Death and Other Details wears its love of Agatha Christie on its sleeve. A mysterious death in luxurious circumstances, a morally dubious cast of suspects, and a genius detective tasked with unlocking the truth – hallmarks of the author’s work all cruising through the Mediterranean on a lavish ocean liner in this new Hulu series. But one bothersome trait of recent Christie homages and adaptations is thankfully absent: Their lack of wit. Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot movies may take the author too seriously, and Gal Gadot’s line reading of “Enough Champagne to fill the Nile!” was only amusing because of what a terrible actress she is, but Death And Other Details is unironically a hoot.
Best of all, our genius detective, Rufus Cotesworth, comes in the form of Mandy Patinkin with an accent so mercurial that some of the sport in Death and Other Details involves trying to figure out where exactly this dude is supposed to be from. The man regularly referred to as “the world’s greatest detective” (as if that’s a perfectly normal title to be assigned) has been brought low by his fondness for “the odd tipple” and is on the boat working security for a group of Chinese billionaires seeking to do a deal with shady moguls the Collier family. To make matters more complicated, Rufus is a familiar figure to the Colliers, having failed to solve the mystery behind a beloved employee’s grisly death; the woman’s daughter, Imogene (Violett Beane) is also on board and has yet to forgive Rufus for letting her mother’s case go cold.
Death and Other Details Gallery
It doesn’t take a sleuth of Rufus’ caliber to guess that he and the brilliant, bob-sporting Imogene are destined to team up after a fellow passenger is found dead – especially not after he declares “You’ll never succeed with just one pair of eyes. That’s why I always work with an assistant.” Nonetheless, Death and Other Details plays with the murder mystery form in interesting ways, inserting characters directly into each other’s recollections of events to emphasize their unreliable narration and raise questions about what’s presumed from another character’s version of events. The dialogue skewers the heavy-handed scripting of many of its peers, with Rufus dropping in assessments like “He had a wrap sheet longer than an overwritten metaphor.”
The show clearly doesn’t have quite the budget of a Knives Out mystery, but the visual effects being used to create the sky and sea on the deck of the boat are charmingly janky. The corrupt tycoons, unscrupulous lawyers, TikTok influencers, and inexplicably dog-collared priest making up the list of suspects feel like clichés pulled from an updated game of Clue – and I mean that as a compliment. In another nod to Christie, class division on this voyage is as entrenched as it was in Titanic, with the upper deck reserved for stiff conversations and tuxedos, while in the ship’s bowels, the working class have a whale of a time chugging cheap booze and getting handsy on the dance floor.
The satire isn’t exactly subtle, just some broad “eat the rich” stuff thrown in between plot twists and some light xenophobia, social media addiction, and homophobia dangled as potential motives. But as Rufus asserts in the show’s opening moments, “If you want to solve a crime, any crime, you must first learn to see through the illusion.” The illusion here is thinking that a show about death should get bogged down in the macabre, and it would be criminal to put an ensemble in this setting and try to create self-serious prestige TV rather than embrace the joyous silliness of the premise.
This means the reveal of the murderer doesn’t hold much weight– but in a sense, that’s another fitting tribute to Christie, whose killers tended toward the arbitrary (the better to make the reader suspect anyone and everyone), and who would sometimes swap culprits for stage adaptations to keep the audience on its toes. Still, Mandy Patinkin solving crimes at sea is as joyous as it promises to be, and even if the puzzle’s solution doesn’t rock the boat, Christie would likely approve of all the death and all of the fun Rufus and Imogene have figuring out the other details.