‘The Jinx – Part Two’ gives Robert Durst an encore, with a little help from his friends

The first thought hearing about “The Jinx – Part Two” was, what could they possibly do for an encore – reanimate the late Robert Durst and have him confess on a hot mic again? After a few episodes, though, this nine-years-later continuation again proves quite compelling, thanks not only to the late Durst’s idiosyncrasies but the “Star Wars” cantina of odd characters that surrounded him.

Director Andrew Jarecki establishes that he sees this as an extension of what came before by numbering the six episodes as chapters seven through 12. Lest anyone have forgotten, the original docuseries stunned audiences when Durst, after having been seemingly caught writing a damning note, went to the bathroom and was recorded saying “killed them all, of course,” which many took as his confession regarding the disappearance of his wife Kathie and subsequent murder of his friend, Susan Berman.

While almost nothing could match that moment, Jarecki does what he can, including footage of interesting parties watching a screening of the final episode of “The Jinx” at his home in 2015, capturing their jaws-agape responses. He also has access to authorities interviewing Durst and others, as well as Durst’s jailhouse calls to friends, most of whom appeared to be unsettlingly on board with trying to help him evade punishment.

Nick Chavin, a Durst pal who wound up testifying against him, broadly sums up that mentality by saying in seemingly cavalier fashion that he lacks a “moral hatred of murder and murderers.” Similarly, unearthed audio finds Berman to have been more complicit than the filmmakers imagined in trying to help Durst craft a plausible story regarding what might have happened to Kathie.

Los Angeles deputy district attorney John Lewin is featured in "The Jinx - Part Two." - HBO
Los Angeles deputy district attorney John Lewin is featured in "The Jinx - Part Two." - HBO

For all that, as New York Time reporter Charles Bagli notes, Durst likely would have remained free and avoided prosecution “if he had just kept his trap shut.” Instead, he chose to cooperate with Jarecki, for reasons that mystify authorities and Durst confidants alike.

Jarecki does an admirable job of getting key players to participate, including deputy district attorney John Lewin, Judge Mark Windham, defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, and several jurors from the trial that resulted in Durst’s 2021 conviction for Berman’s murder. He also incorporates amusing anecdotes, such as Durst’s efforts to look especially frail to elicit sympathy, perhaps a little too transparently.

Given the abundance of juicy material, the only shame is that Jarecki felt obliged to dress “The Jinx – Part Two” up with the tricks of the trade, including actor reenactments, subtle but conspicuous, of everything from Durst looking down at Kathie’s body to staged aerial shots as he spoke with the authorities. While these are by now common practices, when so much is culled from reality, blurring those lines feels unnecessary and even distracting.

Along with Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” “The Jinx” helped usher in a wave of true crime that at its best and most lurid has become every bit as valuable to premium networks and attention-hungry streaming services as prestige dramas.

Durst might be an unlikely Hollywood leading man – heck, he couldn’t even spell “Beverly Hills” properly – but more than two years after his death he remains a source of fascination, one that’s as disturbing as it is, alas, hard to resist.

“The Jinx – Part Two” premieres April 21 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.

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