Actor brings deep feeling to role of a citizen detective
What TV shows are dominating the conversation, capturing the zeitgeist, have something interesting to say, or are hidden gems waiting to be uncovered or rediscovered? We take a look ahead of your weekend watch. And, be warned, there are spoilers ahead.
Before Elizabeth Debicki made her much-praised debut as Diana, Princess of Wales in “The Crown,” Emma Corrin inhabited the role, and breathed life and light into that show’s fourth season.
The British actor similarly illuminates “A Murder at the End of the World,” the much-anticipated new thriller from Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling.
“A Murder” is more of a standard crime drama/technological cautionary tale than one might expect from Batmanglij and Marling, creators of the compellingly weird “The OA.” But Corrin — as 24-yearold hacker and citizen detective Darby Hart — infuses the show with intelligence, passion, bravery and vulnerability that propel you through the series’ seven episodes.
(As of publication of this story, four episodes have streamed on Disney Plus, with new episodes on Tuesdays.)
Tech billionaire Andy Ronson (Oscar nominee Clive Owen) has invited nine “original thinkers” to a hotel he had built in a remote part of Iceland, ostensibly to brainstorm solutions to the climate crisis.
(The other guests aren’t fleshed out much beyond their occupations. And Marling, who starred in both seasons of “The OA,” here plays a secondary role as Lee, Andy’s wife, a legendary female coder who’s a hero of Darby’s.)
When one of the guests dies from an apparent drug overdose, Darby, the so-called “Gen Z Sherlock Holmes,” immediately suspects murder. But she is disbelieved — until another guest turns up dead — despite the fact she grew up visiting crime scenes with her coroner father and tracked down a serial killer, the subject of her true-crime memoir.
As doctor and astronaut Sian (Alice Braga) says, Darby was overruled because she’s “very young and a girl.”
Darby does present as young and, with her hoodies and headphones, her standoffishness around the other retreat guests, has superficial hallmarks of a stereotypical hacker character. But Corrin infuses Darby with deep feeling and empathy, wonder and wariness both playing on her expressive face.
That feeling is most richly explored in her relationship with Bill Farrah (the also excellent Harris Dickinson of “Where the Crawdads Sing” and “Triangle of Sadness”), the fellow amateur detective with whom a romance blossomed as the two followed the trail of the “Silver Doe” serial killer — until Bill bolted with no explanation but a cryptic note on a motel bathroom mirror. Now a famous guerrilla artist, he is also a guest of Andy’s.
Darby and Bill have a bittersweet reunion, but the relationship is ex- plored mostly through flashbacks that help to ground and broaden Darby’s character, as well as explain her single-minded and dangerous pursuit of the retreat killer.
The love affair, conducted among the natural vistas of the American West and warmly lit motel rooms, also contrasts with the cold of Iceland and the sterile modernity of the hotel, where Andy’s guests are catered to by an AI assistant named Ray (Edoardo Ballerini).
“A Murder at the End of the World” was written in 2020 and shot in 2022, before concerns about artificial intelligence and applications like ChatGPT really started ramping up.
That technology is both a boon and a threat here, helping Darby with her investigation but also employed by the killer. When the murderer is finally revealed, it’s both a surprise (at least to me) and a natural extension of the theme of the dangers posed by unchecked tech.
Still, it’s the human elements that enliven “A Murder at the End of the World” despite its flaws, particularly Corrin’s captivating performance.
ARTS & LIFE
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