TV Review – Freeform’s “The Deep End” is a Powerful Look at a Haunting True Story

Freeform is known for telling dramatic stories that relate to an audience in the young adult demographic. A lot of times, those stories can cover some very serious and heavy topics. In the case of the network’s new docuseries, The Deep End, those topics include abuse, cult-like teachings and suicide.

At a time when people are longing for connection, a leading spiritual teacher and her millions of devoted followers are on a mission to end human suffering — but at what cost? The Deep End explores the potentially troublesome teachings of Teal Swan and does so in an incredibly powerful, dramatic and cinematic way.

Right from the beginning, The Deep End grabs its audience with a haunting display of Swan’s teachings at work as a patient lets out a nightmarish cathartic scream. The pace and the tension is set right from those first moments and it never lets up from there.

This story is told beautifully from a number of angles. Swan is of course at the center of the series, but we also get to hear from her inner circle, her followers, those who have voiced opinions against her teachings and even a private investigator her team hired to look into whether or not her company is problematic or perhaps even illegal.

This can be a difficult project on which to reflect because it is a real world story but it is told in such a dramatic and cinematic way that it plays much more like a movie or TV series. Speaking purely in terms of the documentary and not in regards to any impact she has had on the lives of anyone else, Swan is an incredibly compelling character.

Hearing her story from her own mouth allows an audience to sympathize with her situation and understand where she’s coming from in a lot of ways. However, seeing where her life has gone after the childhood trauma she endured, paints her much more as a villain, the likes of which are typically reserved for movies and television. She commands attention from both the people around her and the people watching his docuseries.

Of course, with the heavy material on which this documentary series focuses, it can be very emotional at times. Hearing from Swan’s followers, supporters and former followers can get intense. Hearing the stories of these people who came to Swan looking for help and saw a wide array of results is heart-wrenching at times. It can be hard to watch but at the same time, you simply can’t look away.

Perhaps the thing that stands out most about this series though is how beautifully it is shot. There are scenes that will make you forget you are watching a documentary on Freeform and instead think you’re watching a big budget blockbuster in a theater. From the score to the cinematography, this is one of the most well put together documentaries in recent memory.

And that cinematic experience extends into the storytelling as well. It doesn feel as though we are being told a story that played out years ago and is being recapped for us. Instead, it feels as though we are watching this story play out before our eyes. The people on which this doc focuses become characters for the audience, with Swan at the head of the table, for better or worse.

The Deep End will premiere on Freeform on Wednesday, May 18th and will be feature four episodes released on a weekly basis.