HBO’s six-part documentary from Andrew Jarecki on the travails of Robert Durst opens with a teenage boy’s discovery of a torso floating in the ocean in Galveston, Texas. We soon discover floating in those same waters are garbage bags filled with other body parts: Legs, arms, and fingers. What’s missing, however, is a head.
The body parts are eventually identified as those of Morris Black, a man of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, whose murder is eventually tied to a woman who lives in the same apartment building. However, we soon discover that it’s not a woman at all. But a man who rented the apartment disguised as a woman. A man from New York by the name of Robert Durst, who belongs to an incredibly wealthy and influential Manhattan real-estate family who oversaw the construction of the Freedom Towers in New York City.
Soon thereafter, we find out that Durst was arrested for the murder of Black. The police have him dead to rights. The blood of Morris Black is in Durst’s apartment. There’s nicks in the floor from where he used an axe to dismember his body. And there’s an bow saw in the back of his car, which was clearly used to cut up Black’s body. Durst is clearly going down.
The murder of Black occurred in 2001, and what we find out next is the first of many, many shocking revelations over the course of the documentary series, namely that Robert Durst is not in prison today. Somehow, the man escaped the murder rap. That makes even less sense when you realize that Robert Durst was also the man played by Ryan Gosling at the center of Andrew Jarecki’s film All Good Things.
I’ve seen All Good Things, but I didn’t make the connection between that Robert Durst, and the one who chopped up Morris Black’s body until it was made for me in the documentary. My head experienced the second of many explosions.
All Good Things, as you may recall, is about a man from a wealthy Manhattan family whose wife, Kathy McCormack (played by Kirsten Dunst in the film), mysteriously disappeared in 1982. All signs pointed to Robert Durst, but a body was never discovered, and Durst was never charged in her disappearance. It’s still an open case.
HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst takes us through the investigation of the murder of Morris Black, the investigation into the disappearance of Kathy Durst and the investigation into the murder of another woman, whose case has recently been reopened in light of the documentary. I don’t want to say too much about that, because I don’t want to take away the shocking reveal in the documentary, but midway through the third episode, your brain may throw up on itself.
But I will say this: If you loved the Serial podcast, but you were unsatisfied with the open-ended conclusion, you may not have to worry about that in The Jinx. The final episode airs on Sunday night, and in that final episode, Andrew Jarecki is set to confront Robert Durst with a smoking gun, damning evidence that he found that is very likely to blow open the entire investigation. We are finally going to get the AHA! GOTCHA! moment we so desperately wanted but never got from Serial.
Beyond the fascinating details of the true-crime documentary, and the investigation into the various murders, The Jinx is presents a searing, psychological depiction of a true asshole who has gotten away with murder three times so far. And the irony is, the reason the documentary even exists is because Robert Durst — clearly hopped up on hubris and jackassery — approached Jarecki after watching All Good Things and volunteered to tell his side of the story.
That was a mistake.
The other fascinating contrast with Serial is that, in the Sarah Koenig podcast, most of us came to the conclusion that, no matter how we felt about the guilt or innocence of Adnan Syed, we could agree that the criminal justice system was broken. There was certainly not enough evidence to warrant Syed’s murder conviction.
Here, you may come to the opposite conclusion: “Beyond a reasonable doubt” clearly means something different with a wealthy client. Durst clearly committed these murders. He is clearly a psychopath. And yet, he remains free. Where was Adnan Syed’s jury when Robert Durst was on trial for the murder of Morris Black (not in Texas, clearly, where they have a very loose interpretation of justice)?
Obviously, money also played a role, though there is some irony in that due to the fact that Robert Durst is estranged from his family, and that his brother — who runs the Durst organization — has a bodyguard to protect him from being murdered by his own brother. His family, it seems, wants Durst imprisoned as much as the rest of us.
The entire documentary is bombshell after bombshell (the most recent one was live), and the more time you spend with Robert Durst and his cold, black eyes (that blink every time he lies, which is with every word he speaks), the more you grow to both detest and fear the man. If I didn’t know that the final episode had already been filmed, there’d be a part of me that might actually fear for Andrew Jarecki’s life because every time someone seems to get close to finding Durst out, they end up dead.
It’s an incredible, engrossing, and disturbing series, and while you may not think you have enough time to catch the first five episodes before the finale airs on Sunday, I encourage you to watch the first episode. I did, and four hours later, I’d completed the first five episodes. I couldn’t stop, and I cannot wait — hopefully — to see Jarecki nail Durst’s ass to the floor in the finale. In fact, what happened in the most recent episode is already affecting the real-world case against Durst.