Last year's Netflix hit Making A Murderer took the world by storm, across 10 episodes, millions were drawn to see the case of Steven Avery and his (proposed) innocence unfold. However, at the end of last year, flying slightly below the radar was a show that makes Making a Murderer look like a pre-school scuffle. Body parts washed up in bin bags, 30 year old disappearances and a man disguised as a mute old woman. From the shadows came the life and deaths of Robert Durst. This is his story...
With episode tiles ranging from "A Body In The Bay" to "What Did I Do?", The Jinx unravels over six episodes and follows several unresolved crimes linked to New York socialite Robert Durst. The title stems from Durst's own conviction that he is a jinx - stuck with a serious case of wrong place wrong time. We learn of Durst's wife Kathie, who vanished in 1982 and still remains missing. Forming the crux of the first few episodes, Kathie's disappearance evolves into the 2000 execution of Dursts' close friend Susan Berman and bookending the series is the 2001 murder of his neighbour Morris Black; Black's grisly remains washed ashore in Galveston Texas. Some series may skim over the lives of the victims in favour of the accused, but The Jinx dissects their lives in such human detail it reveals the sadness behind them all.
It is no surprise then that the team behind The Jinx is HBO. The studio that brings us the glossy likes of Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones has obviously put some serious camera time into The Jinx. Flashy opening titles that wouldn't look out of place in True Detective (the amazing first season... Ignore the second) and a gritty soundtrack set the precedent for an innovative style of storytelling. Continuing our morbid obsession with monster crime drama, The Jinx ranks alongside other great crime documentaries as Aileen, This is the Zodiac Speaking and Monster: The Josef Fritzl Story.
The Jinx's best, but ultimately worst, asset is the length. With only six episodes to devour, The Jinx is over before it has barely begun and leaves a slew of questions that could easily lend itself to a second run. The episodes themselves also run smoothly. Making a Murderer's home shot style interviews don't exactly add to the production value, but with The Jinx, HBO have clearly spent their leftover Thrones budget well.
The characters themselves are almost caricatures of what you would expect. There is the fiery New York D.A. - Jeanine Pirro, who is out for Durst's blood to further her own political career. Then there is Cody Cazalas, the Texas style Officer Dibble. Cazalas clearly harbours remorse for the entire affair and his last monologue is one that weeps for guilt and regret of "I could've done more." Durst's current wife. Debrah Lee Charatan, is a scalding witch of a woman who evades questions left right and centre for fear of implicating herself. If The Jinx miniseries were to be turned into a film, look no further than Kathleen Turner to play the gravelly Charatan, whilst I would expect no one less than Pirro to play an even more OTT version of herself.
Finally we come onto the man himself. Just as Cox, Hopkins and Mikkelsen have all played Hannibal Lecter with such cold charm, Durst plays an exaggerated version of himself. He manages to spews lies and alibis with such speed, even you question the logic of them. Robert Durst is honest, almost brutally so, about his relationships. He admits to beating Kathie and goes into great detail of their marriage failures. The cast of Kathie's friends and family pull no punches on Durst either. In particular Kathie's friend Gilberte Najamy seems to have launched a Batman style vendetta on exposing the truth behind her disappearance. There is a point when Durst even gets a laugh out of the jury and you find yourself thinking exactly what his defence team think... "He's got away with this."
Whereas Making a Murderer always protests Avery's innocence, The Jinx makes little attempt to emphasise Durst's. In all honestly, it is doubtful whether Durst even knows himself anymore. Those close to him clearly see him as the frail old man he makes out to be, but there is something ticking below the surface of Durst that makes him one of the most dangerous criminals out there.
Director Andrew Jarecki has a clear passion for the subject matter and for Durst himself. Durst had shied away from pretty much every possible media outlet, but always held a torch for Jarecki. Jarecki's 2010 film All Good Things was a fictional account of Durst's biography. A fan of the film, it clearly struck a cord with Durst and without it, we would never have had The Jinx. Jarecki's respect for Durst is evident, whereas Durst's game of cat and mouse will always suggest ulterior motives. Why he agreed to The Jinx is never known, but for a man of 72 it seems he has run out of steam. The Jarecki/ Durst relationship and the events after The Jinx are perhaps one of the most upsetting developments of the show.
What elevates The Jinx above other shows of the same genre are the final two episodes, in particularly the finale. The last episode "What Did I Do?" is undoubtedly one of the best hours of television I have seen and without spoiling anything, a shocking twist will leave the viewer in a state of open mouthedness for days to come. Watching The Jinx has a profound effect on you as a witness and you can do nothing but spread the word, inadvertently serving as a PR machine for the Durst press case. Tragic, haunting and beautiful, The Jinx is anything but a curse.