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  • Too many episodes... They made 10 "ok" episodes instead of making four really good episodes that had just enough coverage and length.. Instead, it kind of drags on and doesn't really grab me as much due to the repetitiveness of it. It's still pretty good, mainly due to the large collection of recorded calls, but it could have benefited from more brevity.
  • There is a lot of good footage, audio recordings, and interviews that help tell the story. The subject matter is fairly interesting, and I do think it's a story worth telling. The problem is that it's disorganized and could use a heavy edit.

    Like so many modern docuseries, this feels stretched. The time jumps are odd, and often the scenes feel random and disjointed. You can watch a scene and be left to wonder, "So when did that happen?" because it will be following some footage from 2005 or a phone call recording from 2010. It still works, sort of, but you know it could be so much better if they dropped the fluff and told the story in a direct way.
  • It's a solid good story but it would have been best to tell it in a more dynamic way in 90 minutes or 2 hours max. The desire to turn this into 9 episodes Is poor storytelling and just makes it unbearable to watch after the third episode.
  • As usual, too many people on here are leaving ratings based on a.) how interesting the source material is, or b.) their personal feelings about the cult and people who participated in it. Those feelings are valid, but not really what IMDB is for. Instead, I prefer to focus on the quality of the documentary itself and HOW the story is delivered.

    The subject matter of this show could not be more interesting, and I was already quite familiar with many details thanks to some longform articles I've read over the past few years. So I had a decent idea of what to expect. As for the documentary itself, I have to say I'm quite disappointed so far. Yes, the cinematography is beautiful, and it feels very polished. But that doesn't really make up for some of the glaring flaws.

    First of all, I found the editing to be confusing at first. We jump between timelines (the years when Mark was in the cult and everyone was "happy" vs the present day when everyone is freaking out) without any kind of text to let us know what year the footage is in. I picked up on these shifts by the end of the first episode, but I still found that a little strange. That's a minor issue though, I could overlook it if that was the only problem.

    However, I'm starting to pick up an issues that seem to plague 95% of the 'docuseries' of recent years: it feels like the story is artificially stretched out just to make it fill up a 9 hour series. Episode 1 was boring, but 2 and 3 had much more exciting content. Unfortunately, we've now begun to stagnate. The stories in Episode 4 probably could have been told with just as much detail in 20 minutes flat. Instead, in order to bloat it into an hour, we're left with a lot of repetition and re-stating things we already know from previous episodes, or sometimes even from earlier in the same episode. It's already getting kind of boring hearing women talk about how they were mesmerized by Keith and then lured in by that... there's only so many times we can state the obvious. We know that's how he operates. Let's move on. I really hope the next few episodes don't drag on as badly as Episode 4 did, but I have a feeling that this is a sign of things to come. I don't see how there's 5 hours left of this.
  • bogus-bogus-one8 September 2020
    Painfully slow to watch due to all the repetition and "filler" scenes. I'm convinced that the series should edited down to two or three episodes at most. It's is definitely an interesting topic so my advice.. record everything, fast forward as needed.
  • While the series has plenty of recorded phonecalls, recordings and interviews with people who were involved with - and since escaped - the organisation, the series lack of proper pacing trips it up. There is no straight timeline being followed, but instead it steadily introduces more people and might then go back to previous events we have already seen because these newly introduced figures were also involved in that. This leads to topics switching quite randomly. As such the series might struggle to hold your attention past your innate interest in seeing where things go in the end. In conclusion the series seem to portray events accurately enough, however it meanders too much and doesn't have a defined 'thread' you can follow that will keep you in suspense. I would put this slightly above average 6 episodes in.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is precisely how skilled manipulators groom their victims- they'll prey on your weaknesses, pump you full of confidence to rip it out from under you, tell you you're special/outstanding then do a 180 and proclaim you to be stupid/weak/a follower.

    I believe Salzman was the brains and Raniere was the 'beauty' and together they worked to manipulate thousands of people into coughing up millions of dollars- and let's be completely honest-artists/actors/film makers/basically anyone in the Hollywood machine is, at least on some level, a narcissist always in search of praise and affirmation. This scheme fit so perfectly into their doubts and needs that it was likely created with specifically this type of victim in mind.

    I'm particularly stunned that literally NO ONE in this group ever bothered to get beyond themselves enough to notice that there's not a single member that's even remotely overweight, at least decently pleasing to the eye, and ALL have access to decent amounts of cash. How does that completely escape your purvey?

    If a group is supposedly so intent on changing the world/helping others, why does it not begin with those in our society most in need of a hand up? For a group so based in the principals of'a better world', the only world they seem intent on changing is their own little orbit.

    It's a sad and not all together too surprising of a series that shows you exactly how easily some can be manipulated; one key ingredient is the complete and total lack of empathy for anyone other than their own social network. There's a reason that it takes a particular mindset to be pulled into this type of manipulation in the first place, and Raniere and Salzman knew precisely whom to prey upon. With an extensive background into neural linguistics, Nancy was very skilled at pulling the strings with precisely the right context, and I have no doubt she held Keith's hand to teach him her methods.

    I hope all these neurotic sociopaths rot in prison-but given that it's really considered 'white collar' I doubt anyone other than Raniere sees any significant time in a cell.
  • As Episodes 1 of "The Vow" (2020 release; 9 episodes of about 60 min. each) opens, we get to know Keith Raniere, who talks about "optimizing people's experience and behavior". We go to "2017" as a guy named Mark confesses that"I was afraid to be attacked if I left the organization", and then the shocking headline as we go to "2019" where Keith Raniere is convicted of sex trafficking. We then go back in time as we get to know Sarah, who meets Mark on a cruise and they hit it off, big time. Mark convinces Sarah to take the organization's (called NXIVM) initiation program (called Executive Success Program). Sarah is skeptical at first but soon finds herself fully on board... At this point we are 10 min. into Episode 1.

    Couple of comments: I must admit that I had never heard of this organization, and that the dead-giveaway in the opening scenes of Episode 1 that its leader was convicted last year of sex trafficking made me sit up and take notice. Based on Episode 1, which mostly explores the "teachings" of NXIVM, this to me sounds like another cult organization, not unlike, say, the Church of Scientology. People are brainwashed and/or convince themselves into believing things that sound like utter rubbish to me (of course about "bringing out the best in themselves", etc.). No signs whatsoever so far about any darker side of things, although the preview of Episode 2 makes clear it's not going to be long before we get to that. How does an entire cult buy into this? That is the $64,000 question which we will explore in future episodes for sure. This new documentary series is directed by the long-time (husband and wife) documentarian team of Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim ("Control Room", "The Square"), and once again they deliver what looks to be a fascinating view behind the curtains, in this case of a cult-like organization.

    "The Vow" premiered this past weekend on HBO and Episode 1 is now available on HBO On Demand and other streaming services. New episodes air Sunday evenings at 10 pm Eastern. Can't wait to catch future episodes. If you have an interest in the inner workings of cult-like organizations, I'd readily suggest you check this out, and draw your own conclusion.

    *UPDATE 8/31/30* Episode 2 confirms all the good things and, yes, also scary things about Episode 1. We are now really taking a deep dive into the "high control group" (a/k/a the cult) that is NXIVM, as we learn new terms like "emotion stretching exercise". Yea, you can't make this up! Episode 2 is also where we learn what "the vow" (the title of this documentary series) actually refers to/stands for. No worries, I won't spoil. Just watch...

    *UPDATE 9/7/20* Episode 3 takes a deep dive into Sarah's trajectory within the NXIVM cult, and how her close relationship with Lauren may impact Sarah's marriage. We are now knee-deep into the cult side of things and things are getting "weirder and weirderer". I can only imagine how the remaining 6 episodes are going to play out. This is now officially must-see TV (for me anyway).

    *UPDATE 11/1/20* Just as "The Vow" came to a conclusion in early October, another NXIVM documentary mini-series debuted on STARZ called "Seduced: Into the NXIVM Cult", directed by Emmy-nominated Cecilia Peck. It focuses far more onto the personal experienced on India Oxenberg, who became a slave in the "DOS" system of NXIVM. While some of this is of course covered in "The Vow", "Seduced" goes into far greater details of the human trafficking that went on within NXIVM , and one has to wonder why "The Vow" only covers it vaguely.
  • I'm not sure we got enough footage of Mark pondering his life choices in a rainy window. They dragged out every pointless detail only to gloss over the interesting stuff at the end.
  • hgcampbell875 December 2020
    Way to long, very disorganized. Felt very repetitive
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Good grief, they made this series so tedious and long. This could easily have been a tight docu series in 4 episodes. Instead you have the same points being repeated over and over and over again with each episode.

    How many times do we have to see and be told that Keith Raniere loves Volleyball and is sleeping with multiple women? They also keep going over the selling points of the cult as if you didn't see that in the last few episodes and you have to sit through yet another recruitment video of the cult.

    This is a horrible story and so many people were brainwashed and abused but it's hard to stay focused on the tragedy of the story being told when you wait one week for a new episode teeming with "filler" repeated stories and points.

    Still I am glad that Keith Raniere got 120 years in jail. Justice was done. But this story could have been told in a few episodes.
  • The first 3 episodes are good, fascinating at times, and then of course disturbing as the camera lens focuses on the way NXVIM preys on women. And the hook is then set. And the viewer wants a resolution, and to know how the perpetrators are brought to justice, and how the victims find some peace, Not so fast. Because now begins then endless filler, and extraneous interviews and factoids. It just goes and goes and goes. The same points are made repeatedly by the same people, and then again by other people. I've never spend so much times watching people in a a documentary sitting at their laptops, or talking on the phone with each other. But the documentary producers seem so proud that they actually have film of the people at both ends of these numerous and interminable phone calls, that they feel the need to show us all of the people talking on the call. You'll be so bored you might start crying. And you'll only stop when it ends. This should be 4 or 5 episodes, tops. It's 9.
  • horst6927 September 2020
    I give it a 1/10 , but I enjoy watching it .

    Well, it's really terrible as a documentary . It's draaaaaawn out , as others have mentioned .

    It's not a documentary either, it's a group of people pretending to be completely innocent of some sort of cult shenanigans, a cult they were leading members of . Their pretended regret of course being the redeeming virtue .

    Basically you are watching somewhat wealthy good people being very sensitive , and other somewhat wealthy bad people being very sensitive as well . None of them a very bright , but take themselves very seriously .

    Then of course there is a villain, the cult leader, who has an odd body shape, with elbows that bend back too far, and who appears to have some kind of sexual fetish . Which really is the point when you run a cult, but the poor guy seems to have to work really hard to get there .

    It's all a bit of a blur, and should be watched like Reality TV or a hot dog eating contest .

    I just keep wondering how all of those people can afford very nice houses .
  • jmaxwell25 October 2020
    I've had it. I can't watch another episode of these entitled rich white people doing absolutely nothing but driving around and talking on the phone.

    I tried -- really I did -- but in episode 7 when they spent time showing Catherine Oxenberg using a juicer I just turned it off and read the NXIVM Wikipedia page: so much more information there than what this show has revealed. No disrespect to Catherine: I hope she gets her daughter back, but I just don't feel like wasting another minute of my life on this show.

    As far as cults go, I give it 10 stars in terms of how diabolical and fascinating it is; but the show about it is awful and only deserves 1 star (if even that). In terms of documentaries,"The Jinx" is the gold standard by which all other documentaries should be compared.
  • If any of our millennial reviewers (in residence) believe that the people who got caught in NXIVM's web are stupid or simply bourgeois people in need of a hobby-think again! Either some of the viewers have been asleep for the past ten years (NXIVM was all over the media and the subject of a year-long podcast about a year ago) or so, or simply have the empathy of a Social Media Influencer. However the first episode shows NXIVM in a light that is mostly benign that anyone judging (as WASPy really??) the participants has to be mean spirited or uneducated.

    What happens after? A mix of Scientology-like mentality and sex trafficking coupled with manipulation that can make any so-called logical (cult-proof) individuals fall into a trap like 'The Vow' so, very inadvertently. Unfortunately so many of us "smart" people are only a sliver...a weakness away from losing all critical thinking. Brace yourself!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As they explain in Esquire "It's a 9-part true-crime deep dive on the origin and downfall of NXIVM, the cult founded by Keith Raniere, who served as the group's spiritual guru and leader." Being that it's a true story, and not fiction, I find it fascinating to understand how people are swept up in a cult. How they entice people in by playing on certain emotions and then these people, sadly, are stuck in a situation that is not always easy to escape. Reminds me of Jeffrey Epstein luring in vulnerable, young girls, with what seemed to them like an innocent job opportunity, and with some of them he waits to get them on his private island and then rapes them repeatedly. How do they escape from the island? They're at his mercy. It's always obvious to those who can recognize what's going on from the outside, but from the inside, it's hard for them to see the truth, or understand how they're being manipulated, and find their way out.
  • jreeders51823 September 2020
    They really dragged out this documentary. This entire story could have been told in 6 installments. Makes one wonder what was the purpose behind making last this long. The past two installments were almost identical in content and the viewer is listening to phone calls ad-nauseam.
  • This is so tedious. Ridiculously drawn out. Watch if you like narcissists discussing how they were drawn into an organization due to them being needy and not getting enough attention from their chose professions and people around them. Give them what they want more attention. This documentary is truly awful. Disorganized. unsympathetic and uninteresting people who I could not care less about after hearing their "story". The fact this is so long and drawn out shows how important mark thinks he is. He might have left the org by still a full narcissist.
  • Been following the developments of this cult for a long time, so I was psyched when this finally came out. Suspenseful, emotional, and jaw-dropping footage. Why do these egomaniac men insist on being taped so much!?

    Anyway, the editing: WOW. I feel like the low-star reviewers simply don't get the point. The editing is done in such a way to suck you into the ideology of the group, at least that's what I got out of it. I've read about the group, listened to podcasts about it, researched what was actually going down... Basically, I was totally aware of all the cult-like ideology and illegal stuff going on in the background. I KNEW this group was bad news when I began the documentary, but after the first episode I thought, "wow, the way they talk and teach seems legit. It seems like a thing that would help EVERYONE who sought them out". AND THAT IS THE POINT! If someone who already knew the end of the story going into the documentary can think, "hmmm, I feel like I could use some of that info to help me in my own life"... then it's absolutely logical for people who have no idea what it's all actually about to get in as deep as they did. It's amazing the whistle blowers were able to see the truth at all.

    I love it! I even love the visuals with all the text. SO GOOD!
  • acrotinger20 October 2020
    This has to be the most drawn out story ever told. In nine episodes, I've learned less than a quick search online could have told me. Mark and others involved should have taken a step back so someone not involved could examine the materials provided and get to the real meat of the story. The entire docuseries is truly a waste of time.

    Do not watch this expecting to find out exactly what Keith did. Do not watch this expecting answers. Do not watch this expecting to know who to root for and against.

    Mark, Sarah, and other members higher up in NXIVM knew what was going on for a while before finally stepping up and calling Keith out.

    Maybe all of the unanswered questions and important information will be available in season 2 which was just confirmed three days ago as of this review.
  • This documentary is very biased. None of the former members are ever actually challenged to explain why they participated in the systemic emotional and financial abuse of others. These victims went on to victimize others. But they focus solely on their own pain and never exam the consequences' their actions had for others.

    Also I dont at all trust the Sarah or Keith's story or motives. They both serve as good examples of extreme narcissism.
  • I went into this show excited because I live documentaries and was fascinated by the subject matter.

    The first couple of episodes were fine, but then as the show's continued they just dragged on. I have fallen asleep twice now watching episodes. It becomes tedious to watch.

    This coupled with the fact that the former cult members are all so darn unlikeable with their smugness and piousness. You'd think after you fell for a cult program, you'd be a little more humbled.

    I don't recommend this show, unless you're looking for a cure for your insomnia.
  • fordfanatic46021 October 2020
    This documentary follows around a bunch of rich people who all got sucked into a ridiculous cult. Every episode is the rich people hanging out complaining to each other about the drama they created for themselves by following such an obvious shmuck. Its incredibly boring. Every episode they repeat the same thing. Go somewhere, get together, for a plan to take down the organization, tell stories about what they went through. Its just pure trash. I hated the cult leader but i think watching this doc made me hate the maker of the film and the other followers even more. I would have stopped after watching one or two episodes but my wife keeps watching..... kill me
  • How did HBO greenlight 9 episodes of the same stuff? Easily could have been done in one 2 hour special (and the content wouldn't have been very shocking).

    Just don't watch, such a waste of time.
  • Didn't impressed me much.I think story could be told in better way. Some episodes are have a lot facts,some repetitive. It looks undone. Like pie from oven that still raw in middle.People in movie so egoistic. I wouldn't be surprised that they used opportunity to tell story just for their promotion.
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