FX’s limited series A Murder at the End of the World is now streaming on Hulu. This murder mystery follows Darby Hart, a “Gen Z Sherlock Holmes,” as she finds herself invited to an exclusive retreat by a tech mogul, offering her the chance to meet her hero. But not long after she arrives, someone in the group of free thinkers bites the dust. Join me as I recap each of the seven episodes, starting with the premiere.
“Chapter 1: Homme Fatale” – Written by Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij
Darby Hart (Emma Corrin) doesn’t look ready for the spotlight as she enters a bookstore in a hoodie with headphones on. Her debut novel, “The Silver Doe,” tells the story of how she caught a serial killer. In her introduction, she brings up her upbringing in Iowa as the daughter of a county coroner, which is how she got involved in her first Jane Doe case. “I can’t tell you my story without telling you about Bill,” she adds, talking about her fellow armchair detective who helped her on the case. After mentioning that they met on an amateur sleuthing forum, she introduces a section from the book’s final chapter, prefacing that she and Bill had tracked down the killer’s first known address.
“It’s really hard to fall in love for the first time while tracking a serial killer.” As Darby reads, we see the events through flashbacks. We find Darby and Bill Farrah (Harris Dickinson) hiding out at the Whispering Sands Motel, with Bill having cold feet about the plan to break into the serial killer’s former home, which is listed as for sale. Bill wants to call the cops to let them know they’re going there. “So they can stop us from proving that one of their own was a killer?”, Darby asks. But Darby gets Bill to cave in, driving them to the home. On the way, she plugs in an old click-wheel iPod and plays “No More ‘I Love You’s’” by Annie Lennox. They both sing along, and it breaks the tension. When they arrive at the house, Darby opens her laptop and connects an old toy, telling Bill she learned this hack from her favorite coder, Lee Anderson, a woman who wrote about misogyny online and was doxed for it, disappearing afterward. Bill asks Darby why she hasn’t tried to find Lee. “She doesn’t need my help,” Darby responds as she unintentionally opens every garage door on the block. They quickly pull in and close them all.
In the basement, Darby and Bill put on safety equipment, using a drill and sledgehammer to break open the cement flooring, which seems to have been redone. They tire themselves out and eventually lay down for a break, falling asleep. The sunlight through the windows and dogs barking in the neighborhood wake Darby up. And now, with more light, she can see that the stairs appear to have been taken apart and reassembled. She points this out to Bill, and they get to work breaking the stairs apart. Underneath, the concrete had been broken up. Wiping away a little topsoil reveals skeletal remains. Darby pulls an evidence bag out of her pocket and takes out a silver ring. It fits with a wedding band on the corpse’s finger. But the moment of victory is interrupted by footsteps upstairs. The door to the basement opens. A man’s silhouette looks down at them. He’s holding a gun. “Patricia Bell,” Darby says, the name of one of the victims. “Carmen Perez,” Bill joins her. They alternate saying the names of his victims. And then the gun cocks. Bill steps in front of Darby as we hear a shot fired.
“I think that’s all I can handle for one night,” Darby says, unable to finish reading the rest of the final chapter. A moderator (Maria Taylor) opens the floor for questions. The first is from a man with dark hair (Louis Cancelmi) who points out that the book is dedicated to Lee Anderson. Darby explains that Lee was one of the few female coders she was aware of when she got into the hobby and adds that Lee got victory after being doxed by marrying Andy Ronson, “The king of tech.” A woman (Alexandra Seal) asks Darby what happened to Bill, adding that they seemed so in love. We don’t get to hear Darby’s response.
When Darby gets home, she goes to her regular forum, “The Doe Files,” and begins to look through a folder of evidence from someone seeking help. She falls asleep doing this, but is awoken by a text message from someone claiming to be Ray, Andy Ronson’s assistant, which comes with a link to download a VPN. She opens a Reddit thread for hackers and posts a screenshot of the message, asking for advice on if it's legit. She gets a dual video call from two of her hacker friends, Leddewis_07 (Dave Murgittroyd) and Bodega Tom (Eric R. Williams), who convince her to take a chance and click the link. After downloading and opening the app, she hears a voice saying, “Darby, I’m outside; let me up.” She goes to the window, and the courtyard outside the building appears empty. But when she holds up her phone, through the camera, she sees Ray (Edoardo Ballerini) for the first time. She lets him in and opens her door, watching him.
Ray, an A.I. assistant, came to invite Darby to Andy Ronson’s 2023 retreat, describing it as “A small gathering of minds, a symposium to discuss technology’s role in ensuring a human future.” All expenses would be paid for the week-long trip. Darby is speechless, to which Ray mentions that Andy has shown him many things that left him speechless. Among the list is The Simpsons, which Darby says she loves. “You felt a kinship to Lisa,” Ray predicts, saying, “It’s hard being the smartest person in most rooms.” He adds that she won’t feel alone on the trip, with other attendees just as fascinating as Lisa Simpson. Darby asks if Lee Andersen will be there. After Ray leaves, Darby calls her dad (Neal Huff) to tell him about the invitation. He asks where the retreat is, and she tells him it’s a secret for security reasons. He encourages her to go, but she reminds him that she had a panic attack the only time she flew in an airplane.
Arriving at the private plane, Darby is surprised to see a familiar face, the man who asked about her book’s dedication at her reading. He introduces himself as Todd, Andy Ronson’s head of security. The interior of the plane is decorated like a study, complete with books on the shelf and a bar. Darby takes a seat next to a woman named Lu Mei (Joan Chen), who warns her that she gets sick when she flies and warns that Darby is in the “splash zone,” which doesn’t seem to bother her. The man sitting across from Darby, Martin Mitchell (Jermaine Fowler), recognizes Darby and holds up the book he’s reading – “The Silver Doe.” Martin is a filmmaker who shares that he’s been interested in making a story about the missing Black women in Washington, D.C., where he’s from. Lu Mei hears Martin’s introduction and tells him she’s a fan of his films. He tells her she should read Darby’s book, referring to her as Gen Z Sherlock Holmes.” A snobbish man named David Alvarez (Raúl Esparza) brags about how he’s one of Andy’s guests, mentioning that of the 10 invitees, 5 are by Andy, and 5 are by Lee. “Back in the day, the distinction between builders and non-builders was very important,” he says, referring to builders as problem solvers of “Actual value.” A flight attendant (Asha Etchison) moves through the cabin collecting cell phones, which is a mandate of the experience. Martin adds that it’s for Andy’s security since he’s had more attempts on his life than any head of state. A woman, Sian Cruise (Alice Braga), adds that Andy has a flare for the dramatic. Martin points to an image of Bill Farrah in Darby’s book and asks if he’s the Bill Farrah, the artist known as Fangs. “I think it is, but we haven’t spoken in 6 years,” she responds. Lu Mei takes a sleeping pill, and Darby asks for one.
During the flight, Darby has a nightmarish flashback. She’s back in the motel, waking up to find herself alone. The keys to the car are on the nightstand. She can hear dripping water from the bathroom, so she investigates. The tub is full of blood-red water. A message has been left for her on the mirror. “I think this is both too much and not enough. I left you the car.”
Darby wakes up as the wheels touch down in a wintery landscape. The Pilot (Jackson Loo) announces that they’ve arrived in Iceland. Darby shares an SUV with Lu Mei, who tells her she builds smart cities in China. The cars arrive at a two-story circular building. Most of the guests arrived in fancy black SUVs, but a guest named Rohan (Javed Khan) drove himself in a beat-up blue truck.
Marius (Christopher Gurr), the hotel manager, welcomes each guest as they step into the lobby. Darby is given a ring key, which will grant her access to her guest room (number 8), plus the spas, baths, and interior/exterior common areas. Inside her room, she discovers that Ray is present throughout the resort. With a pair of Ronson Vision glasses on her nightstand, she can see Ray, and any other information he can share with her. He provides her with a dossier of the guests she will be seated between at dinner – David Alvarez, one of the top venture capitalists in the world, and Dr. Sian Cruise, who is pioneering lunar colonization. Before heading to dinner, Darby goes to the bathroom and dyes her hair pink.
On her way to dinner, Darby passes a woman named Eva (Britian Seibert) outside of a room with a vacuum and a plate. A child opens the door and invites her in. As Darby passes, she gets her first glimpse of Lee Andersen (Brit Marling), who is on the floor cleaning up a broken plate. Darby proceeds to the dining room and takes her seat between David and Sian. The seat directly across from her is empty. Sian is engaged in a conversation with a man named Oliver (Ryan J. Haddad) about how he can make her appear to say anything with deepfake technology, showing an example and revealing that he snuck a phone in. “This was not an easy group to assemble, so the next few days are going to be very precious,” Andy Ronson (Clive Owen) declares as he makes his introduction. The boy Darby saw in the hallway comes running to him, shouting, “Dad!” Andy introduces his son Zoomer (Kellan Tetlow) to the group as Lee arrives close behind their child, kissing her husband. “I hope you all feel at home here,” Lee shares. “Andy picked this valley for the hot springs, so I hope you all join us for a soak after dinner.” As Andy mentions the close friends he’s made at these retreats, he motions to Sian, who nods knowingly. He adds that some of the world’s best innovations have come from these meetings. He takes a moment to acknowledge Ray, saying he’s in a beta testing phase this week and giving his preferred acronym for A.I. – “Alternative Intelligence.” Andy shares why they’re all in Iceland, referring to it as one of the last great wilderness areas left on Earth and preaching about climate change and his hope for Zoomer’s future. “Everyone sitting here at this table is an original thinker,” Andy adds, pointing out the talents among them: Oliver is innovating robotics, Ziba (Pegah Ferydoni) is pioneering message encryption, and Sian is leading efforts to colonize the moon. “Everyone I’ve invited here has something extraordinary to offer the group,” Andy concludes. “And if Lee invited you, I have no idea what you’re doing here.” Andy’s invitees laugh while Lee looks embarrassed.
Someone sits in the seat across from Darby. She looks up from her drink and freezes. She chokes from the shock. Andy asks Lee to make a toast, a speech that concludes with “To finding a way out.” Darby doesn’t clink glasses with anyone but sips water to try and catch her breath. “Hello, Darby Hart,” the man across from her says. “Hi, Bill,” she quietly replies. Their uncomfortable reunion is interrupted by Zoomer, who has a toy doctor kit and introduces himself to Bill, who plays along, letting the child check his breathing. Zoomer says Bill’s heart is beating fast, and he tells Zoomer that he’s having trouble with his chest due to the cold. “Here, I’ll give you something to help,” Zoomer says, offering some pretend pills. Andy calls Zoomer to sit down. Bill’s eyes move to Lee at the opposite end of the table. She looks nervous.
After dinner, Darby goes to the spa and enters the hot springs. Ziba introduces herself, admitting that she only came to the retreat in hopes of meeting Fangs, whom she’s a fan of. She tried to connect with him previously, but her messages were ignored. Ziba doesn’t think very highly of Andy, scoffing about his extreme wealth, but Martin interjects, calling Ziba a bad influence. He feels like this week is an audition for him. Ziba asks why Andy would be interested in Darby and Martin theorizes that he’s a true-crime fan. Martin tells Ziba that Darby’s book is about a road trip with Fangs. “You knew him?”, she asks, suddenly very interested in Darby. “A long time ago,” Darby clarifies as she excuses herself.
“Not up for the icebreaker?”, Bill asks as Darby passes him in the hall. Her immediate reaction is to punch him in the gut, but she seems to regret it instantly, inviting him for a drink. Instead, he suggests they take a walk. Outside, Bill tells Darby that he loved her book, particularly the parts about her upbringing before she met him. “I always worried there was something cheap about what we did together or salacious,” he says. “I was stupid. You wanted to make sure no one fell through the cracks. I thought the book was art.” Darby is surprised. “I guess as one of the most celebrated guerilla artists alive, you would be the arbiter,” she responds. She asks why Bill came. He mentions an art installation he did that shone a negative spotlight on Silicon Valley. “I guess Andy thought I had nerve,” he says, but Darby can tell he’s lying. “It’s hard to put anything but the truth past you,” he remembers out loud. He tells her he came for Lee. Darby is confused about how Bill knows her. “Why’d you leave?”, she asks him directly. “You scared me,” he responds, elaborating that he couldn’t be as brave as she needed him to be. He adds that he thought she only really liked women. “Bill, all women only really like women, just like all men only really like men,” she replies. “So they invented all the professional sports, so they could be intimate with each other.” Bill laughs and invites Darby back to his room to get warm, adding that he needs to tell her something. She declines. “You know you, left me many times before I left you, and I don’t even think you know how or why or when,” Bill says. “It was really hard to be in love with someone like that.” As he walks away, he shares that he’s in room 11 if Darby changes her mind.
When Darby returns to her room, Ray senses her body temperature and draws a bath for her. After her bath, she opens her laptop and searches the internet for Lee and Fangs together, finding a plethora of paparazzi candid images of them seeming close. She closes her laptop, puts on her headphones, and puts her old click-wheel iPod on shuffle. The song that comes on: “No More ‘I Love You’s’” by Annie Lennox. It’s almost like a sign.
Darby goes down to room 11, passing Marius in the hallway. She knocks on the door. “Bill, it’s Darby.” She can hear Bill inside. He’s moaning and breathing heavily. It sounds like he’s having sex, and Darby is about to walk away when she hears a crash. Something knocked over. She knocks again. There’s no answer, but it sounds like Bill is in pain. She runs outside, traipsing through the snow until she’s standing outside of Bill’s window. He’s lying on the floor by the glass. There’s a bloodstain on the wall above the fireplace. Bill presses his bloody hand against the glass, looking up at Darby. “What happened?”, she yells, but he doesn’t respond. Darby tells Bill she’s going to go get help. “Darby, please stay,” Bill chokes, smiling at her just before he goes completely still.
The end of Chapter 1, but FX has given us a double-episode premiere, so you can watch and recap the next installment right now.
“Chapter 2: The Silver Doe” – Written by Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij, Melanie Marnich and Rebecca Roanhorse
Darby believes the death she witnessed may, in fact, be murder, but no one believes her. The grief and shock of the events thrust her into remembering her own buried past.
Songs Featured in This Episode: