‘A Murder at the End of the World’: The big chill

Is one of the other guests trying to kill new crime novelist Darby Hart? Or are they just trying to warn her off the trail? Is there something to be learned here?

Small wonder that Darby (Emma Corrin) is the character at the center of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s breathtaking new A Murder at the End of the World. Darby is smart and tenacious without presumption. She had grown up around death, as her father’s able and willing coroner’s assistant. She had absorbed his knowledge and problem-solving skills.

But she asked more than how the corpses had died. What put her in danger was that she asked why they died! A child of her time, she sensed it was unfair that women, especially young women, were disappearing disproportionately. She enlisted similarly interested Bill Farrah, her love interest, in her detective work.

Marling and Batmanglij’s starkly beautiful and challenging work extends this inquiry. Their clever play on words suggests that it is not just a show about a single death, but the death of our species which we are confronting metaphorically. The future catastrophic climate migrations and reliance on artificial intelligence are specifically called out.

Marling and Batmanglij give us a clear-eyed look at how the structure of modern wealth and corporate power contributes to annihilation, rather than solving the bleakest of futures.

The show’s creators have re-worked and modernized Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None classic theme of mysterious guests put at risk at a remote location. Here it is remote Iceland in the path of a huge storm.

Why had mega billionaire tech entrepreneur Andy Ronson (masterfully depicted by Clive Owen) assembled these luminaries to his lush survivalist bunker at the Arctic Circle?

Guest Lu Mei (Joan Chen) had built sparkling smart new cities in China. Dr. Sian Cruise (Alice Braga) had pioneered work with astronauts and was the first woman to walk on the moon. Climatologist Rohan Ravjit (Javed Khan) and Iranian freedom fighter Ziba (Pegah Ferydoni) were both critical of wealth and power. Why even was amateur sleuth Darby Hart invited to the “end of the world” gathering of the august and accomplished? Who would survive?

The Hulu mini-television series is the latest collaboration of Batmanglij and Marling, often working with their friend Mike Cahill. They had met at Georgetown where Marling was valedictorian. She later turned down a lucrative job at Goldman Sachs Investment Banking to instead journey to Cuba, making the film Boxers and Ballerinas about U.S.-Cuba relations. They have since worked together on several projects, including the environmental thriller The East (2013), which both wrote and in which Marling acted with Batmanglij directing.

Marling has since emerged as a spokesperson for women in film, re-imagining their roles in her work. Her words in a 2020 New York Times opinion piece set a marker for both men and women in the industry:

“Excavating, teaching and celebrating the feminine through stories is, inside our climate emergency, a matter of human survival. The moment we start imagining a new world and sharing it with one another through story is the moment that new world may actually come.” (“I Don’t Want to Be the Strong Female Lead,” NYT, 2/7/2020)

A Murder At the End of the World is a small, but useful step toward that world…should we be fortunate enough to survive.

A Murder At the End of the World is currently live streaming on Hulu television.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Michael Berkowitz
Michael Berkowitz

Michael Berkowitz, a veteran of the civil rights and anti-war movements, has been Land Use Planning Consultant to the government of China for many years. He taught Chinese and American History at the college level, worked with Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org. with miners, and was an officer of SEIU.