A Murder at the End of the World is a murder mystery series with twists that take things in interesting, tech-savvy, AI-driven directions.
The FX psychological thriller drama, which is also streaming on Hulu, was created by The OA’s Brit Marling and has received rave reviews for its seven-episode season. But how did it all end? Digital Trends has all the answers for Hulu’s latest mystery sensation.
When Darby (The Crown‘s Emma Corrin) arrives at the exclusive retreat of billionaire Andy (Clive Owen), she discovers that her old flame and amateur sleuthing partner Bill (Harris Dickinson) is there as well. They spent time together years before hunting a serial killer, and now Darby finds herself hunting Bill’s killer when he winds up dead.
Trying to determine who the killer is proves challenging, even for Darby, who has years of experience analyzing crime scenes with her forensic pathologist father. She’s a gifted coder and hacker as well, but the hotel is unlike anything she has ever seen. It’s a fascinating marvel of technology and artificial intelligence (AI).
Andy has built the place around an intelligent assistant named Ray (Edoardo Ballerini) that puts Siri, Google, Alexa, and even ChatGPT to shame. It can appear in both visual (as a human figure) and audible form and intuitively and proactively help with anything you need. In one scene, Darby comes in from the cold, and Ray immediately runs her a warm bath, sensing that her body temperature has dropped to dangerous levels. Andy describes Ray as a combination of a language processing algorithm and home security AI. Bottom line: It would be nearly impossible to commit such an act without being detected.
Despite the technological skill that would be required to pull it off, Darby can’t shake the feeling that the manner of Bill’s death is suspicious. She springs into action and begins to look at everyone at the retreat, all incredibly gifted, tech-savvy individuals, as a suspect.
Her first suspect, Rohan (Javed Khan), turns out to be innocent: He’s an ally and friend of Bill’s who is mourning his death just as much as her. What’s more, he ends up dying as well. Astronaut Sian (Alice Braga) wants to help, but she becomes the third victim. Darby is almost killed twice, once when she is threatened by a mysterious masked man with a knife and a second time when the pool cover locks above her while she swims, saved at the last minute by Lee (Marling) and David (Raul Esparza).
In each case, the deaths can be linked to sophisticated technological hacks: a morphine injection for Bill that would require getting into the medicine room and cabinet, a pacemaker malfunction for Rohan, and a pressurized helmet locking for Sian. Who has the capability and access to do all this? All fingers would logically point to Andy, but that doesn’t make sense. Why would he invite people to his home only to kill them?
Through the season, several twists and turns reveal potential motives. Lee and Andy’s son Zoomer (Kellan Tetlow) turns out to be Bill’s biological son, the product of a one-night stand between Lee and Bill.
Eva (Britian Seibert), the in-house doctor, is in love with Andy: could she be doing this to have him all to herself? She would, after all, have easy access to all the equipment necessary to perform the hacks that led to the deaths.
Lu Mei (Joan Chen) is a creator of smart cities, and she and Bill don’t exactly get along. He protested her concepts, which would effectively surveil citizens 24/7. Perhaps she wanted him, and all his allies, gone.
Darby keeps landing back on Andy, especially when she learns that Lee had been trying to escape from his clutches. He has grown obsessed with Zoomer, centering his entire life around the young boy, monitoring every little thing he does, right down to every morsel he eats. As it turns out, she’s sort of right. But it’s much more complicated than that.
After a tense few days hiding and investigating, Andy even teaming up with Darby to help, he has had enough of the nonsense. He brings everyone to his lair 50 meters underground. It was ingeniously built for survival through any apocalyptic event, thanks to directions from Ray. Andy swears he will not let anyone leave until the killer is revealed. The finger-pointing begins.
Just as a conversation between Andy and Lee heats up, Zoomer comes barreling down the stairs with his VR helmet and a toy truck. He cries when he is told that he must go back upstairs: he hasn’t finished his game yet. Darby senses something odd with the way Zoomer is acting. She puts on his helmet and sees Ray, urging Zoomer to come back and finish their game.
It hits her like a ton of bricks. She asks Zoomer some questions. Did he play with Bill after dinner that first night? Yes. He went to his room with his doctor kit to help him because Bill was sick. Ray told him to do it. Ray also apparently told Zoomer that Rohan had a bad heart and needed help, so he had to reset his pacemaker. The reality devastates Darby, but it’s Andy’s sullen face that makes it clear even he has realized he created an AI monster.
Now that Darby has solved the who (or rather what), the why is the big question. She discovers that in not having anyone left to trust, Andy began confiding in Ray. During his pseudo-therapy sessions, Andy spoke dark thoughts, including wishing Bill was dead. In Ray’s eyes, this is a declaration of a threat, so the AI took action with Zoomer effectively as its human host. Darby didn’t understand why Bill circled the words “faulty programming” in her book using his blood until now.
“You mated your security AI and your therapy bot,” she told Andy, “and created a monster driven by your greatest fears. And then you made that monster your son’s only friend and teacher.” Later, the group members deduce that since Ray could only obtain its information from people and the things they say, do, and write, the AI is horrifyingly revealed to be “a mirror of us without feelings.” So, who is truly at fault for the murders?
With the truth out, the storm over, and the police on their way, Andy is ready to let everyone go and let the police do the rest. But when he attacks Darby over her accusations, Lee smashes him in the back of the head with a blunt object, knocking him unconscious. Now is the time to act. She and Darby rush out of the room with Zoomer. They’re going to go to the center of the beast and kill Ray. They begin with an elaborate hacking plan but quickly realize the answer is much simpler. Break the glass in the massive control room, light a laptop battery on fire, toss it inside, and let Ray literally burn.
With time to spare, Darby urges Lee to head to Rohan’s boat with Zoomer and finally escape. She does, but whetehr they survive is unclear. Meanwhile, now that the police have arrived, every guest at the party gives the same story to the authorities about who/what is to blame for the murders. Authorities, however, struggle with what to do. Can you charge Andy for the crimes of a computer when no direct command was given?
The story ends in the present day as Darby reads from her new book called Retreat, an homage, of sorts, to Bill. “Bill always said that the serial killer didn’t matter,” she reads in a passage from the book. “…What matters is the terrifying culture that keeps producing them. The invisible sickness between the lines. A sickness now animated in algorithms that animate…all of us.” The surviving party guests are in the audience, there to support her.
Lee, meanwhile, made it to the boat after all. She’s seen drifting in the middle of the water, lighting a flare. It’s detected by a large boat that honks in recognition and is heading towards her. Darby might not have been able to save Bill, but she may have at least saved his son.
Stream A Murder at the End of the World on Hulu.
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