A Murder at the End of the World

Murder at the End of the World
A Murder at the End of the World
Genre: Techno-Thriller
Service: FX on Hulu
Creator: Brit Marling
Release Year: 2023
Watch: FX on Hulu

This is what happens when someone feeds an AI some true crime podcasts and Elon Musk’s biography and tells it to make a show out of it. Or when someone at FX gives Brit Marling a blank check and tells her to just make whatever the hell she wants. You’d think they would have learned their lesson after the absolutely derided series, The OA, famously became a self-generating stupid meme. The thing is, I actually liked The OA, but A Murder at the End of the World is an absolute abomination. Confused. Nonsensical. Disjointed. Maudlin.

I think the biggest issue I have with the show (and I have a lot of issues) is that it’s completely unclear what or whom we’re supposed to care about. Our main character, Darby Hart (Emma Corrin), is the child of a coroner turned amateur sleuth. But also a hacker. A skill we have no idea how she learned. Emma Corrin is clearly British. Darby Hart is not. But as a very young American-definitely-not-British teenager her coroner father lets her go out on the road alone to pursue a serial killer. Like most of the show, the order of events are super-confusing, but she either does this in lieu of college, or just like takes off on her own while in high school. Until she meets Bill (Harris Dickinson), who is also into hunting serial killers. And is also definitely not from London. Again, we have very little background on this dude. It seems like he’s an adult and she’s a teen, but that doesn’t stop them from murder mystery hunting during the day and doin’ it all night. Thing is, we know a little about Darby, but next to nothing about Bill. And the things we do know about Darby are a bummer. Honestly, she kinda sucks. Bill is more interesting, but we’re just not let in on anything about the dude. Other than the fact he too can barely stand Darby after a while.

All of this serial killer hunting happened in the past. The entire thing feels like a bolt-on to the main storyline and is completely not compelling. We don’t care who the serial killer ends up being. We don’t care about his victims. We only need this whole thing to establish the relationship between Darby and Bill. Because…. drumroll, please… it’s Bill who’s murdered at the end of the world. At a dumbass isolated retreat in Iceland run by Elon Musk-y dude, Andy Ronson (Clive Owen). Who happens to be married to Darby’s favorite drop-out hacker, Lee Anderson (Marling). Because who doesn’t have a favorite hacker? Who we’re told was an absolutely amazing, world-class hacker. But once we meet her, I don’t think that comes across whatsoever. But this part of the tale is basically like Glass Onion. You know, invite a group of people to an isolated house/hotel, kill off someone and then theorize who dunnit. But this group is an invite-only cadre of futurists, tech moguls, scientists and Darby. And also Bill, who apparently became Banksy after he bailed on Darby. Again, not sure how he gained that skill, but maybe he took an outsider art class at the same online school that apparently taught Darby how to hack between autopsies with the ol’ dad?

So we flip flop back and forth in time between Darby and Bill the serial killer hunters and Darby and dead Bill in the future in this tech-laden ice hotel. It’s unclear why either of them are invited to this retreat, as they aren’t the inventor of smart cities, astronauts or anything as impressive as the other guests. The hotel itself feels like a non-entity. Except, of course, for the creepy-ass AI projection whose name is Ray. Not sure why he’s Ray, but it’s Ray. And Darby is constantly talking to him to download expository nonsense. While also hacking some of the hotel’s tech. And using her murder solving skills to figure out who killed her buddy, Bill. Though the hacking and the murder solving are kind of separate and apart as far as skills go. But for some reason Marling thought she needed to include both. She did not. In fact, if Marling’s character is such a gnarly hacker, why couldn’t she just be the hacking half of the Scooby-Doo mystery crew and not also be awesome at listening to dead bodies (a claim she makes)? Also, I’m pretty sure the science behind some of the hacking is total bullshit. But, again, details are not this show’s friend.

The acting. I’m usually an anti-Clive guy. There’s something about him – usually his really weak attempt to mask his accent — that just annoys the shit out of me. Lisey’s Story being the most egregious. But he annoys me less than usual here. Probably because they allow him to be English. His character is kind of a dumb construct, but at least he’s not mumbling his way through the episodes trying out some Brooklyn lilt. Not so much for Corrin and Dickinson. They don’t get to use their real accents, and it is especially distracting in Corrin’s case. I think trying to stretch her mouth around those consonants actually hurt her performance. It looks physically awkward as she tries on Midwest for size. Dickinson just takes the mumbly version — probably coached by the ultimate American-accented mumbler, Clive Owen. Some of the actors are just downright dreadful. Because of the blanket not-so-greatness, I’m going to place the blame on the writers more than the talent, but all of these secondary characters are pretty much background scenery anyway. Or tools to further the confusion around what the hell is going on so as to blur the mystery behind the murder(s).

So, this is a murder mystery. Which is not so mysterious. The whole serial killer thing isn’t really a mystery because it’s hard to follow what’s up, we don’t really have the full story and once we find out who the killer is we go, “Are we supposed to know who that is?” I don’t think we are. It’s the worst. Then there’s the mystery of the murder(s) at the end of the world. Which, again, only Darby seems to want to solve. The rest of the people seem satisfied with hanging out in the Arctic while storms keep them locked in this creepy, talking hotel that most definitely has cameras in the toilets. I think — and I’m honestly not even sure here — they also tried to jam in a climate change story in here too. After all, why would a rich tech billionaire build a self-sustained compound in the middle of nowhere if not to escape a world that will soon be on fire? And, my god, if I could share the end with you, you’d hardly believe it. It is literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. Like Marling couldn’t think of an intellectual way out of things, so she did the equivalent of taking out the Russian army with an apple and a firecracker. Asinine. This show just doesn’t work on so many levels, it’s silly. And I’m obviously okay with silly. After all, I enjoyed The OA. Which at least knew it was ridiculous, but thought provoking. This one missed out on the thought provoking piece all together, provoking nothing but shrugs.