“The Vow” developed as a creepily potent hit docuseries in late summer 2020, which grew viral as it aired. The documentary series succeeded when it presented likable characters in situations that the typical viewer probably could not fathom.
The series delved deep into the little-understood “self-help group”-turned-cult NXIVM to analyze the hold leader Keith Raniere held over his followers. How had these ladies allowed the situation to become so out of hand that they agreed to be branded, to starve themselves, or to voluntarily pass over potentially blackmailing materials? “The Vow” provided no definitive solutions, but its questioning was precise and exhaustive.
Almost too comprehensive, perhaps: The new sequel, “The Vow, Part Two,” is three episodes shorter and has a narrower emphasis, which improves its storyline.
Director Jehane Noujaim analyses the legal ramifications for Raniere, who was charged with crimes including sex trafficking and conspiracy in a 2019 trial.
The trial of Raniere reveals additional information regarding NXIVM practices and elicits evidence before Noujaim’s camera from sources like as co-founder Nancy Salzman and several fervent Raniere supporters. As a narrative, this version of “The Vow” is crisper and clearer than the original; as a psychological picture, few recent nonfiction works match its accuracy.
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Because of her flaws as an anti-Raniere messenger, Salzman emerges as the most compelling witness in this series. Salzman can appear uncomfortably eager to share her truth on-camera as if endless disclosure of her perspective would exonerate her; among her frustrations is that Raniere’s predations with the internal cabal “DOS” within NXIVM have overshadowed the good work the larger group did with its self-help curriculum, which may not be as tragic to viewers.
In contrast to a group whose core methods of deprivation and impersonal brutality appear to be anything but, all of this lends the impression of a person who is profoundly and fallibly human, existing in vibrant opposition to a group whose core methods of deprivation and impersonal brutality appear to be anything but.
We also spend considerable time with other Raniere defenders, including Michele Hatchette (with whom I, in the interest of disclosure, was friendly when we attended the same high school in the early 2000s, and with whom I had a brief conversation about a self-help group with which she was involved after a chance meeting in 2014).
Hatchette and Nicki Clyne are here to argue Raniere’s innocence and demonstrate his effectiveness: Both use a form of skilled ambiguity to deflect the most widely held, consensus opinions about NXIVM cruelty: At one point, Clyne adds, “Sex was not the emphasis of anything.” “Mankind is so fascinated with sex. It was also a bunch of walkers. It was also a group that met for coffee.”
People are infatuated with sex because, unlike coffee dates, it can be weaponized; yet, those closest to the core of NXIVM may have viewed a weapon as a tool. (We later encounter women whose self-described experience with NXIVM was more marked by abuse than by walking to get lattes.) Among the extremely powerful undercurrents of “The Vow, Part Two” is the truth’s mutability, which not only shifts subtly depending on perspective but inverts drastically.
One believes that for Hatchette and Clyne, the line of argument presented by Raniere’s defense attorney, that labeling women branded by NXIVM “victims” are antifeminist, is sincere. (This attorney is shown assuring a hesitant Megyn Kelly of NBC News that “when guys get branded, they become Marines.” Salzman, despite having her eyes opened to certain aspects of Raniere’s crimes, believes that other NXIVM tactics helped ease the symptoms of Tourette syndrome, despite a disclaimer at the beginning of one program stating otherwise.
Overall, this series improves upon and expands upon the franchise’s previous achievements, while also standing out. There is no shortage of documentaries with a caustic or cynical take on their subjects; “LuLaRich” from 2021, about a multi-level marketing scheme, is a prime example.
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Even when capturing people whose vision and ambitions are in opposition to those of the documentary, there is compassion and level of thought at work; a moment in which Raniere’s defenders dance outside the jail where he is being held is shot with a tender-hearted wonder rather than sarcasm.
The initial tragedy of NXIVM, probably the first of many, was the damage it caused to the women it damaged, malnourished, and separated from themselves. The subsequent, more difficult narrative is of the women who fondly recollect it.
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What happened to Season 2 of the vow?
As a courtroom documentary, Season 2 failed, but as a psychological study of Raniere’s second-in-command, it was a success. The sixth and last episode of The Vow Part Two, titled “Crime and Punishment,” completed the season’s development of the overall picture.
Will The Vow return for a third season?
HBO has not yet announced whether The Vow will return for a third season. However, if there are further stories to tell, the odds tend to favor renewal. The first two seasons of The Vow performed well. The former had a 72 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, while the latter received a 70 percent rating.
Is it worthwhile to watch The Vow?
Vow, which was based on a true story, was an excellent romantic comedy with some memorable scenes and a good storyline to keep you engaged throughout.