Hulu’s Death and Other Details seems, on paper, to have the essential elements of a captivating whodunit—privileged individuals leading extravagant lives, an outsider infiltrating their inner circle, societal class conflicts, and a disgraced detective seeking a comeback. However, the series falls short of expectations. Despite the recent surge in popularity of whodunits like Knives Out and Only Murders in the Building, Death and Other Details fails to deliver the engaging narrative one might anticipate.
Mandy Patinkin takes on the pivotal role of Rufus Cotesworth, once hailed as the world’s greatest detective until he failed to solve the murder of a woman connected to a powerful family. Flashbacks reveal Cotesworth’s abrupt departure mid-investigation, leaving the family and the deceased woman’s daughter, Imogene (played by Sophia Reid-Gantzert in childhood and Violett Beane in the present), behind.
In the present day, Cotesworth reappears on a luxury cruise ship hosted by the same family, celebrating the retirement of patriarch Lawrence (David Marshall Grant). The ensemble includes Lawrence’s entitled children, Tripp and Anna, the assertive head of staff Teddy, and Imogene, whose intricate relationship with the family adds complexity to her character. When a guest is murdered, Imogene and Cotesworth join forces to solve the case, intertwining past and present through flashbacks, re-enactments, and interrogations set against vibrant backdrops and exquisite costumes.
While Death and Other Details possesses the elements of an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery, it lacks the expected sense of fun. A successful whodunit needs a balance between believable and outlandish elements, incorporating lighter moments to offset the gravity of the situation. Unfortunately, the series leans towards seriousness, both in character dynamics and thematic discussions around class division and wealth.
Despite occasional glimpses of enjoyable scenes, such as a karaoke moment and a subplot involving social media, the series could benefit from more of these lighter elements. Mandy Patinkin’s portrayal of Cotesworth, though commanding, lacks the charm necessary for a lead character. The character’s serious demeanor on the ship contrasts with his more animated and engaging scenes in flashbacks.
Imogene, the driving force behind the investigation, struggles to garner sympathy due to her privileged background and perceived hypocrisy. The case itself remains uncertain in terms of a satisfying resolution, with numerous suspects emerging in each episode. The unfolding story, conveyed through flashbacks and present-day discussions, sometimes obscures the clear direction of the narrative.
As the plot expands beyond the confines of the isolated cruise ship, Death and Other Details risks losing the essence of a classic whodunit, which thrives on deciphering clues within a contained setting. To reach a satisfying conclusion in the remaining two episodes, the series may need to simplify and refocus on essential details.