TV review: Ethical questions aside, "The Jinx" was an impressive documentary

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The finale of HBO’s documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” was utterly riveting and left an impact that will be discussed for a long time. If you haven’t seen all of “The Jinx” already (or read the headlines it has created in the last few days), stop reading now. Spoilers ahead.

The episodes leading up to Sunday’s finale of “The Jinx” were all masterpieces of documentary narrative, carefully leading the audience down a dark path where the story of Bob Durst only became more frightening.

“The Jinx” literally became transcendent in the final half, with each episode ending in such a compelling and unbelievable fashion. I couldn’t believe we were watching Durst slowly unravel and finally hang himself with the rope (er, hot mic?) producers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling gave him.

From Durst’s trial in Texas — highlighting how high-price defense attorneys can manipulate a (woefully inept) jury — to the revelation of the “Beverley Hills” envelopes, “The Jinx” was unequivocally the most enthralling documentary I’ve ever seen. Then came the final moments — where Durst forgot his hot mic one more time! — with Durst mumbling to himself in the bathroom: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

There have been countless news stories on “The Jinx” and its impact on Durst’s recent arrest for the murder of Susan Berman. And even more think pieces dissecting the ethical quandaries Jarecki and Smerling have opened with their presentation and timing of significant information.

It’s interesting food for thought, and could have substantial ramifications on how this recent trend of true-crime narratives (see also “Serial”) approaches legal and ethical aspects. I don’t have any issue with how “The Jinx” producers proceeded with their potentially incriminating information, as once it seemed like they had exposed Durst, they focused on making sure to “get justice.”

And Jarecki and Smerling are not police officers. They are filmmakers. Their responsibility was to produce the best documentary possible, which is exactly what they did. If that exposes a murderer — which it sure seems like it did — that makes “The Jinx” even more impressive.

Photo courtesy of HBO

"The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst"

Available on HBO GO

4 stars