Watch The Vow
- 2 Seasons
The Vow is an engrossing 9-part HBO documentary series that chronicles the experiences of former members of the organization known as NXIVM or Executive Success Programs (ESP), which was founded by Keith Raniere in 1998. The series uses firsthand accounts and footage to explore the inner workings of the secretive and controversial organization, as well as the challenges faced by those who sought to leave.
The series is largely told through the perspectives of former NXIVM members Sarah Edmondson and Mark Vicente, who were both high-ranking members within the organization, and Bonnie Piesse, a former member who was involved in various aspects of NXIVM but was not as in-depth. Sarah and Mark provide viewers with insight into the inner workings of this organization and provide their accounts of being part of the organization for over a decade.
The first few episodes of the series delve into the self-help teachings that NXIVM espouses, which include ideas about personal growth, self-discovery, and empowerment, and were initially attractive to many members. However, soon viewers learn that beneath this facade of self-help techniques, the organization was a well-structured and well-funded marketing scheme that used high-pressure sales tactics to recruit new members.
The filmmakers take a deep dive into the world of NXIVM, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at meetings, activities, and classes attended by members. Through interviews with former members and experts outside the organisation, viewers are given a comprehensive understanding of how deeply the organisationâs tentacles spread, and the intricacies of its hierarchy. Viewers witness the grooming of potential new recruits, the secret "cult-like" rituals, and the use of "collateral" as a form of insurance to prevent members from leaving.
It is clear as the narrative proceeds that NXIVM became a toxic organization that exploited its members for personal and financial gain. The series shows that Keith Raniere, the self-proclaimed âVanguardâ of the organization, wielded immense power and often acted with impunity, emotionally and psychologically manipulating his followers to serve and please him at all times.
The core message of The Vow is a reminder of why it's important never to overlook the risks of what appears to be innocuous self-improvement programs. This chilling exposÃ© of a once-innovative personal development and leadership cult avoids sensationalism as it navigates the complex motivations of its members and leaders. Itâs a tale of how many people can fall under the spell of a charismatic figure and become victimized.
As the series progresses, a clearer picture of the sinister side of the organization emerges, with the culminating episodes focusing on the group's alleged involvement in illegal activities ranging from trafficking to blackmail, and eventually Raniere and other former leadership being charged in Federal court. Throughout the series, the filmmakers successfully capture the emotional trauma suffered by former members, who are still grappling with the aftermath of their experiences with NXIVM.
Overall, The Vow is a thought-provoking series that highlights the dangers of individuals abdicating their power to a charismatic leader and serves as a reminder to viewers to protect themselves from such entrapment. The series provides an eye-opening insight into just how vulnerable people can be when navigating life decisions, and the emotional and financial consequences that often come with unequal balances of power. It is a riveting and thought-provoking series that is well worth watching.
The Vow is a series that is currently running and has 2 seasons (15 episodes). The series first aired on August 23, 2020.