A Murder At The End Of The World TV Review

Emma Corrin is a Gen-Z sleuth in Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling’s chilling whodunit limited series.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnPl4PuNb5U

Plot: A Murder at the End of the World is a mystery series with a new kind of detective at the helm — a Gen Z amateur sleuth and tech-savvy hacker named Darby Hart. A reclusive billionaire invites Darby and eight other guests to participate in a retreat at a remote and dazzling location. When one of the other guests is found dead, Darby must use all of her skills to prove it was murder against a tide of competing interests before the killer takes another life.

Review: In recent memory, three types of whodunits have made wide release. There is the traditional, Agatha Christie-style whodunit (Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express and its sequels), the modernized whodunit (Rian Johnson’s Knives Out), and the neo-noir whodunit (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). Upon seeing the trailer for A Murder At the End of the World, I expected the series to follow in the latter’s footsteps, brought to life through the punk-tinged Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara. With Emma Corrin in the lead alongside an ensemble of talented actors, so much of the series had the look and feel of Hercule Poirot and Benoit Blanc but with a tech-savvy bend. I should have known that through the writing and directorial talents of series creators Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, A Murder at the End of the World would be anything but conventional. Taking the core elements of a good single-location murder mystery and introducing a fascinating new protagonist, this limited series develops dual narratives complimenting each other while keeping the audience breathlessly trying to work out the killer and their motivation. In short, this is a solid addition to the modern whodunit genre.

A Murder at the End of the World, Emma Corrin, FX

Told over seven hour-long chapters, A Murder At The End Of The World follows true-crime writer and amateur detective Darby Hart (Emma Corrin) as she is invited to the isolated Icelandic retreat by tech billionaire Andy Ronson (Clive Owen). Darby, having just published a best-selling account of her days as a hacker solving a series of cold cases alongside her lover Bill Farrah (Harris Dickinson), takes the invitation in the hopes of meeting Ronson’s wife, Lee (Brit Marling), a famous hacker and idol to Darby. Also attending the retreat are a group of pioneers, creative talents, and power brokers, including Lu Mei (Joan Chen), David (Raul Esparza), Sian (Alice Braga), Martin (Jermaine Fowler), Ziba (Pegah Ferydoni), and more. Brought together by Ronson to help solve challenges facing mankind, they also encounter Ray (Edoardo Ballerini), a singular intelligence that could help change everything in the world. Also in attendance is Bill, whom Darby has not seen in the years since they investigated the Silver Doe serial killer. While celebrating their first night at the retreat, someone is murdered, and Darby takes it upon herself to use her skills as an investigator to figure out who the killer is.

The series setup checks all of the whodunit boxes by placing an ensemble of strangers in a remote location with minimal outside interference and saddling them with a dead body. Some characters have shared pasts and secrets with others at the retreat, and some of those hidden truths come to light over the following hours and days. The twist in this series is the dual timelines, which follow Darby Hart’s first case years earlier as it parallels her current investigation. Each chapter reveals flashbacks as Darby meets Bill and hones her skills, which find the dead “speaking” to her. Darby embodies the modern Generation Z culture, which pits her personality against the diverse Boomer through the Millennial mindsets of the other guests. A Murder At the End of the World never plays into stereotypes of the different generational divides at play. Instead, it uses the differing moral compasses of the age ranges to inform the motives and crimes of those in the main cast. It is also intriguing to see the story shift from the Midwestern United States to the hinterlands of Iceland, both locations offering different temperatures, literally and figuratively, to the plot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xhtzH6wxEg

While we have an expectedly great performance from Clive Owen and Brit Marling pulling triple duty behind the camera and in front of it as Lee Andersen, the brunt of this series rests on the shoulders of Emma Corrin and Harris Dickinson. Corrin was critically lauded for their turn as Diana Spencer in The Crown and will soon play the villain in Deadpool 3, but this is potentially a signature role for the actor. Corrin, who is only twenty-seven, convincingly plays Darby as a shy teen when she first meets Bill, a more confident true crime writer and hacker. Corrin and Harris Dickinson share a solid chemistry on screen, and both give flawless American accents. Dickinson, equally lauded for his turn in Triangle of Sadness and The King’s Man, is an alluring and mysterious figure here as Bill, who plays sidekick and mentor in equal measure with Darby. Corrin and Dickinson embody a full lifetime of drama and emotional range as Darby and Bill. That helps to inform the connection to the two parallel crime investigations between the flashbacks and contemporary scenes.

It helps that after making The East, The Sound of My Voice, and the Netflix series The OA, writer/directors Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling know how to play to each other’s strengths. Batmanglij and Marling wrote or co-wrote the entire run of A Murder At The End of the World alongside Melanie Marnich and Rebecca Roanhorse. Brit Marling directed three episodes, with Zal Batmanglij helming the other four, offering a consistent look and feel to the entire series. There is an air of claustrophobia lent to the technology-enhanced hotel the characters stay at for the duration of the series, with the production values shifting to the more downtrodden rural areas of the Midwest in the flashback sequences. All of this is accentuated by the score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, who composed the score for Ozark and Batmanglij and Marling’s The OA. Altogether, this series feels less like a procedural or traditional mystery and more akin to the indie roots of the creators. There is a high production value allotted thanks to the pockets of FX, but the series still feels unique. The odd number of episodes is the right length, as any longer or shorter would have felt watered down or too rushed. As it stands, the ending works but just barely, as it has to pull everything together in the shortest episode of the series.

Like Rian Johnson’s first Knives Out, A Murder At the End of the World succeeds in giving us a new detective to root for. Darby Hart is more than a one-off character, and I hope this is the first in many mysteries investigated by Emma Corrin’s fascinating performance. Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling could easily walk away from this as a standalone limited series or transform it into an ongoing anthology with Emma Corrin, the lone recurring performer, each time surrounded by a new cast of suspects and sidekicks. Where Hercule Poirot and Benoit Blanc seem almost superhuman in their abilities, Darby Hart feels like a more realistic and nuanced character, even when the mystery she solves seems a bit too big for its own good. A Murder At the End of the World is a solid mystery that eclipses its flaws by showcasing a great ensemble led by the consistently brilliant Emma Corrin.

A Murder At The End Of The World premieres with two episodes on November 14th on FX.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

5919 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.