After spending last year obsessing over Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast, we haven't found anything to fill the void quite as riveting as HBO's The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
The six-part docuseries just aired its fourth episode on Sunday, so if you haven't caught it yet you can binge before the finale. The Jinx tells a wild tale spanning over four decades that will take you from Texas to New York to Los Angeles. It involves two grisly murders, a mysterious disappearance, and a sneaking suspicion that New York real-estate mogul scion Robert Durst is involved.
In the same vein as Serial, The Jinx allows us to get an up-close-and-personal look at its main suspect, Durst, through hours of on-camera interviews. Durst had reached out to Andrew Jarecki, who had directed a 2010 feature called All Good Things, which was inspired by the real-life events of Durst's life and the disappearance of his wife in 1982. Durst wanted to tell his side of the story after watching Jarecki's fictional retelling, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. That led to the creation of The Jinx. Previously, Jarecki was best known for his documentary Capturing the Friedmans.
Durst's life story includes nearly witnessing his mother's suicide, and losing out to his brother for a powerful position in the family business (the Durst Organization is a commercial developer with many lucrative lots in Manhattan, including 4 Times Square). He's also been on the lam dressed as a mute woman in Galveston, Texas.
That's where story begins—with the wealthy 71-year-old getting acquitted in 2002 for the high-profile murder of his neighbor Morris Black in the Texas town, a disturbing death in which Black's butchered body parts were discovered in garbage bags floating in the bay. Durst was also a suspect in the 2000 murder of his close friend, writer Susan Berman in Los Angeles. Durst's first wife, medical student Kathie Durst, went missing from Westchester County, NY in 1982 and has never been found. He hasn't been convicted in any of these cases.
The story unfolds through interviews with friends, family members, detectives and lawyers; old newspaper articles; TV newscasts, diary excerpts, phone records, courtroom recordings and high production-value reenactments that are less cheesy than arty. Jarecki doesn't hold back, so the squeamish should be warned that there are close-ups on snapshots of Morris's dismembered body parts on more than one occasion.
As with Serial, it is a guessing game for audiences. We scrutinize inflections in Durst's voice, his facial tics, and his own storytelling. Is he a cunning psychopath? Great at lying? Or just "jinxed"?
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. on HBO.