A Murder at the End of the World Created an Iconic Detective

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    The premise of A Murder at the End of the World invokes thoughts of authors like Agatha Christie, as a group of relative strangers find themselves isolated at a remote Icelandic hotel in the midst of a murder mystery. But in one specific way, the show’s creators were inspired by John Grisham — because somehow, Consequence was the first to ask Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling if the cunning girl detective at the center of End of the World was named after Darby Shaw from The Pelican Brief. “No one else ever mentioned that,” Batmanglij says as he confirms the inspiration point (feeding Consequence’s ego immensely). “Anyone’s read the script, anyone who’s worked on the show… no one has ever caught that.”

    “Love Grisham, love The Pelican Brief, love Darby Shaw in that story — the sort of dogged detective that she is,” co-creator Brit Marling adds with a laugh.

    It’s just one of the many, many references and pop culture tidbits found in the FX limited series, which stars Emma Corrin (The Crown) as Darby Hart, a hacker, amateur detective, and true crime writer who attends a luxury retreat hosted by tech mogul Andy Ronson (Clive Owen). Included on the retreat’s guest list are notable thinkers of the day, including Andy’s retired hacker wife Lee (Marling), as well as artist/hacker Bill (Harris Dickinson), whom Darby was close with several years beforehand.

    End of the World technically contains not one but two mysteries, as flashbacks take us back to when a teenage Darby and Bill were first connecting online over cold cases — one of which would unfold into a bigger investigation. Batmanglij says that “I think we were interested in a mystery in which the detective would have to solve the mystery inside herself, in order to solve the larger mystery at play, and how we could weave those two threads together and and cinch them at the end.”

    In developing the story, Marling says that the first piece of the puzzle was the idea of a billionaire’s tech retreat. “There was something about that space that seemed like very ripe for a whodunit, because whodunits are often about the seat of power,” she says. “They used to be set in old English manors, because that was the center of power, and it felt like the new center of power is Silicon Valley, and these kind of tech fiefdoms that come out of it.”

    In exploring this kind of murder mystery, though, Marling observes that “there is always something that feels a little farfetched about [the genre] — it has a quality of being a little unreal. And I think we were trying to find a version of a whodunit we could do that would feel really grounded and very real, so that it could be a whodunit that was more a thriller than kind of tongue in cheek. But certainly, we borrowed so much from all the things in the genre that came before it. We were very influenced by those works, and then also tried to turn them on their head.”

    A Murder at the End of the World

    A Murder at the End of the World (FX)



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