‘The OA’ Creators Return with Intriguing Murder Mystery
The innovative filmmakers Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij are known to cultivate a unique creative space between them, which they fondly refer to as their “garden of ideas.” This garden is not one of flowers and shrubs but a realm of inspiration where their most extraordinary concepts thrive and develop.
Their latest offering from this imaginative garden is the upcoming series, “A Murder at the End of the World,” set to premiere on FX on Hulu with two initial episodes on November 14. While the murder mystery’s premise may seem conventional, with its remote Icelandic luxury retreat for influential individuals, it bears the unmistakable signature of Marling and Batmanglij, who have previously captivated audiences with thought-provoking projects like “The OA,” “Sound of My Voice,” and “The East.”
Surprisingly, even for the creators themselves, the story revolves around a Gen-Z amateur detective named Darby Hart, portrayed by Emma Corrin of “The Crown” fame. Darby, a true-crime author who honed her skills cracking cold cases on internet forums, finds herself at the center of a murder investigation during a gathering hosted by a tech billionaire (Clive Owen) and his former coder wife (Marling). The unusual assistant to the guests is an advanced A.I. named Ray, played by Edoardo Ballerini.
Marling, 41, and Batmanglij, 42, are known for their philosophical approach to storytelling. Their collective body of work delves into surreal realms and profound themes, often featuring characters who consider themselves seers of sorts.
Their creative journey began in 2001 when they met as students at Georgetown University. Collaborating on a 48-hour film festival project a couple of years later, they laid the foundation for their enduring partnership. This experience led Marling, a double major in economics and art, to forego her business career in favor of storytelling. She describes their collaboration as a profound connection, a narrative bond they’ve maintained ever since.
Their debut co-written feature, “Sound of My Voice,” directed by Batmanglij and starring Marling, explored the enigmatic world of a cult leader who claims to be from the future. This film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, alongside “Another Earth,” another Marling creation. Despite receiving substantial offers from Hollywood, the pair chose to remain true to their indie vision.
Following this success, they ventured into “The East,” featuring Marling and Alexander Skarsgard, which delved into a woman’s journey undercover in an anarchist group engaged in eco-terrorism.
Their most significant platform to date arrived in 2016 when their series, “The OA,” launched on Netflix. Marling played a character who miraculously regained her sight after a mysterious disappearance, calling herself the “original angel” and sharing a compelling story with high schoolers. The series continued to explore ambitious plotlines, captivating a passionate following. Despite this success, Netflix canceled the show after its second season, sparking fan protests and campaigns.
Marling sees the cancellation of “The OA” as a precursor to industry transformation. She suggests it was an early indicator of a shifting entertainment landscape, where creative and market forces collided, leaving room for new ideas and talent to emerge.
“A Murder at the End of the World” is a result of their resilience. Writing, directing, and collaborating on this series, Marling and Batmanglij explore themes that have grown increasingly relevant over the years.
Their storytelling often touches on apocalyptic themes, but it rarely takes on a dystopian tone. Instead, it reflects a sense of optimism and a belief in humanity’s goodness, emphasizing the importance of emotion over data.
Marling and Batmanglij might use metaphors like “garden” and “seeds,” but the essence of their creative journey is the unwavering dedication to nurturing and blooming their ideas, regardless of how unconventional or unexpected they may be.