to end her support for Jodi. In the meantime, Tracy is transferred to a different prison to live out the rest of her sentence, where she is subjected to continuous harassment by the guards after they discover a tattoo on Tracy’s ankle carrying the signature of Jodi Arias. They regularly raid her cell to find any evidence linking her to Jodi, taking away her belongings and even confiscating the only picture of Donavan that she had in her cell. Unable to put up with the torment, Tracy attempts suicide using prison narcotics and is sent to the infirmary. Post this incident, Tracy urges Donavan to end her ties with Jodi, but by this time, she has already become too involved in her attempts to defend Jodi and continues to rally support for her cause, despite being hated for it.
The Trial: Why She Did What She Did?
Right before the trial of Jodi Arias, Donavan gets in touch with Jodi’s parents, who are regularly tormented by the public. Jodi’s father himself hints at her true nature once he admits that he is aware of the type of person Jodi really is but cannot bring himself to abandon her out of love. Once the trial begins, all facades start crumbling like a house of cards, as evidence is produced in court proving the depths of Jodi’s malevolence. On the first day of the trial, Jodi’s lawyer begins her statement by admitting that Jodi did, in fact, kill Travis but asks the jury to take into consideration the reason why she did it. Donavan, present in the courtroom, is overcome with shock and disbelief as all her faith has gone down the pipes, proving everything that she stood for, for so long, was all a lie. A game designed by Jodi to use her trust to garner sympathy from the public and help with her case. Disillusionment seeps in as, throughout the trial, Jodi systematically wrecks the lives of both her parents by painting them as abusive and controlling, when in fact, Jodi herself had previously told Donavan of her picturesque childhood and her pleasant upbringing. Jodi even tries to coax Donavan into publishing a false article on social media stating that Travis was a pedophile , but when she refuses to do so and shuts down her social media platform, Jodi resorts to dangerous ploys to get her back on her side, threatening her life by using one of her outside contacts to break into her house and physically harm her.
Donavan, now convinced of her insidious nature, vows to withdraw all her help for Jodi but decides to stand beside her parents, whom she had accepted as her own. Photographs of Jodi’s crime are presented in court, depicting the gory nature of her act, and the court rules against Jodi, sentencing her to life imprisonment, having found her guilty of first-degree murder. The evidence showed that she had shot and stabbed Travis multiple times before slitting his throat, which she had previously claimed was in self-defense. But the crime scene had been tampered with before the authorities arrived on the scene, and there were no signs of struggle on the part of the victim, clearly indicating a planned process. All the cold lies combined with the testimonies of Travis’ friends, who had warned him of Jodi’s viciously controlling and vengeful nature, in the end, point to a rather malignant motive behind Jodi’s act, rather than it being merely a crime of passion.