The Arrest Heard Round the World: It’s been five days since the shocking last episode of the six part documentary series The Jinx aired, I’ve yet to pick my jaw up off the floor, so it’s safe to say I have had trouble composing articulate thoughts about it as well. I have also made the executive decision that the second half of this docu-series simply cannot be discussed without spoilers, so you’ve officially been warned. But, really, it’s been five days. Robert Durst news has saturated every website and television news channel since his arrest over the weekend, so if you have neglected to watch at this point, go straighten out your priorities and come back and find me when you do.
The first three episodes of The Jinx moved along at a fairly steady and even pace, building suspense with tightly structured storytelling and a timeline broken up to carefully reveal just enough to keep viewers eager for more. The second three episodes, titled “The State of Texas vs. Robert Durst”, “Family Values”, and “The Second Interview”, respectively, crank the dial up more than a few notches, dropping exponentially heavier bombs at each episode’s conclusion, leaving viewers wondering, as the dust and debris settled and jaws were finally pulled shut, how the next one could possibly be as satisfying and infuriating.
These final three episodes left little breathing room. This stretch all but completely abandoned the glossy recreations that padded the retelling of events featured in the first half of the series. They weren’t missed. The Jinx didn’t need the extra dramatics in the first place, so the heavy reduction of those Dateline-like re-enactments was a more than welcome change.
Texas Justice: Most of “The State of Texas vs. Robert Durst” watched like one of the more bizarre and inventive episodes of Law & Order, stocked with testimony snippets, a simple, slick, and shady defense, and a long shot plea that produced a shocking verdict. Durst’s team of high dollar lawyers earned every penny, using selective omission to stitch together a paper thin story of a budding friendship that transforms into threats and home invasion that created enough uncertainty of what happened in that room (before the murder that is) to warrant a fairly solid case in self defense. And naturally, the precision and calculation it takes to dismember and dump scattered body parts isn’t concrete enough, regardless of how cringe-worthy and disturbing, to poke enough holes in the defense.
But while viewers are still reeling from the verdict, Jarecki reveals his ace: a hot mic catch of Durst rehearsing his response to whether he told the complete truth on the stand. Up until this point, even with timing, circumstance, and relationships stacked against him, the only tangible things available to hold against Robert Durst are his beady eyes, suspicious blinking patterns, and awkward yet smug demeanor. So when this mic catch (or mic drop on Jarecki’s end) hits, the weight of it lands like a sucker punch right in the gut as viewers all realize this guy might not just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but, rather, responsible for multiple deaths spanning the last twenty plus years. Now that’s the stuff of nightmares.
Berman in Beverley: Episode five revisits the death of Susan Berman, and viewers are reminded again that the The Jinx‘s twists and turns are still impossible to predict. The casual mention of the misspelling in a word on an envelope anonymously delivered to the police department where Susan Berman was executed is brought back to the forefront as a new piece of evidence is discovered, practically solidifying the identity of the author and providing enough cause for Durst’s arrest less than a week after the episode aired. Follow up that previous sucker punch with a roundhouse kick with this reveal, and Jarecki and crew have officially set the stage for their final interview with Durst and the finale of the series.
Sometimes penultimate episodes can be the highlight of a story arc, the finale often tying up lose ends into a pretty bow or simply summarizing events or setting the stage for the future, but The Jinx doesn’t want to just knock you down, it wants to knock you out completely. And although subsequent to the airing of the last episode there has been an abundance of speculation over the filmmakers’ manipulation of the timeline and how accurately they represented the sequence of events, including and leading up to Durst’s final interview, one of the most impressive aspects of this series from the beginning has been its ability to present the facts in a reliable, yet scattered order to preserve elements for a more exciting viewing experience.
The Last Word: The build up to the last Durst interview is an astounding thing to retrace (and believe me, it’s been retraced). After his hot mic catch in episode four, one would think Durst, as meticulous and thorough a liar as he’s proven to be up until this point, would be more aware of whether or not his microphone was still turned on after he finished answering questions. But, almost as if the previous catch was a dress rehearsal for this final performance, a rattled and confronted Robert Durst mutters confession after confession to himself while using the restroom, predicting his own arrest and announcing that he “killed them all”. As the screen fades to black after this sentence, and then holds for an excruciating amount of time before the credits roll, true crime addicts everywhere could be heard shouting expletive after expletive at their televisions, sending shock waves through social media, causing those who hadn’t watched to wonder if we had all lost our minds. But The Jinx managed to throw down the gauntlet for all documentary endings, all while having a massive real world effect on one (or more) open murder investigations. Sucker punch. Roundhouse kick. Knockout. I’m floored, and I’m not getting up any time soon.