Robert Durst is one weird dude.
There it is, I did it! I officially made the most epic understatement in the history of the Internet.
If you haven’t watched “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst”, the six-part HBO documentary series that concluded last month, I can assume a few things about you:
1. You don’t have an HBO Go subscription, which can mean two things: Either you don’t have cable, or, more likely, you don’t have a Jewish mother from whom to steal an HBO Go login.
2. You don’t read the news.
3. You don’t have the Internet, which means I don’t mind judging you, since it’s impossible for you to be reading this.
That being said, if you are able to watch it, I can tell you right now: “The Jinx” is the most captivating, thrilling, terrifying, and fascinating television you’re ever likely to see.
Because the element of evidentiary suspense is crucial to this series, I won’t go too far into the details of the plot. In summary, Robert Durst is the eldest heir to the Durst Organization, a billion-dollar New York City real estate empire. Durst first made news in 1982 when his wife, Kathleen, suddenly disappeared from their upstate New York cottage and has never been found. While highly suspected, Durst has never faced criminal charges, and the case remains unsolved.
But this is not where “The Jinx” begins. Rather, Chapter 1 sets a ghastly stage for the series: in late September 2001, a headless, limbless torso is found floating in a bay in Galveston, TX. After a brief investigation, local police arrest Durst, who’d been renting a small apartment under the guise of a mute woman. Durst makes the $300,000 bail and skips town, becoming a highly publicized fugitive, finally tracked down after attempting to steal a $6 sandwich, with $500 in his pocket. And so concludes the first 15 minutes of the series.
As the bizarre turns into the sinister turns into the outright insane, “The Jinx” pulls you deeper and deeper into the life, and more pointedly, “the deaths” of Robert Durst. Of note is the use of dramatizations which, unlike most television docs, is surprisingly effective in communicating the plot.
The final seconds of the series have now become the stuff of instant legend; critics have almost universally called it the most shocking moment in television history.
Jewish filmmaker Andrew Jarecki has indeed created a triumph in the documentary genre. Viewers may be familiar with his first feature, “Capturing the Friedmans”, a fascinating piece about a Long Island Jewish family torn apart by a high-profile child molestation case in the late 1980’s. Arnold Friedman, that film’s protagonist, may or may not have been a monster. For Durst, Jarecki created no such ambiguity.
While “Friedmans” put emphasis on the Jewish culture of its protagonists, “The Jinx” doesn’t address this theme, despite the fact that Durst is Jewish. Great detail is paid to Durst’s wealthy New York upbringing, but unlike in “Friedmans”, Judaism doesn’t seem to have a place in the cultural background of this maniac. One wonders if this omission is deliberate; why is a Jewish background more relevant to the family of a suspected child molester than a serial killer?
Religion aside, if you are a fan of documentary or mystery, you must watch this series. “The Jinx” is a culmination of the “slow crime” format, proven by the popularity of works like “Serial”, “The Killing”, and “True Detective.” But this one kills them all, of course.
Is “The Jinx” really that scary? Yes. At the end of it, you’ll find yourself running for the “Beverley” hills.
Email me at [email protected]