“Murder at the End of the World”. Generation X must go away

Generation Z is entering the world of crime with its unique perception of the world.

Odys Korczyński

20 December 2023

Generation Z enters the world of crime with its unique perception of the world, self, depressive alienation, but also numerous passions, such as a fondness for using technology that replaces real-life friends because they can’t get along with the living ones. “Murder at the End of the World” is a peculiar series – on one hand, it draws from the classic crime genre, and on the other, it takes it to a completely new level. The creators wanted to show how painful the collision of youth with reality is, through a sensationalistic shell whose structure we have seen many times in cinema. The art lies in the reproduction in a way that the viewer finds it interesting precisely because it refers to known and appreciated cultural motifs. “Murder at the End of the World” is a “classic” worth attention – formally quite old-fashioned, yet socially engaged in presenting a reality that has not been associated with crime until now because the younger generation simply wasn’t interested in it. Technology, blogs, the internet, and nerdy podcasts helped change that.

Is it a crime or an adventure series? The beginning suggests a very modern approach by the creators to the genre. The protagonist, an amateur interested in the most elaborate crimes, receives an invitation to a mysterious meeting. The location is, of course, deserted, and the organizer is a billionaire who theoretically can do anything, even fake his own death. And here the adventure ends, providing the viewer with an excellent sensory introduction. Then the criminal intrigue begins, sprinkled with a tastefully stylized thrill. Several times, I found myself not watching a crime but a horror unfolding slowly before my eyes. I didn’t know if there would be monsters from other worlds or if humans would play their role. Formally, there are no supernatural elements, but informally, subconsciously, the impression remains that watching episode by episode, you feel that the plot will unexpectedly turn somewhere to reveal the true nature and cause of the crimes. And that’s the film’s greatest strength – the ability to create an atmosphere of uncertainty, keeping the viewer guessing only who is guilty, who is committing the murders, and whether it’s actually a human.

As for the title’s reference to Generation X and the replacement by Generation Z, “Murder at the End of the World” boldly approaches building characters belonging to these two very different generations. The crime is steeped in technology, understood and skillfully used by the younger generation – in the discovery of the murderer and in simultaneously constructing their image as truly modern detectives, much more efficient than the police. That’s Darby Hart. Moreover, her image is surrounded by an aura of slight depression, separation from society, rebellion, and sexual ambiguity – the desire not to define herself for as long as possible to grasp the reality deeper than those who have already put on a mask to play a fatally long role in the pursuit of life’s obligations. The heroine is surrounded by a range of personalities, also from her generation – individuals isolated, brilliant, calculating in their pursuit of goals much more openly than the older ones, at least openly. The introduction of artificial intelligence into the narrative of the crime also indicates a new approach to the subject. It has the potential to interest the audience of Generation Z, while the older generation will still be attached to the slow, analytical, non-firework-filled crime, without building tension by introducing other film genres and social phenomena, sometimes even in a manifest form. The older generation will still be bothered by conversations with robots, computers, virtual assistants in the form of holograms because these elements are foreign to classic crime. “Murder at the End of the World” reaches out to a completely different type of audience and does so in a breathtaking way.

The protagonist not only passively rebels against the formalized reality in which she lives but also freely uses information technology – she smokes joints but simultaneously hacks databases, treats her body as a notebook of her defiance, and can use the Internet at an advanced level that is hard to imagine for the average user. She is characterized by a kind of hidden thanatophilia, and despite that, Darby can discover the SSID of camera networks and passwords using only a smart LED light bulb. This is modern youth – disorganized, rebellious, yet sometimes brilliant, as long as this genius and rebellion don’t overthrow it. Generation X, having its own children, must pass the torch, both in life and in film. “Murder at the End of the World” is an example of this – skillful, intelligent, without relying on artificial affirmation of otherness, queerness, non-binary, and all kinds of atypicality, but cleverly combining its various forms with a plot without tacky manifestness. Even the numerous inserts of online searching, file browsing, flashbacks delving into the protagonist’s past as she became a forensic pathology nerd, are not boring. Her amateur investigation is watched with the impression that it is professional, although we should realize that some elements have been enhanced and exaggerated for the sake of action and suspense. In the background, the whole story is enriched by the mysterious billionaire (Clive Owen) and a gallery of peculiar guests, including Alice Braga from “Predators” and Tai-Pan Joan Chen.

However, there are no perfect series, especially crime ones when the case must be explained in the finale and not just deceive the viewer with growing tension. It’s also known that “Murder at the End of the World” is a one-season product, and shooting more would destroy the magic of this story and the charisma of the characters. Nevertheless, the ending is not as good as the introduction and development of the story. Darby’s intelligence somewhere gets lost, and there is still a long way for her to become a mature detective. However, it has a considerable baggage of advantages and can successfully serve as a model for a new type of character in crime cinema aimed at a younger audience, often considered strange, flawed, almost degenerate, with no chance of further life, understood by “Zetki” as one that cannot do without work from 8:00 to 16:00. Therefore, some escape to the “end of the world,” not only to murder but also to seek murderers.

I would like this series to gain popularity, but I know it won’t be possible. One of the reasons is that this type of narrative in crime has not been widely accepted. This type of narrative and this type of protagonist are too young to be treated as a model, inspiration for viewers often older than her. The saturation of the plot with technology also doesn’t help because concepts like networks, encryption, masks, and remote access are still mysterious for many people, not to mention talking to alternative intelligence, as the billionaire Andy Ronson calls it in the series. The doors to a new genre of crime with sci-fi elements have been opened, and this type of cinema will evolve, also changing science fiction and giving it the opportunity to reach a wider audience that has contested its intellectual value until now.

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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