‘The Vow Part Two’ assessment: HBO turns to the Nxivm and Keith Raniere trial in docu-sequel
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The weird and salacious nature of “The Vow,” with its intensely detailed take a look at the Nxivm cult, made the docuseries an comprehensible sensation, a lot in order that HBO got here again for extra. While “The Vow Part Two” offers viewers a front-row seat of the federal trial towards founder Keith Raniere, it’s a extra fragmented train that feels unduly stretched over six elements.
As with the unique 2020 manufacturing, this one attracts upon a treasure trove of audio and video materials shot by Nxivm members who fastidiously documented its inside workings, even when the leaders have been counseling them to not share info outdoors the room. Despite Nxivm’s obsession with loyalty, it’s an excellent reminder that what occurs in Vegas seldom stays there.
This second version additionally options not solely intensive entry to these beforehand interviewed who broke freed from Raniere’s affect however different key figures, comparable to Nxivm co-founder Nancy Salzman, who provides appreciable perception into the way in which Raniere was in a position to manipulate these concerned. That extends to his inside circle, amongst them “Smallville” co-star Allison Mack, who pressured her “slaves” to have intercourse with him.
“Allison is a sufferer who was despatched out to do one thing that she believed was good as a result of she believed Keith was good,” Salzman explains. “And that’s how he did it.”
The trial will get lined from all sides, with entry to each Raniere’s protection legal professional, Marc Agnifilo, and prosecutor Moira Penza, in addition to third-party observers like New York Post reporter Emily Saul. When missing video, director Jehane Noujaim employs animation to assist illustrate these segments, which doesn’t really feel misplaced based mostly on the surreal nature of what transpired.
Understanding the NXIVM case (2019)
There are, once more, gorgeous and chilling moments, together with textual content messages through which Raniere insists that he wants “a vow of absolute obedience.” When a feminine member expresses reluctance concerning the apply of branding herself, as many inside the group did, he texts again, “Don’t you need to burn for me?”
A way of queasiness additionally surrounds the interviews with these members who nonetheless profess their fealty to Raniere, conjuring alibis for his actions and Nxivm’s apply of leveraging “collateral” to exert dominance over its adherents. That checklist consists of Nicki Clyne, who co-starred in “Battlestar Galactica,” including to the story’s already Hollywood-heavy part.
Nevertheless, “The Vow Part Two” would have been higher off devoting a pair episodes particularly to the trial and concluding with the verdicts; as a substitute, the later episodes detour into recent materials about Raniere’s manipulation of two households, earlier than a protracted 90-minute finale that, post-trial, shifts to these nonetheless supporting their incarcerated chief, unwilling – or unable – to let go of the misguided sense of group Nxivm supplied them.
Warts and all, the totality of “The Vow,” together with the sooner episodes, makes for pretty intoxicating viewing. Media protection couldn’t get sufficient of the “intercourse cult” angle, as Agnifilo suggests, however that shouldn’t obscure the cautionary story about how Raniere tapped into insecurities, inspiring the form of loyalty and complicity from followers that may make criminality troublesome to show.
As a TV present, although, “The Vow Part Two” conveys a narrower lesson, one which Nxivm’s founders would have been properly suggested to heed as properly: Recognizing when to stop earlier than the partitions in your hole facade come tumbling down.
“The Vow Part Two” premieres October 17 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like USA Prime Time, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.