A Murder at the End of the World Episodes 1 & 2: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have created some of the most thoughtful, innovative genre content over the last fifteen years. Naturally, any new project from the duo is bound to garner a lot of attention, and their latest, “A Murder at the End of the World,” is no exception. What is surprising, though, is that the FX series comes with a premise that sounds eerily similar to Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” which was released last year. A murder investigation at a tech billionaire retreat in a remote location seems much simpler on paper compared to the kind of stuff Marling-Batmanglij has done so far.
Well, with the first two episodes of “A Murder..” out in the open, it can be safely said that the duo has done it again. Despite the story resembling the Rian Johnson film, this show is much more than that. In fact, it feels like a hybrid of “Black Mirror” and “True Detective” and the outcome is quite fantastic thus far. Armed with a stellar cast led by a pink-haired Emma Corrin, an intriguing murder mystery, and a superb soundtrack that gels so well with the narrative, this show does seem like a winner, if the first two episodes are anything to go by. Let us now take a closer look.
A Murder at the End of the World Episodes 1 & 2 Recap:
Sporting a pink-colored, pixie haircut and wearing a red, slightly oversized hoodie, Darby Hart reads out from her own book at a NY city bookstore. The book, titled “The Silver Doe,” is about Darby and her ex-boyfriend Bill’s daring expedition to find a serial killer in midwestern America, which took place around six years ago. The chapter Darby reads is rather climatic, where Darby and Bill finally break into the killer’s garage and find a dead body, probably the first of the many victims. The killer appears and shoots Bill, but he does survive- which we get to know after a while. What doesn’t survive, however, is Darby and Bill’s relationship as the latter abruptly leaves after leaving an explanation written for Darby on a mirror- too much but also not enough. When a lanky gentleman from the audience asks Darby about Bill, she ignores the question.
Back at home, Darby is surprised to receive an invitation to attend a retreat from tech billionaire Andy Ronson (an impeccable Clive Owen, who appears much later). Andy does it in a dramatic manner by making his AI assistant (he prefers the term “alternative” over “artificial” by the way) Ray sending a link to Darby for downloading. Darby is particularly skeptical, especially thanks to her own vast knowledge of computers and her hacking background, but after consulting some of her online hacker friends, she goes ahead.
A very human-looking Ray appears in front of her through a hologram and formally invites her. Given the kind of huge deal Andy Ronson is, not accepting his invitation is out of the question. To Darby’s delight, Andy happens to be married to Lee (played by Brit Marling herself, who also directs the pilot), a famous coder/hacker and Darby’s idol. Lee stays away from the media these days, for unknown reasons. It should be mentioned here that we earlier see Darby opening the garage door (in the past), using Lee’s “Mattle hack technique”, which she picked up online.
On her way to the retreat, Darby gets to meet some of the other guests who have already boarded Ronson’s private airplane. They all happen to be people who have done extraordinary things, just like Darby. Visionary Chinese city builder Lu Mei, a Brazilian doctor named Sian, an Argentine venture capitalist David, and popular film director Martin are the ones who are on the plane alongside Darby. The interesting thing here is some of the guests are handpicked by Andy, and the others are by Lee. The lanky gentleman from the book reading is also here. He introduces himself as Andy’s head of security, Todd.
During the journey, Darby dreams about a bloodied Bill, which turns out to be a memory from the past. She wakes up and finds out she is in Fljot Valley, Iceland. Ronson’s retreat is happening in a brilliantly designed, ultra-modern hotel compound, in the middle of snow-clad nowhere. The hotel manager, Marius, greets Darby and hands over the key to her- which is actually an electronically powered ring, the kind of stuff you usually see in Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror”. Inside the room, Darby discovers that Ray has been integrated into everyone’s room, to help out the guests.
Just before the welcome dinner, Darby gets a glimpse of Lee, in a sort of disorganized state inside a room. The two look at each other, before Darby quickly walks away. She finally meets Andy in flesh and blood, at the dinner. Welcoming everyone, Andy clarifies the purpose of the retreat, which is brainstorming ideas to save the world from natural calamities, pandemics, and all kinds of human-made chaos in the near future.
This definitely speaks volumes, and Andy, as of now, is certainly not a phony like Edward Norton’s “Glass Onion” character. Darby also meets four other guests, a wealthy woman named Ziba, robotics genius Oliver, and a middle-aged man, Rohan. We are not sure why Rohan is here yet if you are wondering. Darby receives one of the greatest shocks of her life when she realizes that the final guest of the retreat happens to be none other than her ex, Bill. Now a guerrilla artist, Bill is popularly known as “Fangs”. It is also revealed that he may have a history with Lee.
After the dinner, Darby finally has her one-on-one with Bill. She doesn’t hide the fact that she is pissed at him for leaving like that, and Bill is also honest enough to admit that the intensity of the relationship and Darby’s obsession with solving crime scared him. However, the vibe between the two former lovers doesn’t seem to be lost. But when Bill asks Darby to come to his room, to do you-know-what, Darby declines. Later that night, she does change her mind though. But when she reaches Bill’s door, she hears the sound of him moaning.
Disappointed, Darby almost retreats when the sound of Bill’s moaning turns into something that implies he is actually in pain. As that sound intensifies, Darby gets agitated and violently knocks at Bill’s door. Unsuccessful at getting to him, Darby gets out of the hotel and runs to Bill’s window where she gets startled by this nightmarish sight. Bloodied and frightened, Bill is dying. He asks Darby to stay with him, but Darby rushes for help. She is smart enough to get Sian, the doctor, before calling everyone. But by the time Sian arrives on the scene and checks Bill’s pulse, he is gone.
A Murder at the End of the World Episodes 1 & 2 Ending, Explained:
Was Bill murdered?
What is particularly impressive about “A Murder at the End of the World” is how it seamlessly operates with both the past and present timelines. It is particularly evident in the fantastic second episode, directed by Batmanglij, where we get to know further about Bill and Darby. Instead of infusing flashbacks here and there, the show has made it a point to tell a story in the past, which is as exciting as the current one. And if you think about the fact that Bill is dead, it is quite sad actually.
Years ago, when Darby was still in high school, she used to help her father with his work as a coroner for the local police department. Darby was always curious, and inquisitive, which made her take an interest in her father’s work and learn the nitty-gritties of it in the first place. When her father was called upon to examine the unidentified dead body of a young woman, Darby accompanied him and discovered a pair of silver earrings. The case was soon shelved, as the dead body remained unidentified but Darby couldn’t stop thinking about it.
As a young, curious teen with a mundane life, she could only find refuge in the internet (read Reddit) where she made a lot of friends who shared both her interests- crime and computers. When she posted about Jane Doe and the silver earrings (that’s where the book title comes from), a random boy named Bill pinged her. The two soon hit it off, and life suddenly got magical. Although they hadn’t met yet, Darby and Bill became an integral part of each other’s life.
From Darby waking Bill up at 3 am to showing him what she has found, from hacking the police database to Bill wishing her “Happy Birthday” through flickering light and Morse code, these two had a really good thing going on. We can assume that things only got stronger as we see the two finally meeting each other, sighing and flustered, at a bar.
In the present, Darby is taken to her room by Todd and his wife Eva, as directed by Andy. Still in shock and disbelief over what just happened, she takes the help of pills to fall asleep. In the morning, Andy shares the shocking news with everyone at the breakfast table. While it is speculated Bill’s death is a result of nothing but a simple drug overdose, Darby suspects foul play. When she shares her thoughts with everyone, nobody takes her seriously.
Despite the unfortunate situation, Andy insists that they should go on with what they have planned, as Bill would want that. Darby, however, has other plans. She needs to find out what really happened to Bill, and she goes right at it. Distracting Marius after skillfully clogging the toilet, she manages to get her access to Bill’s room. Examining the body, Darby is surprised to find the needle mark on Bill’s shooting arm, which is anything but usual. With the help of Ray, she ensures the necessary privacy while doing the detective work. However, Darby is interrupted and rushes to hide herself when someone else enters the room. That someone turns out to be Darby’s idol Lee, who tries to find something but gives up after trying for a while, and leaves.
Shortly after, all the guests and the hosts gather, and Darby finds herself in the middle of an argument regarding artificial intelligence (Ray, in this context) on his capability to create art. She is obviously least bothered about this whole thing, which pits Martin and Ziba against each other. Martin reveals that he has actually made a film with the help of Ray and with everyone’s permission, he goes ahead to show the first ten minutes of it. While Andy and the rest are busy with the movie (which seems very much like Star Wars), Darby sits beside Lee and reveals that she knows Lee visited Bill’s room. This doesn’t surprise Lee as it seems like she was actually expecting it.
She explains that she visited the room because of her personal connection with Bill. She also pretty much confesses that like Darby, she also believes that something might be going on and somebody from the very same room might just be orchestrating it. With Lee’s advice to use her “Mattle technique” again, Darby manages to get a hold of the door cameras. When she goes through it, she finds David outside Bill’s room, who is speaking to someone on the phone. After Bill enters his room (presumably after coming back from his walk with Darby that ended with her refusing to go with him), Ziba is the second person to arrive at his door, but she doesn’t knock.
Darby gets a real jolt when she sees a masked person appearing outside Bill’s room. Is that person anyway responsible for Bill’s death? Most likely, yes. And who is this person even? We have no idea at this point; it can be anyone other than Darby. As of now, we have too little to form any substantial theory, but you can always take a swing at guessing what has happened. Do let us know in the comments what you think, while we keep waiting for next week’s episode.