Review by Sean Boelman
Hulu has recently established itself as the destination for the whodunnit series, between Only Murders and the Building, the FX co-production A Murder at the End of the World, and more. One might expect their latest murder mystery, Death and Other Details — which looks to be a mix of Knives Out and Triangle of Sadness — to join that distinguished canon. One would be wrong, as this might just be the worst new series in years.
Death and Other Details follows the guests of a luxury ocean liner as they are thrown into conflict when a murder takes place. Of course, there are twists and turns and a conspiracy to unravel, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. However, the cardinal sin of Hulu’s latest mystery is that it simply isn’t fun.
Although a whodunnit doesn’t necessarily need to be campy — there is such thing as a straight-faced, brooding mystery — it’s clear that Death and Other Details was intended to be humorous. It’s meant to be satirical, yet there’s precious little about the show that is remotely funny. And worse yet, little is particularly interesting, either.
For a show that desperately wants to have an “eat the rich” message, Death and Other Details sure doesn’t do a good job of making its lower-middle-class characters compelling — and that’s for those who even have a personality. Many of the workers on the ship are relegated to the rafters, and the few that aren’t are backstabbers, which is exactly the message the show was trying to send, right?
The viewer’s emotional attachment to the story comes from an orphan “generously” taken in by her wealthy best friend’s family after a terrible tragedy. That arc goes precisely how you would expect — there are deep, dark secrets to be uncovered. It’s quite a shame that Violett Beane’s talents are put to waste because she’s genuinely charming. However, the character and dialogue she is given are so atrociously dull that she can’t make anything of it.
Mandy Patinkin’s detective should also be a highlight of the show, but it feels like the veteran actor is sleepwalking through his lines. Patinkin and this genre seem like a match made in Heaven on paper, but whether it’s a lack of connection to the material or maybe that he didn’t want to be there, this role ends up being one of the weakest in his career.
One could almost forgive the show if it offered some beautiful shots of the destinations visited throughout the mystery. Sadly, Death and Other Details doesn’t even fulfill this bare minimum request, with most of the show looking as vague and dull as the writing. The costume design is the only aspect of the visuals that has any panache.
How did Hulu mess up a murder mystery starring the legendary Mandy Patinkin as a grizzled detective this badly? Death and Other Details is a colossal misfire that shares more in common with a funeral knell than any of its peers in the whodunnit genre. Unfunny and simply not compelling, viewers will wish they were thrown overboard rather than having to set sail with this sinking ship of a series.
Death and Other Details streams on Hulu beginning January 16, with new episodes streaming subsequent Tuesdays. Eight out of ten episodes reviewed.