When you hear the words “Mandy Patinkin” and “murder mystery” in the same sentence, it suggests something on television worth watching. There have been high hopes for Hulu’s Death and Other Details because of this pairing. The series premiered on January 16, 2024 and runs through March 5, 2024 for a 10-episode inaugural season. Early reviews have been polarizing so I wanted to judge for myself. If you have been waiting for reviews or are considering binging the show all at once in time for the season finale, read on.
What Is Death and Other Details About?
Like any good murder mystery, Death and Other Details brings together a large group of extremely wealthy individuals to a remote setting where someone is murdered. In the case of this series, the drama takes place in the middle of the sea on an opulent cruise ship. Aboard the vessel alongside billionaire corporate folks and investors is Imogene Scott (Violett Beane), a close friend of the family holding the soiree (she was raised by them when her own mother was mysteriously murdered) and Rufus Cotesworth (Patinkin), a brilliant detective secretly hired by someone aboard to investigate something he doesn’t initially reveal.
Imogene and Rufus have history from when Imogene was a child, relating to the investigation into her mother’s death. To put it lightly, she does not like him. But when a passenger winds up dead, the evidence irrefutably points to Imogene as being the guilty party. She has no choice but to team up with Rufus for help to clear her name, and find the real killer. Rufus knows Imogene didn’t do it and helps keep her off the suspect list. Through various twist and turns, the now dynamic duo work together to uncover a plot even bigger than they imagined (or perhaps as exactly as Rufus suspected).
Death and Other Details Review
I love a good mystery, especially when with a plot takes you in directions you’d never expect. However, Death and Other Details gets a bit too twisty at times. Like any good murder mystery, the point is to present red herrings, misdirects, and a long list of potential suspects, from the most obvious to the person you’d never expect (think the quiet nurse in Knives Out – spoiler alert).
By episode 2, I felt like I had pegged the killer, or at least a character who was working with them. I haven’t had the chance to watch the entire series just yet, and hope I’m wrong. If I’m right, I’m either far too good at this (pat on the back for my amateur sleuthing skills) or the show isn’t as good as it should be at creating the sense of mystery. I’ll find that out in just under a month’s time. (I’ll report back here!)
Overall, I love the intertwining stories in Death and Other Details but there’s a lot going on at once. Sometimes to much. They’re investigating not one but two murders, including one that dates back decades. There’s a company in financial trouble, wealthy investors, a head of security with secrets, stowaways, a spouse acting paranoid, a drug-addicted philandering son, an illicit affair, a complicated past relationship, a mysterious person with tremendous power – the list goes on.
It’s a lot to keep up with and sometimes too much distraction from the real investigation. The story veers off course a lot, though this fits with the point the show is trying to make: pay attention to the little details. When you’re figuring out a puzzle, there are lots of complex pieces and minor distractions that get in the way. In this sense, the fact there is so much going on is precisely the point. A crime isn’t going to be solved in a linear fashion, and this one has too many moving pieces.
But then there are also plot holes too glaring to ignore, like camera footage being deleted yet there’s no cloud back-up. A cruise ship that costs billions would likely have a killer security system! Then the show would have us believe that a man pretending to be someone he’s not manages to board a billionaire’s ship for a private trip without anyone batting an eye. Despite the detailed security team, no one verifies that he is who he says he is, or if they did, they don’t see beyond the con. In today’s day and age, a trip like this would require photo ID, even a retina or fingerprint scan to confirm identity, at least a Google search to confirm the person really exists. If it were that easy to get onto a billionaire’s cruise ship and sail off into the sunset, call me Frank Abagnale and I’m headed to the ports for a lavish vacation!
Don’t get me wrong, there are elements I love about the show, too. The scenes when Imogene appears as her present-day self in flashbacks to view things from a different perspective or insert herself into Rufus’ stories make the backstories much more engaging. She is effectively able to walk in his shoes to understand what was going on at any given moment and why he made decisions he did.
Beane does a wonderful job holding her own against such a revered actor like Patinkin: while she’s known for her role in The Flash and the series God Friended Me, the 27-year-old is by and large a rookie actor with credits that only date back less than a decade. You’d never know it from her performance here.
I also love Rufus’ narration throughout. He reads passages from his book to the viewer he calls “Reader,” providing tips about how to run a successful investigation, what to look for, and how to look for it. I almost feel like I should be taking notes, or at least searching my local Indigo Books store or Amazon for a copy of his book. It doesn’t actually exist, of course. But if it did, I’d totally read it!
The devil is in the details would be a good motto for Rufus: he is always observing and taking things in, from someone’s mannerisms to how a room looks when he enters it and before he leaves. It’s a serious game as he puts together pieces of a puzzle to come to a finished product.
Without having seen the series through, I can only make inferences based on the first half of the show. There are many directions the plot can go from here, but it will take a lot to find a satisfying end that manages to explain all the complex, interwoven storylines. As I watch, I feel impatient about getting to the end versus anxious and excited to see it play out. That’s not a good sign. But there’s potential should the story throw in some worthwhile curveballs and build further excitement in its second half.
Should You Watch Death and Other Details?
If you like Patinkin, it’s worth watching Death and Other Details just to see him take on his first detective role. He’s a new kind of Benoit Blanc without the same eccentricities, but unique quirks of his own. Beane is also, as noted, impressive, a promising young talent.
The supporting cast is wonderful as well, including Rahul Kohli (The Fall of the House of Usher) as Sunil, the owner of the cruise ship, Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill) as Anna Collier, Imogene’s wealthy best friend being groomed to take over the family business, Michael Gladis (Mad Men) as Keith Trubitsky, a passenger aboard the ship, and Jayne Atkinson (24) as Katherine Collier, the Collier family matriarch.
Death and Other Details is in a tough position, instantly being compared to other popular murder mysteries with similar plots and themes. I wouldn’t rank Death and Other Details among the best. It’s middle of the pack: worth watching when nothing else is on, but not worth rushing to watch. It’s good, it’s not great. You aren’t missing out if you decide to forego watching, but you’ll want to watch all the way through if you start.
That’s the thing about whodunit murder mysteries in general: once you’re sucked in, good or bad, you’re in it to the end to see how it all plays out. Whether you like it or not.