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What to Watch This Weekend: ‘The Jinx’ Is Back

What to Watch This Weekend: ‘The Jinx’ Is Back

When “The Jinx” premiered in 2015, it was one of the pillars of the new true-crime wave — high-end but sufficiently lurid, with soap-opera twists but also documentary legitimacy. In the absence of criminal justice, maybe entertainment justice could suffice.

Now the director Andrew Jarecki is back with “The Jinx — Part Two,” six more episodes detailing the stranger-than-fiction saga of the real estate scion and convicted murderer Robert Durst. (Only the first four episodes were made available for review. Hmm!) This “Jinx” isn’t just about Durst, though; it’s a “Jinx” about “The Jinx,” folding the story back in on itself yet again, additional layers of narratives and truths and maybe-truths, all getting rolled out together as delicious, buttery true-crime dough.

The first episode, which airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO, includes footage of dozens of people connected to the case all gathering to watch the original finale together. That was indeed a shocking episode of television, with Durst’s hot-mic bathroom confession as its astounding yet fitting conclusion. (The filmmakers later faced criticism for significantly editing Durst’s remarks, but maintained that the edits were representative of what he said.) The reaction scene plays out not with churning pathos but instead like TikToks of people watching Ned Stark meet his surprising fate or videos of fans in a sports bar groaning in unison. Even subjects of “The Jinx” experience it as a show, as fandom of one’s own life.

Over and over, this “Jinx” includes people discussing original “Jinx.” Some describe it directly to Jarecki in interviews, or they mention it in recorded phone calls Durst made from prison, or they say on the witness stand that they watched the show, that they learned details of the case from TV. Actual courthouse footage blends together with hazy re-creation images, and we hear real audio but over fake visuals. And as the show turns its attention to Durst’s long-delayed trial, “The Jinx” takes on a behind-the-scenes quality as much as a true-crime one.

This “Jinx” maintains the original’s inescapable momentum, which feels almost miraculous given that Durst died in 2022. It’s also a warped, fascinating paean to the power of friendship, with Durst demonstrating that consistent, chatty phone calls and a few piles of money can make a shocking number of people look the other way when it comes to murder. “What do you do when your best friend kills your other best friend?” wonders one such associate, who for decades apparently concluded the answer was “nothing.”

Putting “The Jinx” in conversation with itself is a handy way of having the show reckon with its successors, which include fellow prestige tabloid shows and also shakier, sometimes exploitative true-crime series.

The allure of the first installment was, in part, Durst’s audaciousness, the hubris of it all. Periodically in this new set of episodes, people acknowledge that participating in a documentary about how you got away with murder is a pretty effective way to stop getting away with murder. But oh, the fame! One upside of the true-crime glut is the frequent exposure of policing and prosecution failures, a suggestion that our justice system can also function as a justice economy — and one of its currencies is attention.

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