The prevalence of political corruption provides an affluent criminal with a get-out-of-jail free card, and Netflix’s latest docuseries “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” compiles the most infamous and exonerated criminal chronicle of the last decade: Jeffrey Epstein’s 20-year history of child sexual abuse and human trafficking.
The docuseries recedes to the story’s deepest origins and impeccably constructs a truthful narrative, including the earliest victims and partaking journalists, that emphasizes the legal impunity provided by money, power and influence.
Formatted in the observational documentary style, the miniseries avoids voice-over narrating and assembles Epstein’s sexual abuse plot through sit-in interviews. It concentrates on the victims’ accounts while including those of detectives, journalists, lawyers and even former Epstein employees.
Watching consecutive sit-in interviews can become monotonous, so during them, the docuseries reproduces visual footage that illustrates the testimonies, successfully accentuating the dramatically horrid tone and submerging the viewer in the story. The docuseries includes wonderful drone footage of the areas and settings corresponding to the plot as well as original visuals, graphs and recorded evidence pertaining to the case. Delivered in an effective sound design, the sinister score, mainly composed with piano and cello sounds, heightens the tone and dramatizes transitions.
Chronologically navigating from victim to victim, the docuseries assembles Epstein’s history of sexual abuse and human trafficking, beginning in 1990s New York and continued in Florida, New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and various international hotspots until 2019. Epstein targeted economically vulnerable young women, promising them financed careers and studies. In Palm Beach, Epstein constructed a pyramid scheme of sexual abuse, luring in high school girls by promising them $200 for an alleged massage—that would turn into nonconsensual sex—and a $200 reward for recruiting new girls. The effect, as the docuseries shows, is a chain of hundreds, possibly thousands, of high-school-aged victims.
The docuseries advances from 1997 to Epstein’s arrest in 2019, compiling every instance of legal and media impunity that Epstein’s money bought him. From shutting down a Vanity Fair article featuring the testimonies of two victims to achieving an incredulous plea deal with then U.S Attorney Acosta, director Lisa Bryant spotlights the obscene power that allowed Epstein to silence his victims and remain practically exonerated for over two decades. More importantly, Bryant centers the progress of the narrative around the victims’ accounts and the efforts of the many lawyers, journalists and detectives that fought against all odds to vociferate and seek justice for them.
The docuseries often emphasizes the participating victims’ trauma more so than Epstein’s criminal history itself, as it is a story that cannot be told without the victims’ suffering. Their pain demonstrates the severity and cruelty of Epstein’s acts and allows the audience to comprehend the extent to which his disgusting practices impacted the lives of hundreds, and likely thousands, of young women that have carried his burden since. Far from damaging the docuseries’ report of Epstein’s history, the victims serve as sources of information both in terms of what he did and what he deserved. Having been victims of his traffic and abuse themselves, the victims provide precise details of his operations and act as a primary source of the emotional abuse Epstein inflicted upon an unimaginable number of young lives.
Centralizing the victims’ struggle does not detract from the docuseries’ ability to construct Epstein’s timeline truthfully and effectively. The various lawyers and detectives that played pivotal roles in the case’s development corroborate the victims’ stories and elaborate on the objective reporting of the production. The focus on victims’ emotional distress intensifies the gruesome tone of the subject and provides a contrast between their experiences and the undiscovered reality that went unreported because of Epstein’s power. It is the learning about the victims’ trauma and their 20-year-long reality that enhances the viewer’s incredulity in learning that Epstein went unpunished until 2019.
“Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” also refuses to delve into the conspiracies and controversies surrounding Epstein’s death and his role in a presumed international sex trafficking ring. Nevertheless, the docuseries provides surface information that successfully drives the viewer to raise questions.
A testimony of Virginia Geoffrey accusing Prince Andrew of forced sexual relations is included, and the docuseries corroborates this claim through an ex-employee that worked in Epstein’s private island. In an interview included in the series, he claims to have seen Prince Andrew and Geoffrey, topless, in the pool. In the same testimony, he claims to have seen Clinton and other high-profile people on the island.
Regarding his death, the docuseries provides the account of an expert pathologist who claims that Epstein’s body did not indicate suicide, but murder. Although it does not elaborate on this stance, the miniseries successfully plants a skeptical seed in the viewer that suggests a greater truth behind Epstein’s alleged suicide. Shying away from loose conspiratorial ends allows the docuseries to remain factual and emphatical on the victims until its closing.
However, resisting to explore the circumstantial evidence it presents contradicts and detracts from the overall theme of the insurmountable power and influence that accompanied Epstein’s wealth. The series focuses on the unjust immunity that Epstein achieved with his level of influence yet, even upon introducing the likely reality that his death was not suicidal, rejects exploring the world of corrupt glamour and power that potentially exists beyond his figure. Nevertheless, “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” is a well-produced tribute to the horrific reality that Epstein’s victims experienced because of the immeasurable legal amnesty provided by millions of dollars.