The Jeffrey Epstein scandal is far from over.
Yes, the disgraced billionaire allegedly took his own life last year while awaiting trial on numerous counts of sexually abusing minors.
That corrosive legacy lives on in the faces of his victims, some of whom speak out in the Netflix docuseries “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.” These women – hardened, angry and eager for justice – forge the heart of the four-part series.
The saga reminds us of some uncomfortable truths about wealth and power in our society, but it doesn’t push much beyond what we already know. The series repeatedly attacks former Trump labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, a key figure in slapping Epstein on the proverbial wrist.
It’s a drubbing he may richly deserve.
Other targets include liberal legal eagle Alan Dershowitz, former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and longtime Epstein partner Ghislaine Maxwell. How she isn’t rotting in jail after the revelations here is astounding.
Still, the documentary pulls some punches, from glossing over President Bill Clinton’s time on Epstein’s “Lolita Express” to the people above Acosta who may be just as guilty as he.
The first two minutes of “Filthy Rich” are all you really need to see. Epstein, with a calmness born from arrogance, repeatedly pleads the Fifth during a 2010 deposition. An unseen interrogator asks, over and again, if he ever solicited sex from minors in various parts of the globe.
Sickening. Nauseating. And the worst part is obvious. He knows he’ll wiggle out of this trap, and he’s right.
We then meet the women lured into Epstein’s web. They all share similar stories, “graduating” from Epstein’s $200-a-session masseuse to his sexual plaything. The women come across as reasonable, credible. It helps that they share details of Epstein’s lair that match the physical descriptions.
Plus, the Epstein method rarely changed, even if it involved the girls themselves inviting their school chums into his clutches.
The tone here is somber, appropriately enough, with the kind of slick production values worthy of a Netflix production. The victims’ crush of stories is, after a while, unnecessary. Still, they’re allowed to tell their story, and that’s important.
Epstein’s powerful friends proves a secondary narrative, from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump. The series treads oh, so lightly on the Clinton connections while repeatedly showing images of Epstein and Trump. Given the sorry state of liberal media bias, the tilt here is restrained but unmistakable.
We learn little about Clinton’s Epstein ties until late in the series. Then, we re-learn how flight logs show Clinton flew with Epstein 26 times. More damning? An Epstein employee stationed at the billionaire’s remote island recalls seeing the former president there.
Team Clinton shared a dramatically different version of his Epstein ties, including a denial that the former president every set foot on said island.
In short, they lied.
It’s the kind of detail a documentary should dig deeper into, but that doesn’t happen here. Doesn’t the creative team behind the series remember Clinton’s appetites and how much he risked to feed them over time?
The series does confirm sexual abuse allegations against Prince Andrew, even including his train wreck interview on the subject last November.
We also meet an Epstein employee who says he saw the Duke of York aggressively fondling an underage girl on the billionaire’s island.
Dershowitz, Epstein’s former lawyer, is accused by one of Epstein’s victims of assaulting her, too. He offers a full-throated denial of the charges. It’s a mesmerizing sequence, whether you believe him or not.
Early in the series we meet a Vanity Fair journalist with an early scoop on Epstein’s predatory behavior. The story seems solid, if not stunning, with two sisters sharing how the financier repeatedly abused them. It’s enough to bring anyone down, even a billionaire with endless connections.
Carter, a major force in magazine journalism, spiked it for legal reasons. His explanation echoes what journalists heard for years while trying to report on film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Just ask Ronan Farrow.
It all smells like a cover up, down to the threats Carter received during the investigation, including a cat’s head appearing on his property. Carter later said they didn’t influence his decision not to publisher journalist Vicky Ward’s story.
So what did?
“Filthy Rich” bounces back and forth in time, using a spinning calendar visual to ground each turn. That gives the series plenty of ways to attack Acosta and tie him to Trump.
We’re also told, oh so briefly, that the ridiculous plea deal Epstein secured had to be approved by the U.S. Attorney General at the time – circa 2008. Is that accurate? What other key players were part of this process? The docuseries lasts roughly four hours but leaves no time for these details.
Acosta may be guilty as sin, but it’s clear he didn’t act alone.
More importantly, that slap on the wrist proved even more farcical than at face value. Epstein freely left prison during his 13-month incarceration, and the documentary shows he flouted the parole rules once he gained his freedom.
Money. Power. Influence. It’s gross and deserves to be spotlighted. For the most part, “Filthy Rich” does a meticulous job of just that.
The fourth and final installment shows how the Epstein case overlapped with the budding MeToo movement. The filmmakers couldn’t predict that feminist revolution would crash and burn to save Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
That’s a documentary for another day, although one Hollywood would never make.
Also left out of “Filthy Rich” are the glitterati, from Katie Couric to George Stephanopolous, who partied with Epstein after he was officially registered as a sex offender. Still, the series wraps on a beautiful note, empowering Epstein’s victims to write their own endings.
“Epstein did not act alone … there are so many of them out there. None of them have been held accountable,” one victim says of the late billionaire’s enablers and fellow abusers. “The monsters are still out there, and they’re still abusing other people. Why they have not been named and shamed yet is beyond me.”
She’s right. The full story of Jeffrey Epstein hasn’t been told, and it may never happen. It’s chilling to see how Epstein’s power, his sphere of influence, didn’t die with him.
“Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” debuts on Netflix Nov. 27.