The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Death and Other Details

By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.

Death and Other Details review

The following is a non-spoiler review of episodes 1-8 of Death and Other Details. 

Murder mysteries have had quite the comeback in recent years. After fading from the theatrical landscape, Rian Johnson ushered in a new era of quirky detectives and twisty whodunits with 2019’s Knives Out. Johnson’s film and its sequel Glass Onion, in addition to his Peacock mystery series Poker Face, are accompanied by a range of other murder mysteries, whether it be on the big screen with Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot trilogy or on the small screen with the new True Detective: Night Country starring Jodie Foster. Such wealth of murder mysteries are exciting for amateur sleuths, although there is the possibility for oversaturation and definitely variability in the quality of these whodunits. 

The latest murder mystery to dive into is Death and Other Details, a new Hulu show created by Mike Weiss and Heidi Cole McAdams. The series takes place primarily on a luxury boat occupied by two powerful families and no shortage of secrets. One of these families, the Colliers, are looking to seal an important business deal with the rival Chun family when a passenger on the ship is killed in a perplexing locked room mystery. Thankfully, present on the boat is Rufus Cotesworth (played by Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin), once known by some as the “world’s greatest detective.” Cotesworth teams up to solve the murder with Imogene Scott (played by The Flash’s Violett Beane), who soon realizes that the murder on the ship may be related to the murder of her mother from years ago. 

Death and Other Details may not radically reshape what a murder mystery entails…and that is completely acceptable. Although lacking in novelty, this Hulu series packs all the ingredients of a classic whodunit that Agatha Christie herself would be proud of. For starters, the series is centered around a murder that occurs in a contained location – aboard a luxury ship. Further making Death and Other Details a contained mystery, the murder itself takes place in a locked room, which will likely spark memories of John Dickinson Carr’s locked room mystery novel The Three Coffins for particularly avid armchair detectives.

Speaking of detectives, the series also features its very own unique investigator in the vein of Hercule Poirot or Benoit Blanc. Like Poirot and Blanc before him, Mandy Patinkin’s Rufus Cotesworth has all the characteristics of a classic murder mystery investigator. He has an enthralling accent that grips you everytime he speaks and has you listen attentively to every word. He’s unbelievably perceptive, always two steps ahead of everyone around him. And the character has a number of interesting idiosyncrasies or quirks, the kind that only the best detectives have. Patinkin is simply fantastic in Death and Other Details. Think David Suchet’s Hercule Poirot meets Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis with the voice of Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter and you’ve got Patinkin’s Rufus Cotesworth. The show is thoroughly entertaining when Cotewsorth is not present, but, when he is on screen, the proceedings become infinitely more captivating. Patinkin brings a warmth and intelligence to the character that make Rufus Cotesworth a comforting friend and a cunning detective to follow along for this mystery. Even if one doesn’t find themselves too invested in the murder mystery itself (which we’ll talk about in a moment), Mandy Patinkin’s Rufus Cotesworth makes Death and Other Details most certainly worth a watch.

Death and Other Details review

But, as is often the case with whodunits featuring an expert detective, Death and Other Details features a more grounded main character that the audience is meant to relate to. In Knives Out, it was Ana de Armas who played the young woman teaming up with Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc to solve a murder. In its sequel Glass Onion, it was Janelle Monáe who took on this role alongside the expert detective. In Death and Other Details, this role is given to Violett Beane, who plays Imogene Scott. Imogene is a friend and, essentially, adopted member of the wealthy Collier family, who was taken in following the mysterious death of her mother years ago. It’s through Imogene that the central mystery in Death and Other Details is afforded a personal angle, one that the audience is meant to emotionally invest in and relate to. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Beane’s character. Beane is a solid performer and has proven to be an effective lead in the likes of God Friended Me and a season of The CW’s The Flash, but this is not the case in Death and Other Details. Beane is serviceable and yet never truly compelling or gripping. Especially when paired with the magnetic Rufus Cotesworth and the host of more entertaining guests aboard the ship, Beane’s Imogene comes across as rather dull and uninteresting. 

The strength of the mystery that Beane’s Imogene and Patinkin’s Cotesworth try to solve, however, helps counter any issues with the series lead. Starting off as a locked room mystery, the investigation grows increasingly intricate and, in turn, more interesting. The ability for the mystery to never become convoluted or wieldy though is a testament to the series’ success with deliberate and intelligent writing. Death and Other Details balances many characters / suspects with all sorts of interrelated backstories and motivations, which could easily become unapproachable. This is never the case, however, as the series always progresses at a digestible pace, relays key information clearly, and retains its complexity while never losing its audience.

Death and Other Details review

VERDICT: 8/10

Hulu’s Death and Other Details joins the seemingly endless stream of whodunit movies and television shows populating media nowadays. And, while it doesn’t do anything particularly unique or groundbreaking, it’s still an enthralling watch. Mandy Patinkin’s Rufus Cotesworth is the kind of Hercule Poirot-esque expert, idiosyncratic detective that mystery legend Agatha Christie would be proud of. While Violett Beane’s lead character pales in comparison as a somewhat dull lead, the mystery itself excels with all sorts of twists and turns, a range of exciting suspects, and a story that proves to be intricate and complex while never convoluted or unapproachable. Amateur sleuths and armchair detectives will find much to enjoy about Death and Other Details, a series that is among the best murder mysteries on film and television in recent years.

New episodes of Death and Other Details stream Tuesdays on Hulu. The two-part finale premieres March 5.

Murder Mysteries to Watch If You Liked ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’

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