HBO’s The Vow has been comically terrible. It took a really interesting subject—the existence of the multi-level marketing scheme-turned-sex-cult NXIVM—and clearly had no idea how to tell the story. There’s a loose thread about defectors trying to bring down NXIVM, but at no point have directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer found a larger theme or thoughtful subtext to build upon. Instead, they seemed to have played into their subject’s worst, most narcissistic tendencies to fashion themselves as rebellious heroes, thus repeating the self-actualization garbage that brought them into NXIVM in the first place.
But hate-watching is still watching, so HBO has greenlit a second season of the docuseries, which is set to air in 2021. Per the press release:
Set against the backdrop of the federal trial of The United States against Keith Raniere, THE VOW Part Two will offer an exclusive view into Raniere’s innermost circle. It delves into the stories of NXIVM’s top leadership in the US and Mexico, and into powerful, intimate stories of DOS members. Part Two follows the legal and emotional journeys of the group’s founders, supporters and defectors as new evidence and stunning revelations come to light while federal prosecutors and defense attorneys battle for opposing views of justice in a case caught in the national spotlight.
If “Part One” tells us anything, it will be a scattershot mess that gets caught up in a cycle of people who were abused by Reniere and his inner circle without really explaining what that says about humanity, cults, or really anything beyond the laconic fortune-cookie wisdom of this volleyball-loving weirdo and his grifter pals.
The most frustrating aspect of The Vow has been how the filmmakers have wasted an interesting story and cobbled together a vast amount of footage into a shapeless, meandering mess that has no momentum whatsoever. There’s not much reason to believe they’ll fix it with season two.