TV

‘The Jinx’ Finishes On Foxtel Tomorrow Night; If You’re Not Watching It Yet, You Should Be

The sixth episode of the six-part series lands on Foxtel tomorrow night. If you're as late to the game as Australian broadcasters, here's all the convincing you need to get involved.

Maybe you’ve avoided The Jinx – subtitled, The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — for a reason. Maybe the title of the show triggered harrowing memories of Robert De Niro’s toilet-using cat from Meet the Parents. Maybe you’ve been frustrated by the constant Jinx chatter from colleagues who keep muttering about it by the water-cooler. Maybe you run a water-bottling plant and have had to lay off dozens of employees because The Jinx has led to an astonishing resurgence in water-cooler sales.

Maybe you noticed the avalanche of hot takes regarding the doco’s sticky relationship with the truth climbing over your Facebook wall, and like Ben Stiller’s persnickety documentarian in While We’re Young, fled in the opposite direction.

The six episodes of Andrew Jarecki’s critically acclaimed HBO documentary mini-series aired in the U.S. this February, made headlines for their intrusion into real-life soon after, and have been playing on Foxtel’s Showcase channel for the past five weeks. (Thanks a bunch, Australian broadcasters, for striking while the iron was lukewarm.)

The final episode airs tomorrow night in Australia, so you have exactly until then to become obsessed with an engrossing true crime series, and to be enraptured by its closing, genuinely disturbing final bombshell. (No less than premiere TV critic/queen Emily Nussbaum described it as “wickedly entertaining: funny, morbid, and sad.”) Otherwise, if you’re sensitive to docos that exploit real life tragedies, watching allows you to track its transgressions and prepare yourself for the inevitable lectures you’ll be delivering to unquestioning fans. Fun!

Who Is Andrew Jarecki? 

jarecki

In possession of the world’s most upsetting facial hair, Andrew Jarecki is the filmmaker who brought us the involving, intrusive doco Capturing the Friedmans in 2003. (If you’ve not seen that either, boy, are you in for a fun weekend.) He rode Friedmans’ Oscar-nominated wave of success and convinced Hollywood to let him make a narrative featured titled All Good Things in 2010, based not-so-loosely on the mysterious disappearance of a New York real estate scion’s wife.

Starring Ryan Gosling (before he was immortalised through memes) and Kirsten Dunst, long after she was bankable, the maligned movie grossed $644,000 off a $20 million budget. The talented Jarecki might have ended up in director jail, if it wasn’t for the film’s sole fan: Robert Durst, the very scion upon which the film is based.

Who Is Robert Durst?

Perhaps you noticed Robert Durst as portrayed by Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live (have a gander below), or heard imitations of his gravelly voice on literally any comedy podcast these past few months. You’d be forgiven for thinking he was some hot new celeb that you just weren’t acquainted with. (I went through this exact thing with Cara Delevingne until, like, last week — though it’s important to note she has not been suspected of any murders to date.)

Bob Durst, rather, is a curious, burping, leprechaun-bodied 72-year-old millionaire whose life has been punctuated by numerous untimely deaths. The persistent question, since his wife Kathie Durst went missing from their Connecticut home in 1982, is: precisely what involvement has he played in each of those deaths?

In 2000, his long-time friend Susan Berman – who had bolstered his alibi when Kathie went missing – was found murdered in her Californian apartment. The following year, Durst was arrested when the dismembered body parts of his neighbour Morris Black washed up on Galveston Bay. He admitted to chopping up the body and still convinced the jury he wasn’t responsible for the murder. That this is not even the weirdest revelation to come from The Jinx is testament to the chilling strangeness of this Durst character.

Robert Durst in The Jinx.

When Durst phoned Jarecki to confess his appreciation of All Good Things, he agreed to sit for an interview that was intended as a special feature for the DVD release. The subsequent material was so rich that Jarecki parlayed it into the HBO series we now call The Jinx. He secured 20 hours of conversation with Durst and the last of their pow-wows makes up Part 6 of the miniseries. There’s a reason Durst doesn’t go back for more.

Is This Like Serial? Because I Only Like Things That Are Like Serial.

Kind of! If you like digging deep into decades-old cold cases and seeing how prosecutors and defence attorneys build diverging narratives around the same evidence, The Jinx has that in spades. (It’s also a lot like The Staircase, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s masterful murder doco.) However, Robert Durst is no Adnan Syed, and Andrew Jarecki, uncharmed by his non “dairy cow brown eyes”, isn’t arguing to salvage his reputation. Also unlike Serial, The Jinx doesn’t end ambiguously. I don’t want to get into this much further, but if you were disappointed by Serial’s finale, I doubt you’ll be similarly frustrated by The Jinx.

(*Crossing Fingers*) Please Tell Me That If I Fall In Love With It, The Internet Will Tell Me How Problematic It Is!

To quote the opening of Entourage, “Oh yeah.”

There’s no shortage of hot takes and takedowns of The Jinx, relating specifically to the handling of some evidence discovered by the film crew, and the presentation of the production’s timeline. It doesn’t help that Jarecki has gone to ground following the finale’s airing in the States. Though you absolutely should not click any of these links until after you’ve seen Episode 6, you mightwant tobookmarksome of theseto read/wrestle with emotionallyafterwards.

But first: Watch the series, be drawn in, experience the finale, feel your gut sink, be glad you participated in one of television’s most singular experiments, and then start exploring the very valid criticisms of Jarecki’s ethics. Personally, I side with the filmmaker. I’d love to elaborate why, but you’ll just have to find me at the water-cooler to tell me why I’m wrong.

(If you’ve already seen the finale, the New York Times breaks down the timeline here.)

The final episode of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst airs on Foxtel’s Showcase channel Thursday June 11, 7.30pm AEST. Previous episodes can be found on Foxtel’s catch-up service.

Simon Miraudo is an AFCA award-winning writer and film critic. He is the editor of Student Edge as well as a correspondent on ABC Radio and RTRFM. He also co-hosts The Podcasting Couch and tweets @simonmiraudo.