This review contains minor spoilers for the first two episodes of Death and Other Details, especially the gay bits.
Hulu’s Death and Other Details is a locked room mystery set on a cruise ship filled with rich people — including three queer women who find themselves on a long list of murder suspects.
Despite being set in the modern era, Death and Other Details manages to keep a noir vibe by setting it on a ship that was designed with old-timey sensibilities. In fact, almost everything used to decorate the ship was made before 1955, and often the guests’ outfits follow suit.
The main characters in our story are Rufus Coteworth, played by Mandy Patinkin, and Imogene, played by queer actress Violett Beane, who co-produced and directed Jasmin Savoy’s very queer music video “goddamnit”. Rufus and Imogene met when Imogene was young, when Rufus failed to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Imogene’s mother. They are reunited by another crime on the ship, and Imogene with her keen eye for detail becomes Watson to Rufus’ Sherlock. As a long-time Criminal Minds fan, it’s very fun to watch Mandy Patinkin talking about the psychology of suspects, and breaking down clues with his protégé.
It’s unclear as of the first two episodes that have dropped if Imogene herself is queer, but until then we have plenty of other queer characters to contend with.
First and foremost is Anna, an heiress to her father’s milling company, played by queer actress Lauren Patten (who once starred in the Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill). Anna is an an absolute boss, talking firmly on the phone to her colleagues. She’s confident in her ability to take over the company, but she also has a soft side, both with her loyalty for lifelong friend Imogene and her gentle patience with her wife.
Anna is married to former “clickbait journalist” Leila (Pardis Saremi) who is a bit eccentric following a head injury that left her paranoid about things like hidden cameras and spies. Someone jokes that she’s afraid of 5G poisoning, but I think her paranoia is a bit more realistic. She’s worried about the sort of things a very rich and powerful family could potentially arrange for someone they deemed an enemy. While Leila often confines herself to their room, Anna still manages to spend lots of…quality time with her. (In just the first two episodes, they have some of the steamiest scenes I’ve seen in a hot minute.)
On this voyage, Anna is meant to be announced as her father’s successor, in conjunction with her securing a partnership with the Chung family — complicated by her romantic past with one member of said family, Eleanor (played by nonbinary actor Karoline). Eleanor looks at Anna with an intensity that suggests she might still be harboring some feelings.
As someone who grew up reading Nancy Drew novels before eventually graduating to Agatha Christie, I love a good mystery. I want a dozen more installments in the Knives Out franchise, and the urge to solve the puzzle in A Murder at the End of the World kept me watching despite its slow pace. Death and Other Details is taking an interesting approach to the genre by emphasizing that humans are unreliable narrators of their own story. Being an eye witness doesn’t automatically mean you know what happened, and there can be multiple answers to the same questions.
Speaking of Knives Out, those movies and this TV show share a sprinkling of humor amidst the mystery worthy of the best Sherlock Holmes adaptations. Imogene is sarcastic and witty and has fun banter with multiple characters. She has an affable nature and Violett Beane is a star in this role.
Anna’s wife being a recluse and Anna’s ex being on board is probably going to lead to some queer shenanigans, and I’m not unconvinced Anna and Imogene don’t have a bit of a past as well. I’m excited to see how all that unfolds as they work to solve the murder on board. Also if I know anything about these types of stories (and I do), I have a feeling the first murder won’t be the only one aboard this luxury ocean liner.
The first two episodes of Death and Other Details are now streaming on Hulu.