The Vow is a HBO true crime documentary about the NXIVM sex cult and their leader, Keith Raniere. The documentary actually chronicles events as they unfold in real-time, in respect of the attempts of ex-NXIVM members to expose Raniere and bring him to justice.
The Vow follows the quest of these ex-cult members (viz. Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente, Catherine Oxenberg, Bonnie Piesse, Anthony Ames, Barbara Bouchey, Susan Dones, Toni Natalie, and Toni Zarattini) in some depth. There is attention given to the backgrounds of each ex-member and their history with Raniere/NXIVM, including their ultimate decision to leave the cult.
However, the documentary series seems to skirt around many issues regarding Raniere, holding back information to create drama and tension before revealing critical facts. Considering all the facts are in the public space, this approach seems as manipulative as Raniere is infamous for.
One gets the feeling that a lot of the meandering padding could have been stripped away to get to the core of NXIVM – Raniere himself. Strangely enough, Raniere seems like a peripheral character himself, appearing only in previously recorded videos. Also the creative decision not to examine Raniere’s character chronologically from the outset, deprived the narrative of much emotional resonance.
Presumably, the folks behind The Vow determined that there was a greater engaging story coming from the perspective of the victims rather than the predator and while I respect the creative choices, I personally feel that it made the series weaker and some passages of the narrative ponderous and boring.
Not only that, there is a feeling that The Vow is holding back on some critical aspects of the NXIVM story. Other important facts seem to have been suppressed for no good reason.
This is especially so when one realises that the story has not ended yet with the season finale actually promising to have Raniere himself on the record in Season 2. I found this utterly reprehensible on the part of the creators of The Vow. So now The Vow wants to give Raniere a platform for his toxic bullshit. Fuck no.
The Vow is a colossal waste of time. The NXIVM story is a cautionary tale that needed to have the biggest impact and not dragged out for commercial purposes. Avoid.
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