The Jinx: Part Two brilliantly follows up 2015’s true crime sensation

Superior true crime storytelling returns in The Jinx: Part Two. It’s every bit as vital and engaging as its original episodes, discovers Amelia Berry.

How do you make a sequel to a documentary? Superhero movies, stoner comedies, particularly well-liked murder mysteries—sure! They get sequels all the time. But a documentary? It’s hard to even imagine what would go into a documentary sequel. Maybe a rehash of part one, maybe some corrections or amendments, at worst you’re looking at a self-congratulatory victory lap.

It’s something of a miracle then that Andrew Jarecki’s The Jinx: Part Two manages to be every bit as vital and engaging as his original 2015 HBO documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. But The Jinx was never your average true crime doco…

At the centre of The Jinx is Bob Durst. Heir to a New York real estate empire, Durst’s life is marked by his proximity to three peculiar tragedies: the 1982 disappearance of his wife Kathie, the 2000 murder of his best friend Susan Berman, and the 2001 killing and dismemberment of his neighbour, Morris Black. Durst himself is an oddly charismatic figure. At times manipulative and evasive, at times disarmingly frank and straightforward, his interviews with Jarecki alone make The Jinx worth watching.

The big question for part one then, is whether Durst is a killer whose cold-blooded charm and personal wealth has let him get away with murder, or is he—as the title suggests—the unluckiest man in the world. Jinxed.

But while most true crime documentaries would leave it there (perhaps with some suggestively ominous music), The Jinx took it a step further. Over the course of filming, Jarecki and his team uncovered new evidence which seemed to point the finger directly at Durst—at least in the case of Susan Berman. And then, in one of the most astonishing moments in 2010s television, the season finale revealed Durst making something like a full confession after he thought his mic had been turned off. “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course!”

Now, almost a decade later, we can finally glimpse the aftermath of Durst’s ‘confession’.

The Jinx: Part Two brings us back into the action before Part One has even finished airing. As the season unfolded, The Jinx’s producers were already in talks with police and federal agents, handing over the new evidence they uncovered and sharing their knowledge of Durst’s movements. The day before the finale airs, Durst is arrested by the FBI.

From here, the bulk of the season looks at building the case against Durst and his trial. With some top-notch pin-board action we move through a web of Durst’s associates. Who are they? What do they know? Are they allowed to testify? Can they be made to turn against Bob?

Above it all hangs the question: why did Robert Durst speak to The Jinx in the first place? For a man with so much to hide, it seems like the last thing in the world he ought to be doing. Several people put the question to Bob in the first few episodes and from his answers, it seems like not even he can fathom why he did it.

Indeed, the impact of part one of The Jinx weaves a fascinating thread through the whole season. Obviously, there’s the ‘confession’. And the letter the filmmakers discovered which seemed to tie Durst’s handwriting to a crucial piece of evidence in Susan Berman’s murder. But while these might be smoking guns in a season of TV, they might not hold up to scrutiny in a criminal trial.

In fact, large parts of Durst’s defence rest on claims that the trial is being unduly influenced by the ‘sensationalised reporting’ of The Jinx. They make a point of bringing up Jarecki’s 2010 film All Good Things—a fictionalised account of the disappearance of Kathie Durst—as affecting the perception of certain key elements in the case.

This element of self-reflection and the rumination on the legitimacy of the true crime project adds real depth to The Jinx: Part Two—feeling not just like a continuation of part one, but an essential companion to it.

Of course, the presentation is extremely slick, and its blend of interviews, courtroom footage, reenactments, and Zoom-recorder b-roll flow together extremely smoothly. But the most impressive part of The Jinx: Part Two is how it manages its tone.

Durst is, to put it kindly, an oddball. So it’s no surprise that he finds himself surrounded by some fairly outrageous characters. The Jinx isn’t afraid to indulge in the light-hearted and bizarre when it comes to the inventor of “porno country”, the hyper-energetic law clerk identical twins, or (the star of the show) a pretty freaky full-face rubber mask.

But through all of this hi-jinx, it always feels like Jarecki and his team take the real tragedy at the heart of the case extremely seriously. In an early episode, Kathie’s friends and relatives gather to watch the finale of part one. As the episode ends and Durst makes his confession, the grief, the relief, the catharsis, are just so striking and intense. It’s a genuinely heartbreaking moment.

Back in 2015, part one of The Jinx felt like it was ushering in a new era of true crime storytelling. Alongside the podcast Serial, it was an approach that prioritised deep investigative journalism and thrilling, character-driven stories. It was also an approach that seemed to strive to deliver some degree of justice—to be on the side of truth, rather than just the side of sensationalism.

Since then, true crime has ballooned in popularity. But with more true crime content to consume than ever, the vast majority falls far from living up to that promise from a decade ago. The Jinx: Part Two not only delivers a brilliant follow-up to one of the best documentary series of the 2010s, but serves as a reminder that true crime can deliver truly great filmmaking, journalism, and storytelling.