Gen Z on the case

Published date21 November 2023
Publication titleSignal
EXTREME wealth is becoming the narrative preoccupation of our times. The obscenely rich entrepreneur, or sometimes the heir to an immoral fortune, has been all over television in 2023, from Beef to Dead Ringers, Succession to The Fall of the House of Usher to The Morning Show. In A Murder at the End of the World, Clive Owen joins their ranks as ‘‘king of tech’’ Andy Ronson, a billionaire who invites a group of creatives and high-achievers to a retreat in the wilds of Iceland, where they ostensibly talk about the great issues of our time, particularly the climate crisis, and bear witness to what the future might look like. ‘‘The facts are hysterical, but they are facts,’’ says Ronson, at the end of a rousing speech about climate refugees and the mass disappearance of wilderness

Such unapologetic sincerity is the hallmark of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, who are best known for creating The OA, the imaginative sci-fi series that was cruelly axed by Netflix after two seasons before it could wrap up the plot. Here, they narrow their vision — this is a lot less interpretative-dance based than that earlier show — and broaden it, darting between timelines to investigate different murders, while also meditating on AI, robotics, violence against women and abuses of power.

Emma Corrin plays Darby Hart, a 24-year-old ‘‘Gen Z Sherlock Holmes’’ who has written a true-crime book about her past as an amateur sleuth. As a teenager, she and her ex-boyfriend Bill (Harris Dickinson) used their hacking skills to track down a serial killer. Their relationship adds a sweet love story into the mix, despite its unromantic beginnings. In flashback, we see Darby’s origin story, as a Reddit-dwelling loner following in the footsteps of her pathologist father. She is driven to her own investigations as much by ideology as curiosity: there are thousands of unidentified bodies in the US, many of them murder victims, many of them women. There is a sense that she and Bill are not so much trying to solve a mystery as fix the world.

This carries through to the present day. Darby and Bill are no longer a couple, and she is living in New York, still trying to identify bodies with the help of technology, sleuthing forums and an online community of fellow laptop detectives, while promoting a book she has written about the serial killer case, named The Silver Doe. She receives a summons to a symposium about ‘‘technology’s role in...

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