It’s the kind of story that we’ll be talking – “we” meaning, of course, film nerds, doc geeks, true crime freaks, and hardcore Andrew Jarecki fans, typically known as “Jareckitees” – about for years to come, the smash-bang finale of HBO’s The Jinx, which aired on the cable station mere hours after subject Robert Durst was arrested for first degree murder. Jarecki’s long-running obsession with Durst already spawned a fictionalized film (All Good Things), but with The Jinx, Jarecki sought to dive deeply into Durst’s apparently luckless lifestyle (in this case, “luckless” means, “oops, associated with at least three murders”). The title alone implied that something else was at play, that Durst was just in the wrong place at the wrong time or just knew the wrong people or something, something jinx-y and luck-based, nothing actually criminal (well, at least on his end).
The end result is, of course, something very different. Although Jarecki’s initial appearances in the docu-series grated and did nothing to explain why the filmmaker was so enamored of his subject – even in the finale, Jarecki bemoaned how he liked the guy, and damn, isn’t it awful when you like someone who is probably a murderer and who blinks so much that it’s genuinely unnerving? – as his admiration broke down, giving way to reality, it framed up a compelling sub-narrative to the story. It was certainly one of the driving forces behind the finale, which essentially functioned as a documentary about a documentary, with Jarecki and his crew attempting to snag the elusive Durst for one more interview. Of course, if you’re at all in tune with The Jinx, you know what happened next: Durst granted one more interview, after which he apparently confessed (to himself? to a towel dispenser? to a hot mic?) in the bathroom. It’s a fantastic ending to a gobsmacking story, which is why it’s just a tiny bit insane that no one can figure out how exactly this whole thing unfolded.
The final episode of The Jinx laid itself out in what seemed to be a relatively straightforward – and linear! – fashion:
- Jarecki and company try to nail down Durst for one more interview.
- Durst alludes them, apparently lying about his whereabouts for no discernible reason.
- Durst is arrested for loitering outside of his brother’s apartment (his brother has an order of protection against him).
- Jarecki and company agree to release footage of Durst loitering outside said apartment as part of filming in order to help out Durst’s case.
- Durst agrees to the interview, during which Jarecki trots out the “BEVERLEY” envelopes and everything goes nuts.
- Durst confesses in a bathroom.
Looks good on paper, right? Too bad then that Jarecki later told the press that nearly three years had passed since that interview (it apparently took place in April of 2012), which throws the entire timeline into disarray for a multitude of reasons (that arrest? it happened in 2013). Now even the most Jinx obsessed journalists and writers can’t quite pin down what happened and if – and why – Jarecki fudged his date. After digging through piece after piece on the matter, one thing is clear: no one knows how this timeline works, except Jarecki and his team, and they’re not talking.
(If you’d like a timeline of events, check out this one from Slate, which still includes some major questions. If you’re curious about the best questions to actually ask, BuzzFeed has got you covered.)
The are already plenty of excellent theories floating around out there, but the best of which just might be Mike Hale’s theory at The New York Times, who supposes that the interview did take place in 2012, but the flow of the finale was mixed up in service to a little cinematic drama. And that’s the rub, really, that The Jinx, which has some major real world applications, is also still a piece of entertainment that is subject to creative zips and zings to tell a story (a true story, but a story nonetheless).
Of the fuzzy timeline, Hale writes: “one possibility is that there was a desire on the filmmakers’ part to include the 2013 arrest in the story, but that there was no natural place to put it, given that the real story arc of the documentary ended in 2012. In that case, putting it where they did made some sense because of its connection to the 2012 events, but it was a tenuous connection and the result was a confusing timeline.”
Confusing timeline indeed, but still, it’s one that we can all hope to see explained and possibly amended when The Jinx comes to its true finale: a criminal trial. Blink blink, dude.