Hulu’s ‘Death and Other Details’ fearlessly embraces the essence of a compelling murder mystery, rooted in a classic whodunit framework. It follows the story of Imogene Scott, a young girl, who finds herself thrust into the center of suspicion when a murder occurs on a luxurious Mediterranean ocean liner. Recognizing that her only ally is Rufus Cotesworth, the epitome of refined detective work who has now fallen on some difficult times, the series unfolds into a tale of suspense and investigation.
However, Imogene and Rufus go way back to when she was 15 years old and saw her mother being murdered by the Colliers, a wealthy family with their kingdom of a textile business. Imogene, after being brought up by them, now works for them and is accompanying them on this ostentatious holiday. Created by Heidi Cole McAdams and Mike Weiss, the beautifully and exotically shot series raises the question if the story has been taken from any true events that might have transpired.
Realism Anchors Death and Other Details
Though ‘Death and Other Details’ draws no direct inspiration from real-life events, the series creators, Heidi Cole McAdams and Mike Weiss, openly acknowledged their inspiration from the works of Agatha Christie. Renowned for her mixing and matching of several characters in a fictional world, Christie’s influence is evident in the series’ approach. McAdams and Weiss aimed to channel Christie’s signature style, transplanting it into a contemporary setting. To achieve this, their emphasis centered on meticulous attention to location and costumes particularly.
Talking about the genesis of the idea and where it hatched from, Mike Weiss shared, “The inspiration behind the series was a couple of things. First, it was the murder mystery genre. Heidi and I have been friends for a decade, and the pilot of this show was actually the very first thing that we wrote together. We knew we wanted to work together, and so we were figuring out, “What is the right story for us to combine all the various things that we’re interested in? Where does that Venn diagram line up?” It turned out to be a stylish murder, in this case, with season 1 being set on a restored 1940s ocean liner that is sailing the Mediterranean.”
The Hulu show stands out for its authenticity, with well-developed characters contributing significantly to the series’ believability. Violett Beane’s character Imogene is a prime example—a young girl navigating a challenging childhood while grappling with life’s complexities. Beane herself expressed a personal connection to the character and said, “Still, to this day, I feel like she doesn’t know what is going on, but that’s how we all are, especially in our mid to late 20s. We have no idea what we’re doing. That, for me, stood out. I was just like, ‘This is somebody that I want to bring to life.’”
Similarly, the legendary Mandy Patinkin, who plays Rufus, does so with so much conviction that one cannot help but pity the brash but smart man who is missing the person he used to be while trying to be the best version of himself in the present. This commitment to character development adds a layer of realism, allowing viewers to connect emotionally with the characters in the series. ‘Death and Other Details’ successfully captures the opulence of the global elite through its meticulous attention to detail, particularly in the cinematography.
It achieves authenticity by presenting viewers with breathtaking shots of pristine locations associated with the super-rich. For instance, scenes shot against the backdrop of luxurious yachts, high-end resorts, and exclusive events provide a visually stunning portrayal of the elite lifestyle. These carefully crafted visuals not only contribute to the series’ authenticity but also immerse the audience in the extravagant world the characters inhabit.
Despite not drawing directly from real-life or true crime events, ‘Death and Other Details’ skillfully constructs a believable universe where the unfolding events could feasibly transpire in the real world. Even though there are so many stakeholders in how the mystery unfolds, the series does not leave any questions unanswered and makes it possible for all of its plot developments and writing to stand strong. Much like the real world, the series does not eliminate any character from being a suspect and it is only through good detective work that it concludes.