What do you get when you smash together Nordic noir, the work of Agatha Christie and Glass onion? Murder at the end of the worldthe new series from OA creators Britt Marling and Zal Batmanglij.
This Icelandic whodunnit set certainly shares much of its DNA with the aforementioned murder mystery gems. However, it features a slick techno-thriller sheen and a unique detective in Emma Corinne’s Darby Hart, whose hacking skills put her at the center of a fascinating web of death.
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What is Murder at the end of the world regarding?
The “Murder at the End of the World” Ensemble.
Credit: Courtesy of FX
Thanks to her work solving a series of unsolved cases, Darby became known as the “Generation Z Sherlock Holmes”. That title earns her an invitation to an exclusive (and completely secluded) retreat in Iceland hosted by tech billionaire Andy Ronson (Clive Owen). He hopes that bringing brilliant minds together will lead to innovations that will help humanity in the face of existential threats like climate change. But all that talk of saving the world flies out the window when a guest dies on the very first night.
Suddenly, a collection of highly influential retreat figures, from astronauts to climatologists, are forced to confront their own mortality with greater immediacy than that suggested by, say, climate forecasts. Suspicions grow, tensions escalate, and before you can say “And then they were gone,” bodies begin to pile up in this remote paradise.
Like Murder at the end of the worldIt’s up to Darby’s resident detective to try and catch the killer before they strike again. She will have to rely on all of her technological knowledge, all of her past experience, and—most daunting of all—some of her colleagues, all of whom are suspects.
Murder at the end of the world is a tale of two cases.
Emma Corrine and Harris Dickinson in Murder at the End of the World.
Credit: Christopher Saunders / FX
While Darby investigates the deaths in the retreat, Murder at the end of the world returns to the case that won her recognition. Years before Andy’s invitation, Darby and fellow Internet sleuth Bill Farah (Harris Dickinson) embark on a journey to track down a serial killer who they believe has left silver jewelry with the corpses of all his victims. The two inevitably grow closer as they continue their mission, but Darby hasn’t seen Bill since the day they found their killer—at least not until he, too, shows up at Andy’s hideout.
With its weaving between past and present, Murder at the end of the world is able to elucidate more deeply the complex relationship between Darby and Bill. This turns out to be a blessing: their faltering romance in the past borders on melodramatic cliché, but the context offered by the present allows us to see the drastic (and very different) ways their time together has shaped them.
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Murder at the end of the world features its twin cases with a stylish twist, contrasting the barren, snowy beauty of Iceland with the warm desert wonders of the American West. Darby and Bill’s first case seems rawer, more basic: they sleep in cars or sneak into motel rooms, far from the high-tech luxury of Andy’s Icelandic hotel.
The technology is also different. In the past, Bill and Darby have relied on input from Reddit investigators and hacks from their own phones and computers. Andy is currently insisting on taking guests’ personal devices to ensure a “phone-free” experience, which means Darby will have to use other investigative methods. Among those methods is the recruitment of Andy’s pet project, an AI named Ray (Edoardo Ballerini), who serves as everything from a medical expert to a therapist. Where the previous storyline stepped into realism, Ray and Andy’s other inventions deliver Murder at the end of the world into science fiction territory, creating a multi-purpose puzzle box.
Darby Hart is a detective for the Internet age.
Emma Corrine in “Murder at the End of the World”.
Credit: Christopher Saunders / FX
With all its talk of climate catastrophe and the future of technology and AI, Murder at the end of the world can sometimes stray too far from the current issue with his murders. It’s a relief when the series turns its focus directly to Darby’s work, diving into the ins and outs of hacking doorbell cameras or decoding technologically transmitted Morse code. These strategies come much easier to her than interrogating suspects, which means she’ll make plenty of social blunders—and mysterious allies—along the way. But whether she’s commanding an AI or getting close to a would-be assassin, Murder at the end of the world conveys every second of Darby’s investigation with tense suspense.
Corinne shines when Darby gleefully uncovers a new clue, but they’re especially strong in moments where Darby processes her grief over the murders. We learn that Darby got into crime solving while working with her coroner father at his morgue. There, each unnamed corpse—usually a woman—signified an unresolved thread, a person who never found justice. So for her, catching killers means bringing closure to the dead, a motivation that drives her but also risks being completely lost in a case. Corinne’s fiery, unbridled passion for these murders finds a good foil in Dickinson’s more cautious sensibility about their obsession with hunting down murderers.
With so much focus on Darby and Bill, it can sometimes be difficult for members of the Murder at the end of the worldensemble to stand out. Owen certainly does as the menacing, powerful Andy, as does Marling as his mysterious hacker wife Lee. Elsewhere, though, characters like director Martin (Jermaine Fowler) or smart city architect Lu Mei (Joan Chen) have much less to do as the investigation begins. The imbalance between certain characters serves as a detriment to the underlying mystery, either dismissing them as suspects or worse, relegating them to the body count. The series can also spin its wheels at times with its more sensible discussions, although these underlying issues of climate and technology are more interesting when viewed through the immediate lens of the murders.
But despite these flaws, Marling and Batmanglij have undoubtedly created a compelling mystery with Murder at the end of the world. The intertwined chronology, so often a gimmick in other TV shows, helps Darby’s two cases talk to each other in a satisfying way, while the remote settings make for an always stunning watch. If you’re looking for a cool mystery to spend the winter with, give it a go Murder at the end of the world.
Murder at the end of the world now streaming on Hulu, with a new episode every Tuesday.