Yeah, OK, let’s just say it: you really messed up if you didn’t watch HBO’s The Jinx. I’m sorry, but it’s true! The true-crime docu-mini-series about the slippery, seemingly sociopathic New York City millionaire with a penchant for blink-filled non-truthery astonished fans on Sunday night with its shocking admission from Robert Durst that he had, in fact, “killed them all, of course.”
The “all” in question — at least one could allegedly assume, this is an active investigation now, after all — are Kathie Durst, Susan Berman, and Morris Black: three people believed to have been murdered by Durst; the latter of which he admitted to chopping up into pieces but still managed a “not guilty” verdict at the murder trial. Murders to which he basically copped to after being cornered with some damning evidence by director Andrew Jarecki.
“There it is — you’re caught,” Durst said to himself while in the bathroom after the final interview, his microphone still on and recording. “You’re right, of course. But you can’t imagine. Arrest him. I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping. I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
See why you need to watch this series immediately (as in right the eff now)?!
Knowing that doesn’t take away from the show at all — and, frankly, as the Berman case gets reopened and the Kathie Durst disappearance comes under the microscope once more, we’re all about to learn a heck of a lot more. The Robert Durst story has been around for awhile. And after his wife Kathie’s disappearance in 1982, the weird hits kept coming: he was outed as the potential successor to his father in the family business and his best friend and confidante Susan Berman (a writer and the daughter of a fallen mafia man) was also slain under mysterious circumstances.
And then there was the Morris Black incident …and the stolen turkey sandwich that ultimately did Robert Durst in, amongst a whole other litany of oddities — including his dressing up as a mute woman — that blinked their way into one fascinating tale. A tale that was turned into the 2011 Andrew Jarecki-directed film inspired by Durst starring Ryan Gosling: All Good Things. Whether you’re a viewer with no knowledge or full knowledge of the many idiosyncrasies of Durst’s life, they’re all on display in all their bizarre glory, all woven together with an expert focus on the end goal: “Justice,” as Jarecki put it in the finale episode.
There are many reasons The Jinx is so riveting — and most of them don’t actually have to do with the eccentric man at the center. Although, obviously, that is a huge, huge draw. The Jinx succeeds because of its method of storytelling. (Even though that method and timeline may be currently under question.) Andrew Jarecki weaves the tragic story of Durst’s upbringing (he allegedly watched his mother commit suicide), his muddled interpersonal relationships, and the charisma(ish) that got him off with fascinating aplomb. There is court footage, reenactments, interviews, audio, and photos. There are questions and questions and more questions. People have a lot of things to say and think and feel — particularly those in the police force who either willfully or otherwise played down Durst’s deeds in a way that made him unimpeachable.
Because this is a complicated story (putting it lightly), filled with several murders, a lot of interesting characters, disappearances, the cops that weren’t wholly worried (at first), and just-barely-there confessions that tie him oh-so-close to the bad deeds he’s probably done, but ultimately — under the purview of the law — not enough to get him convicted.
And oh, how sweet it was — if also wholly terrifying and anxiety-inducing to such a degree that we couldn’t fall asleep for another three hours after the finale ended, so wired as it all left us — to watch that gotcha!-moment unfold. After all, this was the story of a very rich man from a very rich family who used his charisma and money/social status to outrun the law’s arm. A man who was able to charm (though lord knows how, in our opinion) a bunch of Texas jury folk into believing that dismembering a man was a completely logical reaction to an “accidental” shooting. In that way, Robert Durst is a stand-in for so many of those situations where the bad guy wins.
To have Durst’s takedown happen on television, done by people who wanted to know the truth and weren’t beholden to the red tape that sometimes stickies the law’s efficacy, feels like a victory to a lot of people. After all, the general story here is about how wealth and power can shield a person from anything, even getting away with murder multiple times. Literally or figuratively, this is a story that feels particularly resonant in our country right now (I mean HELLO), so the win for the “little guys” in this scenario (Jarecki, the viewers) feels so revelatory when presented visually. We got him: he’s caught — all of the lies and plausible explanations and scenarios and the money that America’s wealthiest use to keep themselves above the law were ultimately no match for the truth. And that feels oddly cathartic. It’s like Law and Order‘s ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling, but real. It’s better than any cop procedural on TV, because it might actually change something. Now it’s time to see if the law will actually follow suit.