The Jeffrey Epstein-Ghislaine Maxwell scandal has been a grubby affair with accusations of child grooming and trafficking at its center. While Ghislaine still awaits her fate, we all know by now that Epstein met his untimely — and some might argue, convenient — end in a mysterious and hotly disputed prison suicide.
As strange as the whole scenario may seem, this wasn’t the first time that Ghislaine Maxwell had a front row seat to the controversial demise of a dominant society figure. Thirty years before her father also disappeared in suspicious circumstances from his yacht (named the “Lady Ghislaine”) off the coast of the Canary Islands. In both cases, the men in question were outwardly wealthy and well-embedded within upper echelons of society. In both cases, those men were confidence tricksters who had obtained many of their substantial assets through misrepresentation.
Among a recent slew of documentary podcasts that seek to examine the life and motivations of Epstein and Ghislaine, Power: The Maxwells introduces us to Robert Maxwell, the father of Epstein’s vampish abettor. This unlikeable ogre of a man makes for a worthy subject, as we learn that the global media mogul had led many unconventional past lives before meeting his fishy end.
Czechoslovakian and Jewish by birth, Maxwell was a one of the only members of his family to avoid Auschwitz, he then joined the British military and became a war hero (earning the revered Military Cross), he was at one time the proprietor of a major scientific publishing house, a Member of the UK Parliament and even a suspected double agent with ties to the British intelligence service, Russia’s KGB, and the Israeli secret service, Mossad.
As if that wasn’t enough for a podcast to run at, the senior Maxwell was also known to have rather grotesque personal habits (like peeing from the roof of his helicopter!), held a long-time grudge against fellow media impresario Rupert Murdoch, and danced a dangerous financial ballet that left him teetering on the brink of ruin by the time of his death.
In just seven installments, Power: The Maxwells does a valiant job of familiarizing its audience — many of whom will only know of Ghislaine — with this cartoonish patriarch. Investigative journalist Tara Palmeri is the spirited narrator, and she is careful to spend as much time on Maxwell’s character as on his eccentric epic history. As a reporter it would be easy to sit back and let Maxwell’s chaotic story tell itself, but Palmeri rolls her sleeves up and does some admirable heavy-lifting, connecting us with a clutch of the key characters in Maxwell’s orbit who share wonderfully intimate firsthand accounts of the man himself.
And it’s not all about how Maxwell wipes his backside or bellows orders at his underlings. Behind the booming exterior, a somewhat vulnerable man is exposed. One desperate to ascend the European social hierarchy. To rub shoulders with princes and statesmen. A man who who would spend and borrow well beyond his means. Who, to save face, would keep the champagne following (quite literally) as his debtors grew closer and shrewd media types similarly closed in on him.
Like the Epstein death, we’re left wondering whether or not Maxwell’s end was of his own doing. Was this the cowardly escape of a conman that simply couldn’t stick their punishment? Or the sinister execution of someone who knew too much? Of course, the other commonality is the high-profile escapee; the purring, cat-like figure of Ghislaine Maxwell.
Palmeri expertly leads us right up to the modern-day story of enigmatic Ghislaine. A woman who claims to know nothing of the indiscretions of either of these men, yet posed with, pampered, and lived to please them. This podcast may not hold the all answers when it comes to Ghislaine’s part in either debacle, but it provides some juicy context as to how she may have evolved into the seemingly subversive deviant we now find before us.