Emma Corrin stars as Darby Hart in the fascinating if muddled A Murder at the End of the World Episodes 1–2. Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, with the first episode being directed by Marling and the second by Batmanglij, the show crafts an eerie and icy mystery in the world of billionaires, creatives, and tech, a smart, natural build on the other science fiction stories by the creative duo whose work includes The OA, Another Earth, and Sound of My Voice. While there’s an intriguing pull to their latest sleek, cinematic direction, the script leaves something to be desired in the premiere episodes.
A Murder at the End of the World Episodes 1–2 set the story in motion while establishing the tone for the series. Darby is a true crime novelist, amateur detective, and hacker whose past has inspired her novel, “The Silver Doe.” We learn immediately that her book came from her drive to solve cases of female murder victims who have, up until this point, gone unsolved, leaving the victims as Jane Does. She worked with her partner, Bill (Harris Dickinson), until a night when they ended up at the former home of a suspected serial killer, finding the remains of his first victim and a mysterious figure who appeared after they dug the bones up.
It’s been six years since she and Bill have seen one another until they’re brought together again through a retreat run by Andy Ronson (Clive Owen), a tech mogul, and his wife, Lee (Brit Marling), a woman who was severely doxxed after expressing her belief in how women were the real pioneers of hacking. Episode 2 divers further into the connection of the two, making the devastating fallout of Episode 1 all the more impactful, as we realize that these two were drawn together out of a want to bring peace to the dead. While Darby’s backstory makes up a good portion of the first two episodes, the retreat and why those invited are present are just as pivotal, though they’re not given the same level of time and attention.
The premiere rushes through Darby’s characterization with forced exposition. From phone calls with her dad where it’s shared that she’s not much of a people person, shy and awkward around new people, to Bill explaining to her the things he learned about her through reading her novel, there’s no shortage of backstory. It’s clunky and unnecessary. The introduction needed a less is more approach. The present-day is interwoven with snippets of the past when Darby and Bill worked as amateur sleuths looking to find the remains of a serial killer’s victim, as well as her childhood growing up with her single father. As the story unfolds, the habit of telling rather than showing continues, a complaint that’s often tired and overused, especially when telling is necessary. Still, here, it only bogs down the story. It’s the details, such as how Darby dresses and holds herself, that better present who she is.
That heavy expository factor is true for the rest of the show, especially as more characters are introduced once the selected individuals fly to the retreat per Andy and Lee’s invitation. While it’s necessary, especially considering the secluded nature of the story and how the character’s specific strengths contribute to their inclusion in the retreat. As Andy puts it, they’re seeking out “original thinkers.” But still, the writing needs a touch more finesse rather than info dumping. This is especially true due to the glacial pacing of the first two episodes. Both are an hour long each, and they feel it, slowly dragging themselves through the major mysteries as it takes their time to get acquainted with the world.
Episode 2 moves quicker as the mystery begins to fully unfold, with the death at the center of the story and Darby’s investigation picking up. That said, the more time spent with Darby, the more Corrin feels miscast, their performance stilted and affected. There are moments where they come alive in the role enough to anchor the series, but they work best when acting opposite others rather than in solo scenes. The cast has a strong group of performers, though they’ve yet to be given the same time. Owen casts an imposing figure, and Marling injects a necessary eccentricity in her performance as Lee, a figure whom Darby holds in high regard.
Despite its shortcomings and poor pacing, there’s no denying that its lush set design and remote location, A Murder at the End of the World Episodes 1–2, drum up immediate intrigue. It’s stifled by its narrative shortcomings and a central performance lacking electric charisma, but the mystery makes it worth it, along with a strong supporting cast. Now that the stage has been fully established, the remainder of the season will hopefully unfold with greater intensity.
A Murder At the End of the World Episodes 1–2 are available now on Hulu.
A Murder At the End of the World Episodes 1–2
Despite its shortcomings and poor pacing, there’s no denying that its lush set design and remote location, A Murder at the End of the World Episodes 1–2, drum up immediate intrigue. It’s stifled by its narrative shortcomings and a central performance lacking electric charisma, but the mystery makes it worth it, along with a strong supporting cast.