TV & Movies

Everything To Know About HBO Max’s The Way Down

“For me, the devil is a myth. But I’ve met Gwen Shamblin, and she is real.”

by Candace Cordelia Smith
Promotional poster for HBO Max documentary "The Way Down."

If you’ve been searching for a captivating documentary series to binge-watch, here’s another one that’s sure to satisfy you. Coming to HBO Max on Sept. 30, The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin will provide a look into the Tennessee-based Remnant Fellowship Church and its late controversial founder, Gwen Shamblin Lara. Lara, who created a Christian diet program called the “Weigh Down Workshop,” passed away in a plane crash this May.

Ahead of the premiere, here’s everything to know about Lara, the “Weigh Down Workshop,” and what you can expect from the series.

The Way Down Plot & Trailer

Co-executive produced by Chrissy Teigen, The Way Down’s five episodes focus on the “Weigh Down Workshop” and allegations of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse from former members of the program. The series trailer opens with footage of Lara being deposed in court in 2019 and being asked if her followers considered her a “prophet.”

The camera cuts to images of ornate church windows and a woman who says, “When Gwen first started, I truly believed she wanted to help people. She was so charismatic.” Lara can then be heard imparting her so-called wisdom, saying, “God revealed to me that the key to permanent weight control is a matter of the heart.” What follows is a series of women who credit Lara’s dietary rules for helping them lose weight. “It was just a massive media hit,” an unidentified voice said of her book, The Weigh Down Diet.

But despite the “thousands” of churches that became disciples of Lara’s workshops, controversy soon followed. “How members of Remnant behave is a bit like Handmaid’s Tale and Stepford Wives,” said one individual in the video. Their supposed cult-like behavior is highlighted in the clip, with Lara’s “Holy Trinity” identified as “money, prestige, power.”

“The church didn’t lead me in the damn right direction. The church was leading me to go hang myself in my own closet,” recalls a former Remnant member.

The docuseries is clearly putting a spotlight on the subject of cults within religious sects and diet culture, with one individual remarking that while you educate your children about narcotics or alcohol, “you never think to coach your kids on a cult.” Things intensify as past footage shows Remnant at the center of an investigation following a child’s passing.

The effects of the Remnant Fellowship Church and Lara’s Weigh Down diet seemingly continued to have detrimental effects on many individuals, and The Way Down seeks to uncover fact from fiction in this series. “For me, the devil is a myth. But I’ve met Gwen Shamblin, and she is real,” says one man as the music swells and the trailer comes to a bone-chilling end.

The Way Down Release Date

The first three episodes air on Thursday, Sept. 30, on HBO Max. The final two episodes are set to debut in early 2022.