The Harrelson-McConaughey duo was always going to be a tough act to follow. Last Sunday’s finale of True Detective concluded an overall disappointing second season, which predictably never reached the highs of its predecessor. Despite its redeeming moments – most of which you would only have seen if you were brave enough to stick by past episode 5 – this L.A. Convoluted was messy in its delivery and ultimately unsatisfying. For anyone yearning for a worthy sequel, I wanted to share my appreciation for another HBO show that aired this year but went somewhat under the radar: The Jinx.
The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Take its full title as a warning: the Jinx has enough unexplained deaths to make Nic Pizzolatto, the mind behind True Detective, proud. While both shows are children of HBO, the former is in truth not a show at all. The Jinx is a 6-episode documentary that follows the real-life story of Robert Durst, a millionaire linked with a series of mysterious murders starting with the unresolved disappearance of his wife back in 1982.
That would be enough suspicion for any compelling work of fiction, but not for Robert Durst. Actually, it’s not even the half of it. Death has followed Durst closely throughout his life. Still – and this at times is quite unbelievable – he has never been found guilty, leading people in his entourage to question whether he is “the luckiest or unluckiest person alive”.
The Jinx does not only throw us into a 30-year investigation, it brilliantly sets us face-to-face with the man himself. We are confronted with Durst’s own thoughts and side of the story through a powerful interview conducted by the documentary’s director, Andrew Jarecki. A conversation with the Devil? Well, it’s never that straightforward with Robert Durst. Smart, witty, with awkward twitches and mannerisms, Durst is a captivating character. In many ways, he echoes Matthew McConaughey’s troubled Rust Cohle being questioned in True Detective season 1, reminiscing on past events.
Some of Durst’s great lines include “I did not knowingly purposefully intentionally lie.” or “How do you accidentally shave your eyebrows?” (you have to see it to understand that one). He has such an interesting persona, it is easy to give him the benefit of the doubt. It seems even Colin Farrell could relate, enough to provide this perfect impression on The Tonight Show while promoting True Detective.
While The Jinx gains a lot from its roots in reality, it is easy to forget you are watching real people and not actors, something that actually happened and not crime fiction. The documentary is perfectly executed and makes us instantly invested in its twists and turns as you would for any great mystery show. I think this is largely thanks to brilliant editing and reenactments, which carefully add piece after piece of the puzzle that is Robert Durst.
This is where True Detective season 2 went wrong. Its plot was overly complicated and comically confusing, as it was expertly depicted in the tweet below! By the way, if you’re still wondering what happened, Slate also published an invaluable guide to answer all your questions. It’s one thing to make sure your viewers are alert and paying attention to details, but you shouldn’t need a manual or FAQ to remember if you’ve seen that bad guy before…In the end I feel True Detective’s main fault was not abiding by the simple rule of “Show, don’t tell”. Too many times are important points rushed through in unnatural exchanges between the characters.
The Jinx is not a simple story by any means as it goes back and forth between different stages of Durst’s life over several decades. The storytelling is however masterful and keeps you on the edge of your seat, all the way up to a nail-biting, jaw-dropping conclusion, that’ll get you instantly Googling for more information.
And with any great show, you need a great title sequence these days. Here again, The Jinx doesn’t disappoint and follows True Detective’s now iconic style:
Here is the trailer for HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. And don’t hesitate to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the ending of TD season 2!