• Network: HBO
  • Series Premiere Date: Aug 23, 2020
Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 15 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 15
  2. Negative: 0 out of 15

Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Kristen Baldwin
    Aug 19, 2020
    91
    What’s so chilling about The Vow — HBO’s immersive new docuseries about NXIVM, the New York-based “self-help group” brought down by charges of sexual slavery — is how vividly it illustrates the seductive and insidious ways these groups lure intelligent, well-meaning people into servitude.
  2. Reviewed by: Maureen Ryan
    Aug 23, 2020
    90
    Ultimately, The Vow is an impressive and even transfixing achievement.
  3. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    Aug 21, 2020
    90
    A stunning expose of the self-improvement group NXIVM and its downfall.
  4. Reviewed by: Melanie McFarland
    Aug 24, 2020
    80
    Noujaim and Amer could have led "The Vow" with these lurid details. Instead they choose the staider route of depicting how innocent and legitimate this enterprise seemed to its participants – many of them intelligent, driven people attracted to Raniere's and Salzman's illusion of combined genius. Ultimately this approach makes "The Vow" more fascinating and horrifying because it persuasively argues that anyone can fall for influence techniques, including the smartest of us.
  5. Reviewed by: Joel Keller
    Aug 24, 2020
    80
    The fact that Raniere took what could be seen as a calculated, logical, scientific approach to his program fascinates us even more. When you hear him talk, he sounds less like a motivational speaker and more like a college professor or a wonky tech CEO. ... The Vow benefits from access to people like Vicente and Edmondson, plus lots of footage from various NXIVM organizational videos, meetings, and other insightful stuff.
  6. Reviewed by: Adrian Horton
    Aug 21, 2020
    80
    As a portrait of manipulation and, in particular, the masking of female abuse through self-effacement, the series is darkly compelling, unnerving in a way that’s hard to shake.
  7. Reviewed by: Jen Chaney
    Aug 21, 2020
    80
    The measured pacing and focus on NXIVM exposition makes The Vow drag occasionally in its initial episodes. But as this multilayered saga unfolds, that approach becomes an asset.
  8. Reviewed by: Inkoo Kang
    Aug 19, 2020
    80
    The generous peppering of insider NXIVM videos throughout The Vow renders the dorky, soft-spoken Raniere, who appears not to have participated in the documentary, a thoroughly unimpressive figure, while providing visual relief from the many talking-head interviews. Overall, the production is handsome and well-structured, with new episodes unearthing new layers of viciousness and manipulation.
  9. Reviewed by: Daniel D'Addario
    Aug 18, 2020
    80
    “The Vow” pushes back against its slack pace to become television that compels — both for the access it has and for what it does with that access. ... This series, in its methodical nature, attempts to restage Edmondson’s own coming into consciousness, and that it largely succeeds is an impressive feat of bearing witness.
  10. Reviewed by: Katie Rife
    Aug 21, 2020
    75
    The filmmakers have an immense treasure trove of footage to draw from, but only a few defectors willing to be interviewed on camera. At times, the whiplash between the banality of the source material and the extreme nature of the allegations is striking. ... One thing The Vow does well is break down the techniques of emotional abuse Raniere and his inner circle used to manipulate lower-ranking members, so we understand why they stuck around—if not why they were devoted to this man in particular.
  11. Reviewed by: Judy Berman
    Aug 25, 2020
    70
    A humane and engrossing, if occasionally frustrating, HBO docuseries from filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
  12. Reviewed by: Kaitlin Thomas
    Aug 21, 2020
    70
    No one ever thinks they'll become the victim of a cult or be brainwashed, but The Vow reveals just how easily it can be done when someone knows how to do it, and that is almost as horrifying as anything else depicted in the documentary, which is saying a lot.
  13. Reviewed by: Kristen Lopez
    Aug 24, 2020
    58
    Once things ramp up “The Vow” becomes as fascinating as expected, but it’s unclear if an audience will stick around to see that assumption bear fruit.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Lawson
    Aug 21, 2020
    50
    It’s difficult to tell if the filmmaking is good or if the subject is just that interesting.
  15. Reviewed by: Brian Tallerico
    Aug 21, 2020
    50
    Nine hours of this story crosses from exhaustive to exhausting in “The Vow.” The amazing access to personal stories as they unfolded likely led directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer to err on the side of inclusion, but the repetitive, unedited nature of the series actually diminishes its intended impact. ... Still, there’s power in each episode of “The Vow,” even if it’s assembled in a manner than never completely worked for me.
User Score
6.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 8 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 8
  2. Negative: 1 out of 8
  1. Oct 19, 2020
    6
    Lots of rich material but about twice as long as it needed to be. In essence, it's a bunch of well-off, damaged white people with poorLots of rich material but about twice as long as it needed to be. In essence, it's a bunch of well-off, damaged white people with poor boundaries who allow a second-rate charlatan to manipulate them to horrific extremes. Oh, and one of the subjects filmed everything while it was happening, which certainly puts you right in the midst of the action, but it also comes across as self-indulgent navel-gazing. I'm not sure if a lot of the victims have good insight into why they were hornswoggled. But hey, I stuck around until the end, which is abrupt and incomplete compared to the excruciating marathon viewers had to endure. Full Review »
  2. Aug 30, 2020
    5
    I'm only two episodes in and I can see what other reviewers are talking about. Vincentes is also very sleazy, and comes off as someonewhoI'm only two episodes in and I can see what other reviewers are talking about. Vincentes is also very sleazy, and comes off as someonewho married the first woman who would talk to him. It reminds me of a slicker version of other cult docs with the same core group of people; actors or aspiring actors. Why do these people keep falling for these charlatans? I guess its their need for attention. Full Review »