What's Worth Watching: Three Murders in on The Jinx

A. Bottinick
Courtesy of HBO

Robert Durst

The Jinx, "Chapter 3: The Gangster's Daughter" (Wednesday, Feb. 22, 8/7c, HBO)

Since 1982, Robert Durst has been suspected of three murders. Tonight, in this true crime series' third chapter, we meet victim No. 2, his best friend Susan Berman. Durst met Susan, daughter of Las Vegas mobster Davey "The Jew" Berman, when they were undergrads at UCLA. After Durst's first wife, Kathie, disappeared (see "Chapter 2: Poor Little Rich Boy") in 1982, Berman became his de facto spokesperson, sheltering him from the media. In 2000, when the Westchester County district attorney reopened Kathie's case, investigators hoped to question her husband's closest pal; before they could, Berman was found shot in the head, execution style, inside her Benedict Canyon home on Christmas Eve. So Robert's got some explaining to do.

So let's break things down: Tatau (pronounced tuh-tow) centers on Kyle (Joe Layton) and Budgie (Theo Barklem-Biggs), two 20- something English backpackers taking on the world with a Spring Breaker mentality of drinks and dames (Well, maybe not dames, but you get the idea).

They wind up in New Zealand's Cook Islands among the Maori and drinking a dangerous hallucinogenic. Under-the-influence Kyle sees a woman in a red dress -- whom he then finds chained underwater while he's out snorkeling the next day. Or thinks he does? In any case, he's convinced that this is something more than the effects of a bad hangover.

"They get caught up in this murder mystery of nightmarish supernatural proportions," series creator Richard Zajdlic explains.

That's where the "tatau" part comes in. The word itself is originally Polynesian for (you guessed it) tattoo. "Kyle's been fascinated with this Maori-style tattoo that he's just been doodling for years and years and years," Zajdlic says. "He finally had it done on his arm, and when he arrives on this tropical island, the locals all look at this Maori design and he starts to realize that the symbols that he's drawn on his arm have a meaning that he had no idea about."

That isn't the only thing that's completely lost on Kyle and Budgie. Adjusting to the local culture isn't easy for them, especially when Kyle's convinced something is not quite right on this island. "They're fish out of water in a culture that they have taken quite superficially that they realize has a much deeper significance," Zajdlic says.

At the heart of the show though is the relationship between its two leading characters. "They're basically your average Joes, every man really," he says. "They are best friends and their loyalty to each other and their support for each other is one of the crucial elements," he says, going on to tease that their friendship may not last forever, "Budgie will absolutely die for his friend, and that might not be a metaphor, as it were."

Also, the duo aren't interested in returning to their homeland anytime soon. "Both of them are running away from things in their past," Zajdlic says. "Kyle's is more a personal emotional trauma that he's still struggling to come to terms with, and Budgie has a more materialistic reason why he's running away."

So, you put it all together and what have you got? A supernatural sci-fi murder mystery, taking place in the tropics, with two average boys from England that are running away, and one has a funky new arm tattoo that freaks out the locals? If you're still confused – good. It is a mystery after all. The word "maori" may mean "normal" or "ordinary" in the Maori language, but this show exploring the culture of the Cook Islanders is anything but.

Tatau, April 18, 10/9c, BBC America