Daniel Vernon, “House of Maxwell (Episode 3)” (2022)
Finally we reach the third and last episode of this sorry series supposedly investigating the scandals surrounding past British media mogul Robert Maxwell and his socialite daughter Ghislaine. Focusing on Ghislaine Maxwell’s role as a recruiter of underage teenage girls for US financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation and other related offences, this episode is vague, mixes its chronology and reveals very little that viewers would not already know from mainstream media reports. As with previous episodes, the narrative in Episode 3 is pushed in the main by interviews with people who have experience or knowledge with particular parts of the child prostitution ring run by Epstein and Maxwell but not of the whole scheme or of why Epstein, Maxwell and their assistants ran their scheme for a long time, even though it must have been an open secret among police and security agencies in several countries, and escaped justice and punishment. The obvious fact that important politicians, celebrities, businesspeople and others in major positions of power and authority were being entertained by Epstein on his private island (and who stood to lose power and position, with the tremendous consequences that would follow, if their participation in the scheme were revealed) must have been one factor among many delaying the arrest of Epstein and those involved in trafficking the teenage girls until years, even decades later. Another factor is that the girls came from working-class or underprivileged families, some dysfunctional, and whose concerns with money and future well-being were seized upon by Maxwell and her assistants to manipulate and lure the girls into the prostitution ring; only as older women gaining the resources needed to find and hire able and compassionate lawyers to argue their case in court could the victims finally bring their predators the justice these criminals deserved.
In amongst the mixed and ultimately tedious cut-ups of what should have been a chronologically based and clear account of what Epstein and Maxwell did, and how their victims eventually brought then down, viewers will find no answer to the obvious question: why was Epstein running his scheme in the first place anyway, when he could have just hired prostitutes to entertain his guests, and how was he able to establish his scheme in the first place? Come to think of it, where did the money come from for him to buy an island and build a mansion and other lavish structures on it? Other relevant questions might be: how did Epstein and Maxwell meet initially, who brought them together, and what was so attractive about Epstein that Maxwell not only started working for him but had a relationship with him as well? Surely there were other men at the time with the money and the means to support Maxwell after her father’s death? She was a socialite after all, knew people with connections, and had moved in the same circles as her father and older siblings did. Did Epstein and Robert Maxwell have something in common, did they share the same connections or did they have similar personalities?
The possibility arises that Epstein’s scheme was ultimately a blackmailing operation in which his guests were victims – though not in the same degraded way that the trafficked girls were victims – and that the relationship Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell had was perhaps a replication in part of the relationship Maxwell had with her father. Just as Robert Maxwell used his daughter in his business schemes, not all of which were above board, so too did Epstein use Ghislaine in his scheme that brought them both to ruin. For her part, Ghislaine Maxwell must have been happy to work for her father and Epstein as long as her work brought her the security and stability she believed she needed.
Ultimately the “House of Maxwell” series fails to do more than scratch a very glossy surface of the crimes committed by both Maxwell father and daughter. By omitting a great deal, the series ends up obscuring and misrepresenting the truth of what the Maxwells did. The seemingly evasive way in which the series is filmed suggests that it covers up as much as it tantalisingly reveals. The series does viewers a great disservice and fails to empathise much with the Maxwells’ victims, be they defrauded pensioners or traumatised teenage girls.