A Chilling Look at Humanity and AI on the Brink

A Chilling Look at Humanity and AI on the Brink

Review: A Murder at the End of the World

A Murder at the End of the World, a miniseries created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, isn’t your typical whodunit. While the central mystery of characters being murdered under suspicious circumstances keeps the plot churning, the series delves into deeper questions about humanity’s future and the ever-evolving role of Artificial Intelligence. Set against the backdrop of a dying world and a secluded Icelandic retreat, the show offers a chilling yet thought-provoking exploration of technology’s potential to both uplift and endanger us.

The narrative centres around Darby Hart (Emma Corrin), a disillusioned Gen Z hacker drawn to the arctic hideaway by the enigmatic tech mogul Andy Ronson (Clive Owen). With the world on the brink of environmental collapse, Andy has gathered a group of influential figures – a couple disillusioned scientists, a charismatic billionaire, a cynical artist – for a mysterious purpose. When Bill (Harris Dickinson), Darby’s former partner is found murdered, suspicion falls on everyone, and Darby, with her investigative skills and outsider perspective, is relied on to solve the mystery of Bill’s demise.

Aiding (or hindering) Darby is the resort’s resident AI, simply named Ray (Edoardo Ballerini). Ray is a fascinating presence, a disembodied voice that can manipulate the environment and access information.  Unlike the often-villainous AIs of science fiction, Ray remains an enigma, capable of both helpfulness and manipulation.  The show masterfully explores the potential of AI as a tool, a confidant, a counsellor and even a potential suspect, leaving the audience questioning Ray’s true motives.

Marling and Batmanglij, known for their mind-bending narratives in series like The OA, weave a complex web of intrigue. The murder investigation unfolds alongside flashbacks of Darby and Bill (Harris Dickinson) who were amateur sleuths investigating a series of murders about which Darby wrote a book. This framing device of the technology they used to solve the murders alongside the present where tech is very much involved explains Darby’s motivation to solve the case.  Environmental anxieties simmer beneath the surface, with news snippets hinting at a world succumbing to climate change, adding another layer of tension to the isolated setting.

The series has a stellar cast. Corrin – last scene playing Princess Diana in the Netflix series The Crown — delivers a captivating performance as Darby, a young woman grappling with loss and disillusionment, yet determined to find the truth. Clive Owen is suitably enigmatic as the powerful tech titan, while the supporting cast, including Brit Marling herself and Harris Dickinson, brings depth and nuance to their characters.

A Murder at the End of the World explores the consequences of unchecked technological advancement, the allure of charismatic leaders, and the fragility of human connection in a crumbling world. The show doesn’t provide easy answers, leaving viewers to grapple with the moral complexities of AI and the flawed nature of humans who are relying on AI.

The idea that AI can absorb personality, motive, and ideology is incredibly scary and this notion is explored in great detail.

“It’s predicting off of a dataset that we know is so flawed. It’s taking all this education in and then predicting the most extreme future from it,” explained writer and director Brit Marling about the series when interviewed by GQ Magazine. “It’s so the opposite of what we need. We need, now more than ever, our abstract intelligences. We need writers and painters who are trying to express work that comes from empathy, deep feeling – exactly the things that the algorithms, to date, are not interested in. All these companies are just rushing to beat each other to the marketplace to capture the greatest market share.”

A Murder at the End of the World is a compelling and thought-provoking watch. It holds a mirror to our current obsession with the future of AI and where it could lead as well as being a very satisfying and compelling whodunnit. 

If you’re looking for a murder mystery with a hefty dose of philosophical pondering, A Murder at the End of the World is worth your time.

A Murder at the End of the World is available on Disney + and The OA Parts One and Two (also mentioned in this article) is available to watch on Netflix.


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