- Mandy Patinkin’s performance saves the new murder mystery series from sinking like the Titanic.
- The show’s innovative use of flashbacks becomes cumbersome as the plot becomes more convoluted.
- While the series has its flaws, it will satisfy fans of Knives Out iThe White Lotus.
Only Murders in the Building, Death on the Nile, Knives Out, After Party, and The White Lotus jam-pack themselves aboard a luxury cruise ship in Death and Other Details. This latest murder mystery features a star-studded cast, some clever plot twists, and a major lifesaver that prevents it from sinking like the Titanic: Mandy Patinkin. The Homeland alum and Emmy winner of Chicago Hope saves this series on its dangerous (and, ahem, derivative) grand sea voyage, where the rich elite cavort with each other, and murders happen. It’s yet another tale about the gloriously wealthy, the grip of power they apparently hold, and the few people willing enough to fight for and bring about justice.
Front and center with all that here is Patinkin’s Detective Rufus Cotesworth and his reluctant protégé Imogene (Violett Beane). The vibrant young woman isn’t reluctant to help Cotesworth solve the cruise ship murder because she’s got the heebie-jeebies. It has more to do with the fact that she’s still grieving the violent death of her mother some 18 years earlier and that she still blames the detective for screwing up the investigation.
While early episodes of Death and Other Details hold great promise with their inventive storytelling approach — making viewers look more closely at what they are experiencing — this promising caper becomes a bit overstuffed in its second half. Weighing it down further is the fact that there are only a handful of likable characters. Those who are way off the likability charts don’t generate enough spark for the audience to care whether they find redemption or not. Ultimately, that’s not enough fuel to keep this ship afloat.
However, with Patinkin’s elan — and an accent to boot — and showrunners Mike Weiss (The Mentalist, Chicago P.D.) and Heidi Cole McAdams at the helm, there’s no need to toss this ship out with the seawater. You’ve experienced this kind of mystery before. Better, in fact, but there’s some good floating around here, so let’s take a deeper look.
Saving A Rocky Voyage
Death and Other Details
- Release Date
- January 16, 2024
- Heidi Cole McAdams, Mike Weiss
- Violett Beane , Lauren Patten , Angela Zhou , Linda Emond
We’re living in uncertain times and the entertainment industry is feeling the existential malaise. Last year, superhero movies went into a coma, and nobody really knows how to administer proper CPR on them yet. After Knives Out became a sensation, murder mysteries became a hot ticket, but several years later, the genre is feeling strained. And with the Hollywood Reporter recently writing that Sopranos’ creator David Chase believes “something is dying” in terms of quality on the streaming front, the push for more inventive content has never been more forceful.
Death and Other Details wins points for some of its creative choices but tends to overuse them. What starts out as fun and inventive in its use of flashbacks in this comedy thriller — what happened two days ago, one hour earlier, years ago, and two days ago yet again, for instance — becomes a tad cumbersome in later episodes when the showrunners seem to be making a mad dash to pull everything together. Meanwhile, nearly each and every cast member gets an opportunity to chew up the scenery.
There’s Lauren Patten as Anna Collier, a hard-nosed achiever who is about to be officially named successor to her family empire, Collier Mills. Jack Cutmore-Scott (Frasier) plays her man-child drunken brother, Tripp. Linda Emond (Only Murders in the Building) is accent-heavy, by-the-book agent Hilde Eriksen, who comes aboard after the murder of Tripp’s associate Keith Trubitsky, played by Michael Gladis (Mad Men). Jere Burns’ Llewellyn Mathers is the family’s attorney — he’s way into BDSM, so there’s that. Characters who truly shine are Pardis Saremi’s Leila, Anna’s troubled wife, and Lisa Lu’s Celia Chun, a family matriarch toting her own secrets.
Elsewhere, a billion-dollar deal is supposed to go through, which is why patriarch Lawrence Collier (David Marshall Grant) has boarded the luxury ship, hoping to charm the Chun Family, whose hip fashion empire would be a stellar acquisition. Toss in some crew-to-crew and below-the-deck storylines, a hottie who may not be who you think he claims to be (Hugo Diego Garcia’s Jules), plenty of sex, and even more unanswered questions, and, well, that’s a lot. Watching it unravel is, at best, intriguing enough to keep pulling you in. At its worst, all too confusing.
Relying on Mandy Patinkin and Violett Beane
Meanwhile, the entire outing seems to rest in the capable hands of Patinkin, who rarely misses a beat as stalwart Detective Cotesworth, dubbed “the world’s greatest detective.” But even that becomes questionable as things roll on. Patinkin gives the story a worthy narrator, too. “I haven’t been fully honest with you,” his voiceover occasionally chimes in, adding to the allure. We’ll often be told to “pay attention.” It does the trick, but by episodes six and seven, the storyline becomes even more complicated. Still, best to experience that and decide for yourself.
Violett Beane (God Friended Me, TV’s The Flash) proves herself capable of holding her own here. The actress is given a lot to work with and manages to balance the broad range of emotions Imogene goes through. When it becomes apparent that an ominous mystery figure is mastering a more complex chess game, Imogene will stop at nothing to revisit and solve her mother’s murder. Beane is a powerful force throughout and the series delivers a nice touch by inserting the adult Imogene into the flashbacks as a better way for her to “pay attention,” as Detective Cotesworth would say.
Surely, Death and Other Details is ambitious in the way it wants to present its mysteries, however, it could use more time, or in this case, more careful plotting, to allow it to become a truly winning tale. That said, if you’re a fan of Knives Out or The White Lotus, Death and Other Details will satisfy a particular craving, and there’s no real harm in that.
Death and Other Details streams on Hulu, beginning January 16. Watch the trailer below.
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