This past Sunday, HBO aired the final installment of what might be one of the most extraordinary documentaries I’ve ever seen: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.
For those of you who haven’t seen the series, and without giving too many spoilers away, it follows Robert Durst, a multi-millionaire who is believed to have murdered three people (his wife, his neighbor and, the last, a friend). The documentary, told in six chapters, features interviews with Durst, a man who would often twitch nervously when responding to questions surrounding the murders or look eerily sinister with lifelessly black eyes. At times, Durst was captured speaking to himself, not realizing the microphones were still on, sharing schizophrenic style confessions – one of which provided a dire conclusion to the show.
I was enraptured from start to finish. Surprisingly, I found myself liking a man who willingly admitted to chopping his neighbor up, stashing the body in bags and dumping the bags in a nearby body of water. And got away with it. Despite that, there was something slightly charming about him.
I wondered what that said about me. To find something likeable in a possible sociopath, even after the show’s end, is a might disturbing to me. Perhaps that was the intention of the director. I imagine it was, as he confessed to enjoying his meeting with Durst too. Maybe that’s what attracts us to true crime.
Both The Jinx, and prior to that, Serial, a podcast that followed the story of Adnan Syed (accused of killing his former girlfriend) have brought the masses compelling crime stories that have been told in such a way that you cannot help but question our legal system, and the depth of character of everyone around us.
These two series have been so impactful and masterfully researched that Durst, just prior to the official airing of the final episode, was arrested on murder charges, and Syed, from Serial, has been granted a re-trial. These shows actually made a difference.
I hope, for that if a trend of these style shows continues, that they maintain the high level of excellence and emotional connection with the viewer, as both have been nothing short of brilliant.