Leading up to his 2019 arrest, mysterious financier Jeffrey Epstein was accused of abusing women and underage girls for decades, assembling a network of enablers – including his long-term live-in girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell – to help carry out and cover up his crimes. Epstein came from humble beginnings yet managed to lie and manipulate his way to the top of the financial world. With money, influence and power, Epstein could do what he liked for years, building a web of blackmail material against others in high places along the way.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich explores how he managed to gain his tremendous wealth and power – hanging out with the likes of Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein – all while running an international sex trafficking ring. It also looks at how the serial sex abuser used his influence to make a secret plea deal with the government in 2008, avoiding a possible life sentence while continuing to abuse women.
Despite Epstein’s death last year, this is still very much a live story – particularly when it comes to Prince Andrew and his friendship with the financier. In episode four, viewers are reshown footage from the royal’s damning hour-long interview with the BBC’s formidable Emily Maitlis, where the prince sought to defend himself and deny allegations brought by Virginia Roberts, a former employee of Epstein who claims she slept with the prince when she was 17 years old. While the series doesn’t pass judgement, it does show some of his more ludicrous explanations – or lack of explanations, largely centred on a photograph of the prince, Roberts and Maxwell – so the viewer can make up their own mind.
With their frightening first-hand accounts, Epstein’s accusers – such as Roberts – are the leading voices in director Lisa Bryant’s and writer James Patterson’s four-part docuseries. Epstein’s victims – here called survivors – are what gives the series heart, pulling focus from Epstein himself and giving them a platform to tell their once ignored stories.
And there are many. Each episode begins by showing a trigger warning about the series describing the abuse of minors. In the first episode alone, we meet many of these brave women who all tell the same story: when they were first brought into Epstein’s circle, they were vulnerable young girls being offered $200 to give a massage. The stories are repetitive, detailed and almost never-ending, building a picture of how the ring’s ‘molestation pyramid scheme’ worked: girls recruited one another in order to get out of having to pleasure Epstein and his associates themselves. It’s harrowing, but by revealing their emotional scars and the guilt they’ve carried for decades, this sisterhood of survivors intend to stop predators – and the American justice system – from silencing the next generation.
Across its four episodes, the series homes in on how those who sought to uncover Epstein’s crimes were silenced, from Vicky Ward – a journalist who wrote a damning 2003 Vanity Fair article that first exposed his abuse, but had her on-the-record accounts pulled from print – to the victims who were finally offered their day in court, only for Epstein to commit suicide, thereby denying them justice.
Like a court case, the evidence slowly builds over each episode. This culminates in a tense episode four, which centres on Epstein’s 2019 court case and the mounting evidence against him. This series is not for anyone who’s after a sensationalised true-crime doc. Instead, it’s comprehensive, sober and serious-minded. This non-splashy approach works and gives the survivors the spotlight they deserve, rather than focusing on the lurid details or suspicious circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death.
By the end of the series, you’re left in no doubt over Epstein’s guilt and the bravery of the women who came forward. Yet Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich doesn’t answer – or even really touch on – one key question: where is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich is available to watch on Netflix now