Next week, Netflix releases Lisa Bryant’s four-part docuseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, a powerful yet frustrating dive into the billionaire tycoon’s international sex trafficking ring.
Filthy Rich tries to do a lot things at once, and succeeds in crucial areas. The first two hours focus heavily on firsthand accounts from Epstein’s victims, many of whom were viciously smeared in the press, and their stories give en enormous amount of corroborating testimony to an incredibly complex case. Listening to over a half dozen women vividly recall horrific encounters with Epstein and alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell isn’t easy or fun, and the constant presence of these interviews remind us that we’re not really here to be entertained. Viewers expecting a salacious presentation filled with new bombshells might want to look elsewhere – aside from a deposition question about the shape of Epstein’s penis, Filthy Rich respectfully focuses on giving victims a voice instead of exploiting the story’s lurid details.
Despite a somewhat messy structure and timeline that jumps around constantly, Palm Beach Police Dept. chief Michael Reiter and attorney Bradley Edwards keep things on track by carefully guiding us through the multi-jurisdiction case. Things become rather suspenseful in the second and third episodes as it becomes clear that Epstein is willing to use his vast legal and financial resources to harass and intimidate anyone he deems a threat, including lawyers and law enforcement officials. Thankfully, a simultaneously frightening and humorous moment between dueling private investigators outside a victim’s home ends on a positive note.
Naturally, the sleaziest moment comes from Alan Dershowitz, a tireless clout chaser hellbent on ensuring that any case he touches culminates in a miscarriage of justice. Oddly enough, the filmmakers allow him to ramble on about the role of the American defense attorney, yet fail to ask about a 2015 interview in which he admitted to receiving a massage at Epstein’s residence. Dershowitz and victim Virginia Roberts Guiffre have sued each other for defamation in the past, and his lame attempt to challenge her again in this series backfires spectacularly. Further light is shed on the nature in which Dershowitz’s team was able to secure Epstein’s secretive 2008 sweetheart plea deal, and it’s all pretty sickening.
Most likely due to legal reasons, Filthy Rich seems apprehensive to explore the lingering questions surrounding the case, or directly challenge the perverted power structures that allowed this nightmare to happen in the first place. The circumstances of Epstein’s suicide are fishy enough to fill an entire hour-long episode, yet the manner in which this subject is touched upon here is almost comically brief. Throughout, Ghislaine Maxwell is repeatedly named as a sex trafficker, and its unclear if these filmmakers even attempted to speak with anyone in her current orbit – the same goes for the four women (barely mentioned here) who were given immunity in the 2008 plea bargain. Hints that Epstein was “a very small piece in a large network” and allegedly blackmailing those within surely send chills down the spine, but Filthy Rich doesn’t really bother to ask “Who else, then?”
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich premieres May 27 on Netflix