The following article contains spoilers for A Murder at the End of the World S1E3, “Survivors” (written by Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij & Melanie Marnich and directed by Zal Batmanglij).
Welcome, dear reader, to another installment of Third Day Theories, a review of the latest theories, analyses and predictions from A Murder at the End of the World, Episode 3, “Survivors.” The title obviously refers to Darby and Bill interviewing the one survivor of the Silver Doe killer in flashbacks. In the present, I suppose it refers to those left behind, Darby and Rohan, connecting over their grief for Bill. As Lu Mei puts it, “Death—and love, I suppose—just come and go as they wish and do what they want with us.”
All in all, this was another exceptional episode. The pacing of the two stories and the doling out of mysteries, new and resolved, has been perfection. Episode 3 leaves us in a much more grounded place than we were at the end of Episode 2. That’s not stopping quite a few folks holding out for a reveal of two Lees, Frumpy Lee and Stepford Lee. Gotta love that.
I’m amazed that we got quite a few answers in this episode, with a lot of minor mysteries resolved. To highlight a few of the bigger ones:
Q: Who invited Bill? A: Andy
- Meaning Lee invited Darby. OK, so Sian and David did nail it.
Q: Who set up the hotel VLAN? A: Andy
- Lee doesn’t have the password, or at least so she claims. Could the ridiculous password have been set by Andy for Lee to hack, then, not for Darby? Maybe that’s how Andy knows Darby hacked the cameras. He left a trip wire for Lee that she activated.
Q: Who was the masked figure? A: Rohan
- The mask is something specifically used to thwart A.I. facial recognition, not just scare the crap out of human facial recognition.
Q: Is Zoomer a robot? A: No!
Yes, that’s right. I’m sorry folks, but I’m officially done with the robot boy theory. For one thing, now we’ve seen the amazing sci-fi robots Oliver is working on, and they are very, let’s just say, uninspired. Not even trying to mimic human forms. The scenes with Lee trying to get the boy to sleep and him trying to get Darby to play with him are the final nails in the coffin. That doesn’t mean we don’t still have mysteries remaining around Zoomer.
Last week I scoffed a little bit at the idea that Bill could actually be Zoomer’s real dad, but the show seems to be leaning into the idea with this episode. Lee confirms to Darby that she and Bill did indeed hook up, or at least tried, but they were meant to be friends. Darby buys it, but I’m not sure we should.
Lee continues that she and Andy were already dating off and on, apparently around this same time. Andy remembers Bill as the guy who helped them save the “gutter punk salon” she was running at the time. And then, she says, “we got pregnant, and I got married.” Interestingly worded, as always. Shouldn’t that be “I” got pregnant, and “we” got married?
Bill ordered three cups with his tea, implying he was expecting to have two visitors come together in his room. Bill had uncovered a secret and intended to tell his co-conspirators. One, obviously, was Rohan. He tells Darby, “We had a plan. A good one, we thought.” Upon finding Bill high and wasted though, Rohan left in disgust before Bill could tell him the secret.
Now, the second cup could have just been for Darby, in hopes that she would change her mind—as she did—and show up knocking on his door. But there was one other person we know who actually did come to Bill’s door: Ziba. Lee tells Darby that she thinks Bill knew Ziba, or at least admired her activism. Sounds like he wouldn’t have turned down her attempts to connect with him, as Ziba claims.
Given the use of the anti-facial recognition masks, called out as being used by protesters in Hong Kong, I think we should be taking a closer look at Ziba. She’s paraded around the idea that she came here specifically to meet FANGS to everyone now. What if that’s a ruse? She could be working with him right now, still, on the performance art he’s pulling off here at the retreat. As someone who coordinates protests, the mask could have been one of her contributions to the effort.
One Down, Still a Go
We must also consider that there are more than just the one or two co-conspirators. Rohan was signaling someone off in the distance. Not a guest at the retreat, one would have to assume then. Rohan was using Morse code, which we associate with Bill from when he used the streetlights to send Darby a happy birthday message. Could it be Bill even, if he did somehow fake his death and his dead body (neat trick, if so)?
“Still a go,” is a weird thing to say if Bill’s death, real or faked, was not part of the plan. Of course, “one down” is also a weird thing to say unless a second (or more) is coming. Can Rohan’s death also be part of this performance art piece? Or is it time to give up on that theory?
If we do give up on the performance art theory and assume there really is a murderer, then my current answer would be: Oliver. Yes, you heard me right.
For one thing, it needs to have been someone who had been at the hotel prior to the guests arriving. This person needs to have sniffed out Bill’s plans for some sort of disruption and had time to lay out their own counter plans. Oliver has clearly been here working in robot valley for Andy. That’s how he got his cell phone past security. Oliver is also an easily overlooked suspect. No one sees a handicapped guy in a wheelchair coming either. Oliver is also revealed to not be a fan of FANGS, given his tweet about him. Bill’s dismissive response probably didn’t sit very well either.
This would also give us a new theory about the traffic at Bill’s door the night he died. The masked figure is revealed to be Rohan, but by the time he arrives, Bill is already drugged. That brings us back to the prior door opening and closing to no one there. We said last week that it needed to be someone who wouldn’t come to eye level on the camera. Well, one of Oliver’s little swarm robots would fit that bill, so to speak.
It would also be able to deliver the injection and leave no fingerprints. However, could it have done so without Bill’s cooperation? Hmm, maybe Oliver is another co-conspirator, such that Bill would not suspect foul play from him. Another collaborating thought, we do know one other party who is outside of the hotel that Rohan could have been signaling to: Oliver’s robots.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- Bill’s “death by GPS” story seemed very much like an urban legend. Perhaps showing that, at least at that age, Bill and Darby are just as apt to believe what they read on the internet as this poor woman was to believe what her GPS was telling her to do. They are not immune to being “stupid people” themselves. Of course, back in 2016, we were all a lot more innocent in that regard.
- Zoomer tells Darby that his parents fight, and when they do fight it’s about the future. The future in the big sense, like what Andy is trying to achieve with this retreat? Or in a smaller sense, like the future of their family or the boy’s future even?
- Andy says Bill’s heart rate spiked when he took the injection of morphine, detected by the hotel’s monitoring. However, Bill had been making a point of not wearing his ring. We see him having to fish it out of his pocket to open his door. He didn’t place it on for the big performance either. Reviewing the scene at the end of Episode 1 with Darby watching him die from outside, the ring is very definitely not on either one of Bill’s hands. Either Andy is lying, or the hotel biometrics were hacked by someone.
- Let’s pull on that thread for a moment. The someone who hacked the hotel biometrics would have to have known Bill wasn’t wearing his ring. If his vitals had been spoofed the entire time he’d been attending the retreat, then having a boy doctor counter that data with his own data that says Bill’s heart was racing could be bad. If Bill and Lee were in on this plan, they might even give each other a “that was a close one” look across the table afterwards.
- Andy’s invitation said they were going to snowshoe, but then they didn’t snowshoe. That is a weird continuity error.
- They made a point of showing us that Rohan had a pacemaker. So, was he drugged like Bill, maybe in his flask, which was very prominently displayed on the nightstand? Or did someone disrupt his pacemaker through technology? I’m going to bet on the latter.
- Sharp eyed Redditors spotted a note in the kitchen guest map that says Rohan has a peanut allergy. That could also be a vector used to kill him. A little peanut oil in his flask, for instance?
- Ray tells Darby that the guests are in the library for a performance. Given what I believe of Ziba, it is indeed a performance she’s putting on. Haha.
- Lee tells Darby that “Hosting this retreat and not letting my husband down is another full-time job.” Not letting her husband down is an interesting way to put it. Sounds like there have been other instances of her doing so.
- Do we believe Lee when she tells Darby that she didn’t know the hotel network’s password? That would signal some serious trust issues between her and Andy if true.
- She also tells Darby that having a five-year old keeps her too busy to find time for hacking, but Zoomer is found playing by himself and is quite used to the “I’m busy” brushoff from the adults in his life.
- One more from Lee. When Darby asks her who else knew Bill, she says “Um, Rohan I think.” Rohan has been off the grid since 2006, and he seems about as suspicious of technology as Bill is. Ray, the deliverer of Darby’s invite, doesn’t seem to know of his whereabouts. The only way to get an invite to him would have to be through someone who knew him and someone he trusted, i.e. Bill. And Rohan is on Team Lee, so his invite flowed from Lee to Bill to Rohan. Once again, she’s lying to Darby.
- I thought it was a little strange that Darby asked Ray to start with Oliver when reviewing guests who had connections to Bill. Does she already have him in mind as suspect number one? Even if only subliminally?
- I hate to say it, but it was clear to me as soon as Rohan was revealed to be friends with Bill that he was next to die. I kind of wish the promo material for Episode 3 hadn’t given away that there was going to be another life taken.
- Could Bill’s performance art piece be an elaborate love letter to Darby? Did he convince Lee to invite her, and then set up this whole murder mystery specifically for her to solve? We’ve been given a clip in the trailers of Bill telling her that he’d need to be dead for her to love him.
- How can Lee claim to have not noticed Rohan crying over Bill’s death at breakfast? It was quite the scene. That’s not even a believable lie. Why bother?
- Why did Andy gift Darby with another down coat? The ladies at the Above the Garage podcast theorized that he was letting her know that he knew her other jacket was soaked from being out the night prior. I can see that.
- Is the thing that Bill wanted to show Rohan, and probably also Darby, what Lee was rummaging around in his room the next day looking for?
- By bringing up that the masks were used by protestors in Hong Kong, was Lee subtly trying to implicate Lu Mei?
- Were those robots building a Silo?
In the News
Here I’ll link you to some additional tidbits and interviews from around the internet related to the show.
- A few podcasts to mention. I already gave a nod to the Above the Garage podcast above. The DVR Podcast Network is also podcasting the series, as is BingetownTV. On YouTube, there’s Matt and Jess TV, who are weird and quirky, but I just can’t help but find them entertaining.
- This is crazy, but FX Networks posted a video with 2+ hours of security camera footage from the hotel. Your Reddit crew, working hard for you, have watched it all and given a few highlights in this post (and others).
So, it seems that the “criminal prankster” and his activist friends were planning something for the retreat. Something that might still be a “go.” Someone on the builder team, likely Oliver I believe, caught wind of their plans and is moving against them, with lethal results. With the second death, Andy is finally ready to admit they have a problem on their hands. Looks like Darby’s first class travel plans are cancelled.
That’s all for this week. Please let us know any theories you have, on what we’ve seen and what’s to come, in the comments below. Be sure to catch Caemeron Crain’s recap of Episode 3 as well.
All images courtesy of FX Networks