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TV Review: ‘A Murder at the End of the World’

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Emma Corrin as Darby Hart and Harris Dickinson as Bill in 'A Murder at the End of the World.'

(L to R) Emma Corrin as Darby Hart and Harris Dickinson as Bill in ‘A Murder at the End of the World.’ Photo: Christopher Saunders/FX.

Launching on FX on Hulu on November 14th with two episodes, ‘A Murder at the End of the World’ sees the much-anticipated return to TV of writer/directors Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, who last brought us the twisty, complicated series ‘The OA’ on Netflix.

Their new series doesn’t dig into quite as strange themes, but there is plenty on the creators’ minds, exploring concepts of trust, technology, love and, as the title suggests, murder.

‘A Murder at the End of the World’: Overview

Harris Dickinson as Bill and Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in 'A Murder at the End of the World.'

(L to R) Harris Dickinson as Bill and Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in ‘A Murder at the End of the World.’ Photo: Chris Saunders/FX.

In their movie work, Batmanglij have always explored fascinating ideas, though sometimes concept has trumped character. There is some of that for sure in their new limited series, though at least it has the chance to come to a proper conclusion (unlike ‘The OA’, which Netflix cancelled before the story was fully told, leaving fans frustrated).

Here, they’ve cooked up a chilly take on the likes of Poirot and even ‘True Detective’ (the flashback subplot featuring Emma Corrin’s Darby and Harris Dickinson’s Bill on a mission to unmask a suburban serial killer feels very much in the latter’s gritty wheelhouse).

It’s a solid piece of entertainment if you’re a fan of the mystery genre, though the intertwining stories don’t always mesh as well as they might (and the flashbacks are less watchable than the main plot, sometimes serving as distraction more than background).

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‘A Murder at the End of the World’: Script and Direction

Harris Dickinson as Bill, Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in 'A Murder at the End of the World.'

(L to R) Harris Dickinson as Bill, Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in ‘A Murder at the End of the World.’ Photo: Eric Liebowitz/FX.

The creative pair has long proved they know how to create compelling worlds, and ‘Murder’ is no exception.

Utilizing voiceover and some of the other tropes of the mystery genre, the series cooks up a variety of potential suspects for Darby to investigate, all with their own motivations and interests, though they’re naturally not all as well drawn as she is.

As a setting for the show, the high-tech, stylish hotel facility is both interesting visually and able to push the story forward, not least because the idea of surveillance and how the point of view can be shifted subconsciously is one that the series explores well.

It must be said, though, despite the clearly decent budget, a few moments are very obviously greenscreen, such as when the cast are out and about in the freezing Icelandic wastes. A few shots are embarrassingly amateur for such a stylish series.

How Are the Performances in ‘A Murder at the End of the World’?

Emma Corrin as Darby Hart and Alice Braga as Sian in 'A Murder at the End of the World.'

(L to R) Emma Corrin as Darby Hart and Alice Braga as Sian in ‘A Murder at the End of the World.’ Photo: Eric Liebowitz/FX.

Corrin, of course, anchors every scene, but unlike ‘The Crown’ where she found the perfect tones and attitude as Princess Diana, her turn as Darby is held back somewhat by having to adopt the accent and mood of the hacker.

Darby’s an awkward character, whose low key style and troubled past edge her into cliché, though she is at least an effective detective.

It’s Clive Owen who shines more here, playing the mysterious tech maven Andy Ronson with shades of Elon Musk (though less annoying) who has plans to save the world from a climate crisis and has gathered a group of friends and experts to bear witness to some of his amazing new ideas.

Owen brings plenty to the table as Ronson, peeling away his layers as the story moves on, and showing his troubled relationship with wife Lee (Marling). The actor/writer/director has given herself enough to chew on as Lee, who keeps her own secrets close but finds a kinship in Darby.

And the third tentpole of the show is Harris Dickinson as Darby’s former partner/love Bill Farrah, who accompanies her on a murder mystery in the flashbacks and then shows up at the retreat after years of estrangement. Dickinson brings Bill to life with subtlety and weird charm even as the character erects big boundaries as an agitprop hacker-turned-Banksy type.

Elsewhere, most of the other characters are treated like plot devices more than people, with only a few making a real impression, such as Joan Chen playing Lu Mei, a wealthy contemporary of Andy who designs smart cities and Edoardo Ballerini as Ray, the ever-present AI who controls the facility and acts as a very advanced version of Alexa.

‘A Murder at the End of the World’: Final Thoughts

Harris Dickinson as Bill in 'A Murder at the End of the World.'

Harris Dickinson as Bill in ‘A Murder at the End of the World.’ Photo: Chris Saunders/FX.

The new show won’t completely fill the void for those missing ‘The OA’, but ‘A Murder at the End of the World’ does at least represent Batmanglij and Marling given relatively free reign to indulge themselves. Though the storyline is a little more conventional, there are enough touches to make this work on different levels.

If the ambition sometimes expands beyond their reach, the show still offers a tricky mystery to keep you guessing.

‘A Murder at the End of the World’ receives 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in 'A Murder at the End of the World.'

Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in ‘A Murder at the End of the World.’ Photo: Chris Saunders/FX.

What’s the story of ‘A Murder at the End of the World?

‘A Murder at the end of the World’ sees Gen Z amateur sleuth and tech-savvy hacker Darby Hart (Emma Corrin) and eight other guests invited by a reclusive billionaire (Clive Owen) 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 and before the killer takes another life. She’ll gave to deal with both the human element and the complicated technology that runs the facility.

Who else is in ‘A Murder at the End of the World’?

The show’s ensemble also includes Harris Dickinson, Brit Marling, Alice Braga, Joan Chen, Raúl Esparza, Jermaine Fowler, Ryan J. Haddad, Pegah Ferydoni, Javed Khan, Louis Cancelmi, Edoardo Ballerini, Britian Seibert, Christopher Gurr, Kellan Tetlow, Daniel Olson and Neal Huff.

Harris Dickinson as Bill, Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in 'A Murder at the End of the World.'

(L to R) Harris Dickinson as Bill, Emma Corrin as Darby Hart in ‘A Murder at the End of the World.’ Photo: Eric Liebowitz/FX.

Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling Movies:

Buy Brit Marling Movies On Amazon

 

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