The new Hulu show “A Murder at the End of the World” is an engrossing watch that mixes an old-fashioned “whodunit” with a keen interest in its lead character’s psychology – and a hefty dose of philosophizing about current event issues.
Now streaming (with new episodes out Tuesdays), the show hails from Brit Marling (also a co-star) and Zal Batmanglij, the duo best known for Netflix’s “The OA.”
So, anyone who watched “The OA” – which involved weird science, multiple timelines, dark fairy tale style whimsey, and a strong focus on character relationships – shouldn’t be surprised that their newest series isn’t straightforward mystery, despite its title.
“A Murder at the End of the World” follows Darby Hart (Emma Corrin, “The Crown”) a young twentysomething amateur sleuth, hacker, and author.
After growing up with a coroner single father, Darby became fascinated with all the unidentified dead women in the world – especially those who didn’t die of natural causes. As she explains, many murdered women’s killers will never be found.
As the story opens, Darby is in a bookstore, doing a reading from a true crime memoir that she penned about her preoccupation with a series of dead women that she thought were linked to a serial killer, and her hunt for that killer with her old boyfriend, Bill (Harris Dickinson), shown in flashbacks.
However, that happened several years ago. In the present, it’s not clear what became of that search, or what happened between Darby and Bill.
Her book draws the attention of Andy Ronson (Clive Owen), a reclusive tech billionaire who is famous and controversial enough that he’s had more attempts on his life than any head of state.
When Darby is invited to Andy’s retreat for visionaries from various industries, she can’t resist accepting. She’s also always been fascinated with mysterious hacker Lee Anderson (Marling), who vanished from the spotlight years ago, and re-emerged as Andy’s wife.
Soon, Darby finds herself whisked away via private jet to a remote luxury hotel, in the barren icy landscape of Iceland.
There, she finds herself surrounded by Andy, his wife, and guests such as filmmaker Martin (Jermaine Fowler), roboticist Oliver (Ryan J. Haddad), activist Ziba (Pegah Ferydoni), Sian (Alice Braga), the first woman to walk on the moon, Chinese tech titan Lu Mei (Joan Chen), venture capitalist David (Raúl Esparza), and climatologist Rohan (Javed Khan).
Andy is testing an AI program on them, and he also wants his guests to help determine the future of mankind, in the wake of the climate crisis.
However, things go sideways when one of the guests appears to be murdered – and it happens in a way that seemingly relates to Darby’s fascinating past.
As the youngest person there, it’s hard for Darby to be taken seriously by everyone else, especially as they doubt that the death was a murder. And, if Andy had anything to do with the death, she’s at his mercy – since his private plane took her to this building in the middle of icy mountains, and there’s no way for her to leave on her own.
The show is compelling, and Darby has shades of Lisbeth Saldander (from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). Corrin’s performance is engaging. Darby is equal parts mysterious – as our curiosity is piqued about her past – and sympathetic, as she clearly feels out of her depth as the youngest person at this retreat, who is just a writer, surrounded by industry titans.
“A Murder at the End of the World” is concerned with current events issues, such as AI and the climate crisis. So, it’s not quite escapist entertainment.
But, it’s captivating character-rich mystery in an unusual location, with strong performances.