Filthy Rich, the new Netflix show about the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, exposes us to Epstein through the stories of the teenage girls he's abused – now women in their late 20s and early 30s. They all describe the exact same method: how they arrived at Epstein's after hearing a rumor at school, about an elderly man who pays $200 for a massage. When they arrived at his apartment, Epstein was waiting for them on a massage bed, sometimes with another underaged 'friend' and sometimes with Ghislaine Maxwell, his partner in life - and also in rape.
At a certain point the friend/Ghislaine left the room and the girls were raped. Before leaving they each received $200. Some of the victims became his accomplices, and went on to recruit other girls in what was a pyramid scheme of sexual abuse; some returned to the apartment themselves. Why? Because that is the dynamic of abuse victims, specifically of the kind that Epstein knew how to choose: girls who have already been raped or abused, that came from difficult backgrounds, girls who lacked a familial, social and financial support system.
At some moments Filthy Rich feels a bit voyeuristic and yellow. A little like an E! channel show about celebrities who live in big mansions by the ocean, only with stories of rapes.
And yet, is still doesn’t feel exploitive, as it is very focused on the survivors, on the girls, the women. It brings their stories and their struggles, and gives them a voice and a face. Epstein’s wealth and lifestyle are never glorified. The cameras, and us, are always on the side of the women.
The 4-part show is worth-watching not only because it presents all the existing information, but also because it clearly demonstrates how it's possible that Epstein was jailed already back in 2008, but thanks to his tremendous power, money and influence he was able to manipulate the American judicial system and was released to prey on girls for another decade.
The fourth episode is dedicated to Epstein’s suicide and to the ways the women, who have been tormented both by him and by the judicial system, feel that his suicide also robbed them of any real chance they had at receiving justice.
But even though the show is worth-watching, it cannot be described as a good show, mainly because of its small scale. There is something narrow about is. Unlike Netflix’s regular documentaries, that are often too long and wide-spread, Filthy Rich actually feels too short, like just the tip of the iceberg. It presents the existing information in a clear, interesting - and important - way, but it's still not delving deep enough.
Filthy Rich doesn’t attempt to really understand Epstein’s character, his childhood, his past. He became a wealthy man thanks to his business relationship with billionaire Les Wexner, and there are some hints to a sexual relationship between the two, but the show doesn’t expand on the subject. It also doesn’t delve into Epstein’s close relationship with Donald Trump and many other powerful figures. There are probably legal reasons for that, but the result feels a bit thin. The most interesting character in the case is actually Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s right-hand and sometimes his partner, who helped recruit the girls and is accused of actively participating in their sexual abuse, but we hardly receive any information about her either.
This feeling, that something’s missing, makes the show even more depressing, because by the end of it we feel like we’ve been exposed to a very partial picture, that the darkness is way deeper, but we are unable to understand its roots without going into a tangle of conspiracy theories that will only leave us more confused.
It’s also depressing because Epstein's abuse was so wide-reaching, and because so many people happily took part in it, and even those who didn’t – chose to look the other way.
It’s true that almost all evidence was buried with Epstein, and what a shame it is, but what we are left with is the realization that many people with money will buy everything they can, including people.
That they will feel that for them, there are no laws or morals, no dark desire that cannot be fulfilled. That any terrible, destructive thing one can imagine inflicted upon the helpless - has happend, is happening and will continue to happen.