Escaping Polygamy can definitely be sensational and dramatic — this is Lifetime, after all. At one point, the women rush to cram an escapee’s belongings into a moving truck against a tight deadline (and just when you think they’re done: a bag breaks, spilling her possessions all over the front lawn!). And in the second episode, a rescue quickly goes off the rails and the police are called in. But for the most part, Escaping Polygamy is captivating and even somewhat important, full of small details that will stick with you: Leah going shopping for clothes but still worrying about showing her legs and arms, or the observation that The Order’s houses all have the same “rotten vegetables” smell. These details make the series, and Escaping Polygamy understands when to tone down its natural inclinations to go big in order to provide a better educational narrative.
For one, the series doesn’t condemn the concept of polyamorous relationships as a whole. Instead, it confines itself to denouncing the specific polygamist community of the Kingston Clan, one which relies heavily on incest in order to keep the community’s blood “clear” of other races and nationalities, meaning that women are “being groomed to marry their uncles.” In the case of one potential escapee, we’re told that she’s running away not because she’s a defiant teen but because, quite simply and sadly, “she doesn’t want to marry her cousin.” And the show doesn’t just concern itself with helping women escape; it also documents the struggles of a young man named Ethan who was kicked out of The Order and, with no family or support in the outside world, became heavily addicted to drugs.
In the second episode, thanks to a mysterious (and, yes, convenient) tape that winds up in someone’s mailbox, we’re able to see some disturbing footage from inside one of the compounds: young children, not yet old enough to pronounce words correctly, reciting brainwashing dogma (“Brother Paul is the man on the watchtower,” “I know that this is the work of the Lord”). It’s clear that Escaping Polygamy wants to visually expose the Kingston Clan’s polygamist cult the same way Going Clear did with Scientology. LMN may not be the network to execute such an ambitious project, but this is a good start.