Obligatory spoiler alert for the commentary below but if you are, indeed, alerted and averted by the presence of spoilers, go and watch The Jinx right now and then come back and read this. It’ll only take about five hours, which you clearly have time for since DST just happened.
Andy Verderosa (AV):
The Jinx is probably my favorite Sunday night show right now. Last week’s fourth episode I thought was the best so far, proving that 1) courtroom nonfiction drama is often better than courtroom fiction drama and 2) this man is truly insane.
We’ve discussed this, but it seems like this show is at a cultural tipping point, with more and more people talking about it. I remember with Serial, you and I were both early adopters—and it took about a month and a half before everyone and their mother was talking about it. It’s a a shame this is only a limited six episode series because it may be over by the time it gets the coverage it deserves. I actually don’t think they marketed the show too well. People have no idea what its about if they don’t know the name Robert Durst.
What have you liked most about the show so far?
Hannah Teplitsky (HT):
Yeah, The Jinx is definitely my favorite Sunday show right now too. Usually that mantle goes to The Good Wife, but with it just coming back off hiatus with a less-than-thrilling episode and The Jinx nailing its final scenes the past two installments (particularly Episode 3’s eyebrow query) along with crushing every other scene leading up to those, I’m all in on this show. I’ve been saying since the first episode that it’s the visual version of Serial and that I am more than a little bit surprised that, given that podcast’s legendary popularity and true crime subject matter/crowdsolvability potential, this hasn’t caught on more? But then I basically had to eat my words because yesterday it happened. Like, I could see this show approaching its tipping point in real time, you know? You and I were discussing it over gchat and how we might have a friendly gmail discourse over it and then I went home and my friend, apropos of nothing, brought up “this show on HBO about some murderer” and I was like: oh shit. Here it comes. As soon as the normals of the world start bring it up to me midconvo, the onslaught begins. Facebook stati on the The Jinx are imminent. Blergh.
Re the marketing of it, you’re right… it wasn’t marketed too well. But I think that that was kind of the genius of it, because to me it felt like I was discovering this pearl of a show on my own. I also think that it’s hitting its tipping point at a critical moment in its trajectory, because from what I understand from various interviews I’ve read with Andrew Jarecki, eps 5 and 6 are on one. Also, I’m assuming that by “this man” you mean Robert Durst? And not Andrew Jarecki? Because there’s definitely an argument to made re the former for obvious reasons but the latter isn’t too popular in certain circles as well. You know he’s the cofounder of Moviefone? Thanks IMDb trivia.
But actually, that’s what I’ve liked most about the show so far—that I totally disagree with you. I don’t think that Robert Durst is insane at all. I think he’s the product of his environment and upbringing and sure, he definitely has some eccentricities and blinks very enthusiastically a lot, but I don’t think he’s insane. I like that the show allows for both interpretations, even in such a heavily convincing medium like TV (whereas with Serial it was just audio and you couldn’t see body language, photos, etc.).
I’m interested in why you think he’s insane though. Tell me more.
Wait, really? You don’t think he’s insane? The way he (spoiler alert) talked about chopping up a human body as if it were an onion? Or the fact that this guy, on the lamb, steals a $6 sandwich from a grocery store with thousands of dollars in the trunk of his car? Or wait, how about how he described the other inmates in the prison—”people who had accomplished something in their lives?” The man is crazy. Look at his prison squat! I actually don’t even think the show is interested in debating that. While serial very much relied on the did he or didn’t he aspect, I feel The Jinx has remained pretty steady in it’s course, not swaying one way or the other. Whereas Sarah Koenig led her audience down rabbit holes only to bring them back out and into a different one, The Jinx sends one message the whole time: this crazy murderer somehow is innocent, and here is why.
That’s not to say he isn’t the product of his environment, because he is. But I’m not sure you can argue causality in all cases. One thing that’s pretty interesting to me is why he is even doing the interview with Jarecki? He has nothing to gain other than a whole new generation of people who are convinced he is a free murderer.
What I think made Serial so special was that the case was unfolding in real time. The only new piece of information coming out of this series about all three murders is his new commentary and testimonial. As you say, there’s no crowdsolvability potential which is why I haven’t even checked to see if there is a good subreddit [editor’s note: there is]. I’ve actually actively tried not to learn any details of the case outside of the show. My parents know all about it just from the news, but I really enjoy remaining ignorant until a new installment every Sunday night.
Yeah… I don’t know but I don’t think he’s insane. My own impressions of him are pretty neutral—maybe he is on the Autism spectrum, maybe definitely he has PTSD from seeing his mom jump off a roof, maybe he has Antisocial Personality Disorder (which I guess would be closest to your definition of insane)—but I wasn’t put off by him the way you were. And again, after reading a lot of interviews with Jarecki, I have kind of this weird respect for him almost. And it’s funny you say that The Jinx hasn’t veered off course—that it’s stayed very on-message about how, as you say, this crazy murderer somehow is innocent—because again, and I hate to keep referencing Jarecki interviews (this one and this one, in particular), I got the impression from Jarecki that these last two episodes will be huge turning points. I also think reading those interviews you get an interesting perspective on Durst—Jarecki has a very congenial relationship with him.
I agree with you about not looking up details about the case. I haven’t done any reading up on the show at all with the exception of those interviews. I don’t really care what happened in the cases. I don’t care about the witnesses, and I don’t care about the detectives, and I don’t care about the timelines. I never cared about any of that stuff with Serial either. The easiest and most frequent question people asked about Serial was: Is Adnan innocent or guilty? And to me, that was totally missing the point. I was waymore interested in the character study of it—of Jay, Adnan, Sarah Koenig, etc.—and that’s how I feel about The Jinx too. I really don’t care about culpability. I care more about the why/how of the thing than the thing itself.
To that end, when I talked about his childhood/upbringing, I wasn’t attempting to establish causality, more like context. I just think it’s easy to forget that people are more than just the parts of them that make headlines. These murders/crimes/events didn’t happen in a vacuum. And even if he is insane, there would still be an internal—albeit flawed—logic to why he does what he does.
Ahh, sorry, I realize “insane” isn’t a medical term. But I don’t want to use psychopath because Serial beat.that.word.into.the.ground. Either way, I think what makes the show so compelling is how creepy the man is now. His voice, his mannerism, the way he describes things. The first episode starts with probably the most gruesome detail of the Galveston crime, but we don’t meet the real terror until the second episode. His voiceover gives me chills, and if your boy Jarecki isn’t just advertising, I expect things to get a lot creepier in these next two episodes.
If we assume that this show is at least a mild success (again, its gaining steam as we type) what do you think this says about the future of true crime? I’ve never been very interested in serialized SVU or CSI episodes, even though many come from real life true stories. Is the key the parsing out of every single detail? I’m sure there are plenty of other stories that could just use a prestige HBO/NPR gloss in order to get their due.
Well so actually, per the DSM-5 (the newest edition of the manual meant to dictate current trends/diagnoses in mental health across all fields), “psychopath” isn’t a medical term either. The umbrella that psychopathy and sociopathy fall under is Antisocial Personality Disorder, which if you’re diagnosed with that (and one of the stipulations of being diagnosed with it is that you must be at least 18 years old because doctors are very reluctant to slap you with this label) you are capital-F Fucked for the rest of your life because there is zero cure and you become a social pariah. But I do think it’s interesting to contemplate his potential diagnoses, and obviously maybe that’s just me because I come from a mental health perspective, but I think that it can only help to inform the man, his method, and perhaps his madness. For example, the definition of someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder is someone who “habitually violates the rights of others without remorse.” I personally find this definition fascinating and I can’t necessarily argue with its application to Durst (though there are a host of other features/symptoms).
Sorry, social work tangent. I’m actually more interested in what our obsession with true crime as a nation/zeitgeist says about us rather than what is being said about true crime. Why are we so invested in crimes that are 10, 20, 30 years old, and already ostensibly “solved,” to boot? Why must we go over everything again, and who is really benefitting from rehashing things? Jarecki, Durst, us? Or everyone involved? I have to believe that, if the man is guilty, he either submits to this kind of interview because he is that narcissistic and confident in his cover or because he just simply does not give a fuck anymore. But, if he is innocent, he stands a chance to prove his innocence in the court of public opinion. So, his stakes are fairly clear to me. But I’m really intrigued by why Jarecki was so drawn to this crime, this man, this story in the first place. And in turn, why we are.
AV [Monday morning, after Sunday night’s new episode]:
HOLY FUCK, BEVERLEY. The fifth episode did not disappoint. Now this is an ongoing investigation, whereas before we were just reliving old facts. I really want to know the timeline of all these events. How long has Jarecki been working on this project? The Douglas Durst award dinner was happening in 2011—when did the first interview with Bob take place?
I’m happy this dude Sareb came to Jesus, but I’m upset it took him so long to see the obvious.
Right okay so yeah I’m also curious about the events because those interviews that I read with Jarecki between EW and whatever the fuck other media outlet that I’m sure is losing their minds over how they possibly missed covering this more in-depth were obviously current (and somewhat publicity for the show) and in those interviews (sorry, I’m so into these interviews at this point) Jarecki made it sound as though his relationship with Durst was not only current/ongoing but also healthy and amicable? So like that 2011 dinner and along with BeverlEygate really threw me for a loop. Iono I mean you’re the one that lives in NYC you should have your ear to the ground regarding all major crimes and happenings. I expect more from you, Andy.
Also, CAN WE TALK ABOUT DEBRAH CHARATAN? WHO SPELLS IT DEBRAH? ALSO IS HER LAST NAME A POOR MAN’S EXCUSE FOR “CHARLATAN?” That woman freaks me the fuck out. I’m totally cool with Bob and his blinky ways but she is somehow more calculating in an obvious way and it makes me uncomfy.
How fucking creepy was it when Kathleen’s niece (did you notice how on official paperwork she is sometimes referred to as Kathleen and other times referred to as Katharine? Why can no one be named normal things in this show?) was basically her doppelgänger?
Okay, so now the LAPD is officially reopening the case. Again, I’m very confused about the timeline of this documentary. Did the LAPD just find out about the handwriting last night when I did? That doesn’t feel right.
What do you think about the Durst family being complicit? Douglas comes off as a real scumbag in this episode, but I doubt he really knows anything. I assume the family has tried to remain as ignorant as possible. They know more than nothing, that much is clear.
Debrah is clearly sketch. She seems almost equally evil. A match made in heaven.
I don’t really understand the timeline either because the movie that inspired this documentary, All Good Things, came out in 2010 and featured Ryan Gosling and like, as a red-blooded American female, I have no idea how the fuck I missed that movie because I legit had not heard of it until this series. I mean, 2010 fits more in line with the 2011 Doug Durst dinner from last night’s episode but what, it’s taken three years to amass all of these interviews and footage? I understand perfectionism and wanting to get the facts right but something isn’t adding up here.
Also, I always wonder about shit like this like… how have we not heard about this case being reopened until literally this morning when I sent you that New York Post link that was only 2 hours old [at the time]?
Regarding the potential complicity of the Durst family, I think they probably are. I don’t think Douglas knows anything, but I think that Seymour, the dad, did, and definitely that one Ed Wright guy who they hired as a PI and then promptly fired when his findings didn’t agree with the narrative Nick Scoppetta, the criminal defense lawyer, was trying to build. So I guess what I’m saying is they maybe weren’t complicit in action, but in inaction. I think that no matter how fucked up this family appears, every family wants to protect its own and its legacy—this family perhaps even more given their monetary value—and when this all went down, they took the necessary steps to rectify the situation.
It’s like what one of Durst’s lawyers, Dick DeGuerin, said: some people can afford to buy the Cadillac of lawyers, and those are the people that get the best defenses and come out winning cases that they probably should not have won. I actually really appreciated him saying that because for as crass/cavalier as it sounded, even the law is a capitalistic endeavor and is stratified by class and means.