A Murder at the End of the World review: overlong mystery with a message

Emma Corrin in A Murder at the End of the World

A Murder at the End of the World tells two tediously drawn out murder mystery stories in a 7 part series, now streaming on Hulu. The series comes from Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, who created and directed. Brit Marling plays a part in the series, but the true star of the show is Emma Corrin.

A Murder at the End of the World takes place in two timelines. Both involve multiple mysterious murders. In the early timeline, a young Darby Hart (Emma Corrin) and a young Bill Farrah (Harris Dickinson), both hackers, meet in an online forum dedicated to unsolved murders of unidentified women. All these unnamed women, referred to as Jane Doe, were murdered. All that remains are unidentified bones and some small objects made of silver. Darby and Bill find a clue in one of the cases and a lead to a serial killer.

Emma Corrin and Harris Dickinson in A Murder at the End of the World

They meet in real life and begin a road trip working their way back through the serial killer’s murders to the very first one. They fall in love. An unusual kind of love, but still love.

In the current timeline, Darby has written a novel about her experiences as an amateur sleuth and her time tracking a serial killer with Bill. She’s doing readings at bookstore gatherings. Bill has disappeared, but may be working as an artist known as Fangs.

The poster features Emma Corrin with Clive Owen peeking out from behind her.

Darby receives a mysterious invitation to attend a conference sponsored by tech billionaire Andy Robson (Clive Owen). Darby knows Andy is married to Darby’s idol, the hacker she learned everything from: Lee Andersen (Brit Marling). Darby agrees to attend in hopes she’ll meet Lee.

The conference is in Iceland in a remote valley. It’s in a high tech hotel with many amenities, including a personal assistant artificial intelligence (AI) named Ray (Edoardo Ballerini).

Andy is there with his wife, Lee, and their precocious son Zoomer (Kellan Tetlow).

There are only a few people at the conference, all of them well known in some way. Lu Mei (Joan Chen), for example, builds smart cities in China. Sian (Alice Braga) is an astronaut. One of the people who arrives is Bill Ferrah. Darby is shocked and delighted to see him again after so many years. The two make plans to talk later in Bill’s room.

Bill doesn’t answer his door when she knocks, but Darby hears noise. She runs out into the cold to look into his room through the windows and watches him die.

Andy wants to pass the death off as an overdose to save his reputation, but Darby knows better. And then more people die.

The murders have to be done by someone in the group, so Darby sets to work collecting information to learn whodunnit. The story takes place in Iceland as suspects are brought into consideration, but flashbacks to the older crime-solving road trip with Bill constantly filter through Darby’s mind.

The pacing in this series is slow, slow, slow. And slower. It’s interesting, but it’s not exciting or suspenseful. The murders and all the high tech whiz, bang, pop parts of the plot are actually there to serve the message. The message is about the faulty programming of human software creators and how that is mirrored in AI devices. Which makes AI as faulty and f*cked up as the people who create it.

The series was partly filmed in Iceland in a spot seemingly covered by deep snow. The actors never dressed properly or looked cold enough. They’d head out into the snow in open coats with no gloves. It made me wonder if they were really outside in the weather. It was beautiful though.

Many of the characters were underdeveloped. The characters we got to know, such as Emma Corrin’s Darby, were well done.

If you watch it, I’d like to know what you thought. Did you think it was too slow, too? Did you pick up on the early clues to the final message?

4 thoughts on “A Murder at the End of the World review: overlong mystery with a message”

  1. I was really enjoying it all along. Darby is my favorite kind of sleuth, the setting was wonderful, the relationship with Bill and their back story was interesting, BUT I absolutely hated the ending. I could see it coming, but thought no, it was too obvious, but no, it wasnt.
    Gah.
    Watch The Brothers Son. Maybe not as woman driven as you like–but three female writers, female characters, and Michelle Yeoh! Very strong Asian presence in cast and production–wonderful story!

  2. “tediously drawn out” – thanks for the warning. I’m going to pass.

    I find this a problem with Netflix particularly. My “Keep Watching” queue is littered with series I stopped watching when I realize how padded they are. I understand the temptation to “pad” because Netflix and others are measured by “minutes watched”. But it’s boring, even as the teasers try to build suspense across episodes, usually 2-4 episodes more than necessary. My time is more valuable than that. Apologies for commenting on something I haven’t watched but thanks again for the heads-up.

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