Is Darby Hart Based on a Real Author and Detective?

FX on Hulu’s psychological thriller series ‘A Murder at the End of the World’ follows Darby Hart, an amateur detective and murder mystery author who gets invited to a retreat hosted by tech mogul Andy Ronson in Iceland. Although she joins the same with the hope of selling books, she gets forced to investigate the murder of Bill Farrah, her former constant companion. Darby uses her experience as a coroner’s daughter and mystery writer to unravel the ambiguities regarding Bill’s murder. Her ways, in addition to her emotional journey of solving the mystery behind her friend’s death, make the show authentic and the character appear real.

Breaking the Stereotypes

Darby Hart is not based on a real murder mystery author and detective. Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, who created the series, wanted to conceive a fictional truth finder who is more serious than popular female detective characters, seemingly such as Nancy Drew or Harriet the Spy. “It felt like the first time you could do a young female detective but actually have it be quite serious,” Batmanglij told The Guardian.

Batmanglij wanted Marling to conceive a vulnerable woman to be at the center of their narrative. Marling, who previously wrote an essay in the New York Times titled “I Don’t Want to Be the Strong Female Lead,” had it enough with the popular culture’s portrayal of “strong women.” As far as she is concerned, the phrase is another way of saying, “Give me a man but in the body of a woman I still want to see naked.” Thus, they created “a female lead but also vulnerable, scared, and sensitive, smart and competent” by giving life to Darby, according to The Guardian.

While conceiving the characteristics of Darby, Marling and Batmanglij made sure that Darby’s qualities are not limited to cerebral. The decision was made after thinking: “Why are mysteries always only cerebral puzzles to solve?” as per The Guardian. “Can’t there also be a component that feels emotional, that contains a lot of pathos?” Marling added.

The Gen Z Sleuth

Marling and Batmanglij were impressed by the realization that Gen Z has an enormous pool of resources to educate themselves, which played a part in the characterization of Darby. “A young person could potentially, by their mid-20s, build a really impressive skill set in terms of sleuthing,” Marling told Vanity Fair about Darby’s immersion into the Reddit forums and true crime communities. “They’ve logged their 10,000 hours a lot sooner than previous generations,” Batmanglij added.

Marling and Batmanglij wanted their protagonist to focus on the victim rather than getting obsessed with the killer. To establish that difference, they made Darby the daughter of a coroner. “We like the idea that Darby, as a 10-year-old or whatever, when she encounters the first dead bodies that her dad is working on, she feels a kinship with the victims,” said Batmanglij in the same Vanity Fair interview. “She’s not interested in the psychology of the killer the way we are often culturally obsessed with the dark creativity of the killer — how they did something and how they eluded capture,” Marling added.

Read More: A Murder at the End of the World: How Much of it is Real?