Whew. This one is a wild ride.
I remember hearing about NXIVM only when it was being brought down, and as actress Allison Mack (Smallville) was being arrested for sex trafficking. I had no idea who Keith Raniere was, or just how massive this weird, abusive sex cult was. The Vow follows a group of people who were deeply involved in NXIVM (pronounced Nexium), ready to tell their tale of how they got involved, and how they got out. I know some people had issues with the pacing of this series, and I tend to agree that the suspense building was played out for a little too long. However, it’s worth the wait.
Spoiler alert, Keith Raniere is a complete creep, sociopath, and abuser. If the knee pads weren’t a big enough red flag from the beginning (if you know, you know), the fact that he made others in the group refer to him as “Vanguard” should be enough for you to get the message. Raniere founded the multi-level marketing company based in Albany, New York in the late 1990’s, and that’s all the background you need to know about this creep. Raniere and his partners recruited vulnerable people looking for success and to move forward in their careers; think small documentary film producers and aspiring writers and actors. Once recruited into “executive success programs,” new leaders would then ultimately recruit, coach, and mentor others. And then it all gets real dark and weird from there, real fast.
Without too many spoilers, once we move past the intense coaching on reversing fears, late night volleyball games, and ceremonies with ugly sashes being passed about, we are lead down the rabbit hole of hidden side of the group; the trafficking, secret society, and sexual slavery. I really admire the ex-members of this group who banded together to bring Raniere, Mack, and other leaders and abusers to light. This series was released at the perfect time- right around its finale, Raniere was *spoiler alert* sentenced to life in prison for sex trafficking, human trafficking, and racketeering. If you’re interested, you can read more about NXIVM here. This series is worth the HBO subscription, or, get a free trial and binge it! I believe the series is being renewed for a second season as well. Trigger warnings for sexual abuse.