Looking for your next bingeable murder mystery fix? Well, Hulu is now boarding passengers for Death and Other Details, a cruise ship whodunnit starring Mandy Patinkin and Violett Beane. Think Murder on the Orient Express meets The Love Boat.
Patinkin plays Rufus Cotesworth, a eccentric detective once hailed as the world’s greatest, now washed-up and bitter. Beane is Imogene Scott, a young woman who resented Rufus for failing to solve her mother’s murder years ago. When a passenger is killed aboard a glamorous vintage cruise ship, Imogene finds herself a suspect. She’s forced to team up with her old nemesis Rufus to find the real killer and clear her name.
Of course, this ain’t their first rodeo. Imogene has observational skills that would impress Sherlock Holmes, while Rufus may act like a bumbling Columbo but has the genius to match. Together, they make a dynamic detective duo, trading quips and chasing clues across the luxurious ocean liner.
With its glitzy setting and eccentric suspects, Death and Other Details aims to reel in murder mystery lovers hooked by Knives Out and Only Murders in the Building. But does this seafaring whodunnit deliver thrilling twists, or is it headed for troubled waters? Grab your loungewear and sea legs, and let’s dive in.
A Party Cruise Turned Deadly Mystery
The Collier family, ultra-rich industrialists who own a massive textile company, have chartered the S.S. Varuna – a restored vintage luxury liner – for a 10-day Mediterranean cruise. The trip is both a swanky vacation and a celebration hosted by patriarch Lawrence Collier, who plans to finally announce his retirement and name his cutthroat daughter Anna as the new Collier Mills CEO.
Among the many upper-crust guests is Imogene Scott, a young woman taken in by the Colliers as a child after her mother died in a mysterious car bombing. Despite growing up with the family, Imogene now feels like an outsider working a low-level job at Collier Mills. Still haunted by her mother’s unsolved murder, Imogene holds a grudge against once-famed detective Rufus Cotesworth, who failed to crack the case all those years ago.
The festivities are disrupted when obnoxious passenger Keith Trubitsky turns up dead with a harpoon in his chest. With her history of publicly pranking Keith, Imogene becomes suspect number one. Desperate to clear her name, she must work with Rufus – who just happens to be aboard working security for another family – to find the real killer.
With no way on or off the ship, the suspect list grows as secrets come to light about the dysfunctional Colliers, their shady associates, and the crew. Affairs, blackmail, rivalries, and more muddy the waters, making Imogene and Rufus’ investigation anything but smooth sailing. Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal connections between the current case and Imogene’s mom’s unsolved murder years earlier.
Can Imogene trust Rufus to solve the mystery when he failed her family in the past? Will they crack the case before the cruise comes to an end and the murderer disappears? Every passenger seems to have had reason to kill Keith. But the truth behind who dunnit may be even more shocking than expected.
Smooth Sailing or Rough Waters Ahead?
Death and Other Details brings both pleasures and frustrations aboard its mystery cruise. On the positive side, Mandy Patinkin and Violett Beane have delightful chemistry as Rufus and Imogene. Their witty banter and clashing investigative styles make them a dynamic duo. Even when the plot flounders, we’re happy to tag along and watch these two ping ideas back and forth. Patinkin brings eccentric flair to Rufus, while Beane gives Imogene a moody edge beneath her quick wit.
Visually, the show is a first-class experience. The vintage cruise ship set is gorgeously designed and decorated, immersing us in the lavish world of the super-rich. Meanwhile, the stylish costumes clue us into characters before they even speak. Kudos to the production team for making every frame pop.
Structurally, the writers use varied perspectives and timeline jumps to provides a fuller picture of the central mystery. Slowly teasing out secrets from the past to inform the present is a clever tactic that engages viewers.
There’s also admirable attempts at social commentary by pitting working crew against the elite passengers and exploring issues of wealth inequality and corporate corruption. These class dynamics help give the show some depth beyond just murder and intrigue.
However, Death and Other Details isn’t always smooth sailing. With over a dozen eccentric suspects, the plot becomes needlessly convoluted. It’s tricky to emotionally invest when new twists and players are introduced every episode. A more streamlined story with fewer core characters would pack more punch.
Relatedly, the show loses momentum by drifting into distracting subplots instead of focusing on Rufus and Imogene’s central case. All these jagged tangents lead to uneven pacing, especially in the lagging middle episodes.
Tonally, the ingredients don’t quite gel either. The directors can’t seem to decide between comedic, dramatic, and violent moods, leading to odd tonal whiplash at times.
And for a show about a supposed underdog, protagonist Imogene isn’t written in an overly sympathetic way. Her smug attitude toward the rich family who raised her makes it hard to view her as a relatable hero.
Compared to clever whodunits like Only Murders in the Building, this show misses opportunities for humor and self-awareness as well.
So in navigating Death and Other Details, prepare for rough waters as often as smooth. But the lively lead duo may just help steer us back on course.
A Talented Ensemble Keeps Us Engaged
While the crowded plot of Death and Other Details may overwhelm at times, the talented ensemble keeps us invested episode to episode.
Mandy Patinkin is clearly having a ball as the quirky, eccentric detective Rufus Cotesworth. He brings such unique presence and flair to the role, making Rufus lovably unpredictable. One minute he’s bumbling about dropping clues, the next he’s laser-focused on a breakthrough. Patinkin’s humor and charisma elevate the material.
As his reluctant protégé Imogene, Violett Beane displays spunk, moodiness, and seductiveness in equal measure. She adeptly handles both the sassy comebacks and introspective drama of her complicated character. Beane and Patinkin play off each other wonderfully.
Some surprise standouts also shine among the expansive supporting cast. Angela Zhou brings depth and nuance to ship steward Teddy, transforming an initially minor character into someone compelling.
Meanwhile, Linda Emond generates laughs as a wacky Interpol agent who arrives mid-series to help crack the case. Her exaggerated Swedish accent and stiff persona make for a hilarious contrast to Patinkin’s Rufus.
Most of the other passengers blend together, with indistinct backstories and motivations. But Zhou and Emond, along with endearing turns from Jayne Atkinson as the Collier matriarch and Hugo Diego Garcia as head of security, help keep the show afloat.
With lesser performances, Death and Other Details might sink under its own weight. But Patinkin and Beane’s chemistry, along with fun supporting turns, give us just enough to latch onto as we sail through all the twists and turns.
Lavish Period Details Transport Viewers Back in Time
While the convoluted storytelling may test viewers’ patience, the top-notch production values of Death and Other Details offer some smooth sailing.
The sublime set design and art direction are the real stars here. The show went all out recreating a sprawling vintage ocean liner, with gorgeous period details in every cabin, dining room, and deck. The elegant production design really transports us back to a more glamorous era of sailing. From the grand ballrooms to cozy staterooms, the ship feels simultaneously expansive and intimate.
The costume design is equally impressive in establishing the world and characters. The wealthy passengers are outfitted in endlessly stylish ensembles with imaginative accessories to boot. Even the crew’s uniforms are chic. The clothes tell stories themselves.
By largely confining the action to the cruise ship, the show squeezes suspense out of the closed setting. The producers make excellent use of the space, with claustrophobic below-deck corridors ramping up tension.
The only visual downside is some unconvincing CGI for exterior shots of the ship at sea. These backdrops look artificial at times. But once the story returns inside, the dazzling production design again astounds.
So while keeping up with all the winding subplots can feel like seasickness, simply relaxing into the lush visual atmosphere offers a pleasant viewing escape. Death and Other Details may have narrative issues, but its standout style, sets, and costumes are smooth sailing all the way.
How Does It Stack Up Against the Competition?
With the popularity of cozy murder mysteries booming lately, Death and Other Details enters a crowded field. So how does this seafaring whodunit compare to its genre competitors and influences?
It’s clear the creators drew heavy inspiration from classics like Murder on the Orient Express and Agatha Christie’s seminal mysteries. Unfortunately, Death lacks the razor-sharp plotting and economy of storytelling of these golden age whodunits. Christie could impress with just a handful of finely drawn characters – a lesson lost here.
Tonally, Death aims for the crowd-pleasing balance of humor, intrigue, and heart as recent hits Knives Out and Only Murders in the Building. But it falls short on laugh-out-loud comedy compared to the latter, and lacks the former’s breezy vibes.
Speaking of Only Murders, Death could have better capitalized on the rapport between its leads if it similarly focused in more singularly on that dynamic. The relationship gets diluted among too many other characters and subplots.
Where Only Murders and Knives Out effectively Balance heightened theatricality with emotional grounding, the tone here inconsistently wavers, feeling more hollow.
When commentating on wealth and class like The White Lotus, Death’s jabs lack bite or nuance by comparison. The same goes for its gestures at corporate family drama next to a razor-sharp satire like Succession.
And the busy convolutions of the plot evoke the most meandering tendencies of a Harlan Coben adaptation. Streamlining to the most compelling core mystery would raise the stakes.
While the recycled premise doesn’t necessarily sink Death and Other Details, it doesn’t quite help it stand out among a sea of strong competitors either. A little more originality in execution could have better positioned this one to leave a unique mark in the murder mystery genre’s ongoing boom. As is, it feels overly derivative.
Rough Seas Ahead for Future Sailings
In the end, Death and Other Details is a bumpy cruise that doesn’t fully reward audiences for enduring the nauseating twists and turns along the way.
The show starts out with promise, anchored by the lively dynamic between Imogene and Rufus at its core. Mandy Patinkin and Violett Beane demonstrate their chemistry and talent, even if the characters aren’t written to their fullest potential.
But rather than smoothly charting a course by focusing on this central detective partnership, the show meanders into distractions. Subplots pile up until the main mystery is watered down. By trying to be everything for everyone – comedy, drama, action, social commentary – it ends up delivering each angle only shallowly.
The final episodes could potentially tie the tangled threads together for an rewarding conclusion. But based on the initial half of the season, it seems unlikely the payoff will justify such a choppy, uneven journey getting there.
Unlike a breakout crowd-pleaser like Only Murders in the Building, this crowded seafaring mystery lacks the charm and accessibility for mainstream appeal. It ultimately plays more as a passable guilty pleasure for diehard murder mystery completists, rather than a genre standout.
The production values impress throughout, even when the storytelling falters. And Patinkin demonstrates he has the gravitas and magnetism to enliven the played-out gentleman detective archetype.
But the show doesn’t consistently play to these strengths. For future sailings, the creators would be wise to chart a simpler course focused on the central detective pairing, trim the excess baggage, and deliver crisper storytelling that stays true to genre roots.
Otherwise, no matter how glittery the production, future seasons of Death and Other Details seem likely to sink under the weight of their own ambition. Streamlining is required before this show can truly set sail smoothly.
Death and Other Details
With its lavish production design and talented lead duo, Death and Other Details shows traces of a promising cruise that could have been. But the overstuffed plot and distracted focus make for an ultimately uneven, often laborious viewing experience that fails to live up to its potential. For diehard murder mystery fans, it may offer enough style and intrigue to semi-satisfy, but most viewers will be left wishing they'd never boarded this bumpy ship.
- Strong lead performances from Patinkin and Beane
- Gorgeous production design and costume design
- Clever use of varied perspectives and timelines
- Witty banter between Rufus and Imogene
- Captures the glitz and eccentricities of the wealthy
- Overly convoluted plot with too many tangents
- Loses momentum and focus in middle episodes
- Uneven tonal shifts between comedy and drama
- Pacing issues cause story to drag
- Protagonist Imogene lacks depth and sympathy