Emma Corrin shines as the captivating ‘Gen Z Sherlock Holmes’ in A Murder at the End of the World review.
In modern society, extreme wealth has become a dominant theme. The vastly affluent entrepreneur, or sometimes the heir to a corrupt fortune, has been featured prominently on various television shows in 2023, such as Beef, Dead Ringers, Succession, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Morning Show. In A Murder at the End of the World, Clive Owen portrays tech mogul Andy Ronson, known as the “king of tech,” who invites a group of talented individuals to a retreat in Iceland to discuss important issues of our time, particularly the climate crisis, and envision a potential future. In a passionate speech about climate refugees and the disappearance of natural landscapes, Ronson states, “The facts may seem alarming, but they are indeed facts.”
Such unapologetic sincerity is the hallmark of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, who are best known for creating The OA, the imaginative sci-fi series that was cruelly axed by Netflix after two seasons before it could wrap up the plot. Here, they narrow their vision – this is a lot less interpretative-dance based than that earlier show – and broaden it, darting between timelines to investigate different murders, while also meditating on AI, robotics, violence against women and abuses of power.
Emma Corrin portrays Darby Hart, a 24-year-old detective in the style of “Gen Z Sherlock Holmes,” who has authored a book about her experiences as a self-taught investigator. As a teenager, she and her former boyfriend Bill (Harris Dickinson) utilized their computer hacking abilities to pursue a serial killer. Despite starting off unromantically, their relationship adds a touch of romance to the story. In flashbacks, we witness Darby’s backstory as a solitary individual who spends most of her time on Reddit, following in her pathologist father’s footsteps. Her motivation for conducting her own investigations stems not only from curiosity but also from her beliefs: in the United States, there are countless unidentified corpses, many of whom are female murder victims. It is apparent that she and Bill are not merely attempting to solve a puzzle but also to improve the world.
This continues to be relevant today. Darby and Bill are no longer together, and she currently resides in New York City. She is still using technology, participating in online forums, and connecting with other laptop detectives in her pursuit to identify bodies. She is also promoting her book, The Silver Doe, which focuses on the case of a serial killer. Darby is invited to attend a symposium on the topic of “technology’s impact on securing a better future,” organized and sponsored by Ronson and his wife, Lee Anderson (played by Marling), a renowned coder and one of Darby’s role models.
The show cleverly pokes fun at the excessive use of seemingly limitless resources. It glorifies rare and extravagant food and drinks, a private jet that resembles a library, and a luxurious hotel created by Ronson as a potential sanctuary from potential climate catastrophes. This is reminiscent of real-life tech entrepreneurs who stake their claim on ranches and bunkers, believing it will protect them from unforeseen challenges. However, Ronson is not portrayed as a foolish character. One of the mysteries is deciphering his true intentions – whether he genuinely wants to make a positive impact on the world or if there are more sinister motives behind his actions. The murder that takes place adds a layer of suspense and turns the story into a more intimate setting, as one of the guests at the symposium meets an unfortunate fate and Darby takes it upon herself to uncover the culprit.
Similar to The OA, it is most effective when approached without cynicism. There are obstacles, and how much they impact the enjoyment of the central mysteries depends on one’s level of forgiveness. At times, it gets bogged down by its own serious tone; the best noir has a sly wink and a curled lip, but this often feels wide-eyed and innocent. The first two episodes require sifting through a lot of information, and the issues are not seamlessly integrated. Characters tend to deliver speeches about the state of the world, discussing topics such as “rattling democracy” and “mutating viruses”. Additionally, the episodes are lengthy – while some are 40 minutes, others stretch well over an hour and it may not always feel necessary.
However, it has a fashionable appearance, whether in the foggy, brightly-lit motels of Darby and Bill’s history, or in the futuristic style of Ronson’s supposedly climate-resistant hotel similar to Ex Machina. Corrin and Dickinson give exceptional performances and carry the narrative on their own. It tackles many themes, but I appreciate its bold approach. This is a story centered around technology and its strong desire for interconnected concepts reflects the online world. It may not be perfect, but I was completely captivated by it.