Third Day Theories: A Murder at the End of the World, Episode 4

“Family Secrets”

A Murder at the End of the World S1E4 - Darby in spacesuit riding behind Sian on the snowmobile, looking back at something behind them
Courtesy of FX Networks

The following article contains spoilers for A Murder at the End of the World S1E4, “Family Secrets” (written by Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij 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 4, “Family Secrets.” The title referring, of course, to the big Ronson family secret that is a secret no more. I feel like I’ve been bludgeoned over the head with an unsecured space suit helmet with this “big reveal” as we cross our midway point in the series. Granted, it’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s hard to see where this puzzle piece falls in the larger whodunnit mystery of it all.

As Caemeron points out in his recap of Episode 4, this episode was very exposition heavy, yet revealed very little new to us. It seems this one was for the casual watcher, not the obsessive sleuth. Maybe the intent was to get those folks all caught up so that we can now get this roller coaster moving in the second half. I certainly hope so.

Zoomer sits on the floor looking up, lots of toys and drawing things scattered around him
It was just a sneeze

Who’s Your Daddy?

Let’s start at the end again. I’m just gonna float this theory out there and see what you think, but I’m getting the impression that Zoomer is Bill’s kid (insert exaggerated Agnes Harkness wink). OK, all joking aside, we still must ask, should we believe it? Obviously, Darby does, as the ever-precocious Zoomer rattles off his diagnosis of Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helioopthalmic Outburst, mimicking Bill from this episode’s flashbacks.

Not only did Bill conveniently emphasize in that flashback that it is a genetic condition, passed down to him father-to-son, but later we get the story of his mom’s psychic saying he’ll have one kid by someone he sleeps with once. A psychic? Really? I thought we were told that this show didn’t want or need the metaphysical. What in the world is going on here?

The only real point of this reveal, at least that we can surmise thus far, is that now Darby can finally move past her idol worship of Lee and realize what we’ve been screaming at the screen for weeks now, that Lee is lying to her. Also, the big question now shifts to whether Andy knows. If Zoomer really is his life, as Sian says, what would he do to protect that particular family secret?

Darby rides behind Sian on the snowmobile, a little red light showing on Sian's helmet
The little red light

Switched Helmets?

There’s another weird hand-holding clue drop in the present-day storyline as well. When Darby and Sian get into the car, they made sure to give us a nice lingering shot of Darby placing their helmets into the backseat, hers behind Sian and Sian’s behind her. Ooh, ooh, pay attention, this seemed to be saying.

This is before Sian gets back on Darby’s suspicion radar, so there’s no real reason to think Darby purposely switched the helmets. Some folks were following a little red dot at the base of Darby’s helmet that seems to be present on the hacked helmet, theoretically showing that there was indeed a switch and Darby was the intended target. However, as can be seen in the image above, Sian’s helmet had the red light as well. They seemed to go off and on, as it’s not always visible in shots of Darby’s helmet either.

That said, the very idea that the helmets were mixed up is almost comical. They were tossed around like an Olive Garden salad when the car rolled over multiple times. Any thoughts about their careful positioning earlier are completely irrelevant—as was that lingering shot. Sian was the target of the helmet hack, there’s no question. What we really ought to be asking is when and why she was targeted?

Darby sits in the passenger seat looking nervously at Sian in the driver's seat
Trust issues

Sian — Friend or Foe?

Sian’s guilt and innocence flip back and forth so many times in this episode, it made my head swim. She doesn’t know hacker lingo, but she knows how to fool the security cameras and dodge the patrols. She’s overtly mining Darby for a ton of info, but she also gives back some pretty important tidbits as well. She and Darby appear to have some moments of genuine bonding over stories of their fathers, but then she shocks Darby by hacking the car’s command system.

After that, Darby’s hackles are back up, giving Sian nervous sidelong glances and commenting on the black ice. Sian wins her back with the other big reveal of this episode, a different kind of “family secret.” Andy Ronson has been diverting all his company’s funds, including those slated for the space program Sian is supposed to be the face of, to some other project. If we believe her, Sian doesn’t even know what it is. She thinks it is probably this place, with its underground bunkers and hazmat space suits, but Andy won’t say why—and interestingly, she adds that neither will Lee.

Ten seconds after she tells this to Darby, the car skids out of control and flips off the road.

A Murder at the End of the World S1E4 - A gloved hand hovers over a car touchscreen with a diagnostic options menu displayed
“Injecting Exploit”

The “Accident”

So, was it an accident, or an “accident?” Yes, Sian was driving recklessly, far too fast for the conditions. Though not because she’s trying to get them killed. She’s genuinely scared about the approaching storm. She put on a brave face for Darby that they were going to be okay in these suits, but you can tell she’s relieved when they find the car. Darby’s suggestion that maybe they ought to walk because of the black ice on the road is met with a firm, “No, not in this storm.” I don’t think she thought they were going to make it.

Now, there’s the little matter of the OBD terminal that just happened to be tucked away under the dash, where Sian seemed to know to look for it. She tries to brush it off as being within her wheelhouse, but that was a real hack. The screen reads “Injecting Exploit.” She says she spent a lot of time with Andy when he was building this place and knows how its security functions. Was she getting training on other new skills? What was that OBD terminal even doing in the car? Was all this something Darby wasn’t meant to see, where Sian had no choice given the desperate circumstances they were in?

And if Sian could hack the car, could someone else have hacked it as well? The timing of the accident is certainly very suspicious. Right after Sian tells Darby something she cannot repeat if they get out of here alive, they nearly die. Coincidence? The only question would be, could it have been done remotely? Having started from the guard shack, they are within the confines of the retreat compound now.

A Murder at the End of the World S1E4 - Two black spacesuit helmets sit beside each other in the backseat of a car
Two helmets

The Helmet Hack

If the car wasn’t an attempt on Sian’s life, then the helmet certainly was. We discussed earlier that there was some potential misdirection around the helmets being switched, but ultimately, it’s Sian who is targeted. I don’t buy theories that she wrecked the car on purpose (if she’s trying to kill Darby, why not leave her for dead then?), nor that she somehow set herself up with Darby’s helmet to divert attention away from herself as a suspect. We’re supposed to believe that Sian was relying on an emergency tracheotomy as a planned way out of that predicament!? No, I don’t think so.

Now, was Sian sneaking over to Darby’s room to pump her for information on Andy’s orders? Sure, I can buy into that. I even think it’s likely. Andy seems genuinely angry with her when he first arrives, asking, “What the f— were you doing?” That could easily be interpreted as anger that she took far more leeway with executing such a mission than he intended. Andy is calm about it, but he has a definite sense of urgency about saving her. This doesn’t look like anything he planned for, and he hates losing control.

A Murder at the End of the World S1E4 - Darby watched Todd outside in the hall through the doorbell cam screen
Ensuring everybody’s safety

F— Todd

We have a new prime suspect this week (though personally I still think Oliver is the killer): Todd, Andy’s head of security. His wife Eva as well, I’d say.

The reveal that Eva is a doctor is kind of a big deal. When Darby ran to get help for Bill, the guy manning the desk was not aware there was anyone on staff except the hotel EMT. In the FX Cast Bios entry for Todd, it says that Eva travels with the Ronson family. So, we’ve just learned another family secret. Perhaps related to that oxygen tank that was delivered to Lee and Zoomer’s room.

This medical suite is a revelation as well. It’s a one-stop shop for everything a budding serial killer needs. Both the morphine injector pen and the pacemaker monitor seem to have come from here. And who has access to the combo for these things? Todd and Eva do, at the very least.

When asked about the pacemaker monitor though, Eva rolls Todd right under the bus, saying that “someone” had taken it out, plugged it in, and turned it on. Of course, we could also ask if she was maybe hesitating on performing the tracheotomy because she was waiting for it to be too late?

There’s also a bit of weirdness the theorizing community has latched onto, where Todd tells Eva that Sian has three minutes of air left. This happens right after she just clearly stated the readout says two minutes. That’s weird alright, but does it mean anything? To me, Todd whispering to her that Sian can’t get the helmet off looked very believable. If they were orchestrating Sian’s suffocation, why would they even need that exchange?

Several guests are seated around a large round table in the underground bunker
Six stories underground

The Future

Last episode, Zoomer told Darby that his parents argue about the future. Now we can start to form some ideas about just what that might entail. If Andy is siphoning off money from the “get humans off the planet” project, and instead funneling them into the “hunker down in underground bunkers” strategy, she might be vehemently against that. To put it in terms of Lee’s toast at the welcome dinner, they might not be “together” (Andy) in “finding a way out” (Lee).

This may also be a more urgent problem than we’ve been led to believe. Sian tells Darby that Andy’s climate projections show extremes slated for 2050 are coming sooner. A lot sooner. While they are preparing for their snowmobile trip, the radio can be heard in the background talking about the superstorm headed their way. “Plunging temperatures.” “Crippling snowstorms and blizzards.” “Rescuers are warning visitors to simply stay away.” We could literally be “at the End of the World” here.

Darby and Bill lie in bed side by side, both with eyes open staring outwardly
Getting closer

Who’s Your Mommy?

Another person making predictions in the show was Faye Winter, the psychic who predicted that Bill would only have one kid with someone he only slept with once. You know who else Bill only slept with once? Darby.

Now I’ll give full credit here to Andy from the Double-P Podcast for the rest of this. You know how Bill’s online handle is “Kill Bill?” Well, in the movie Kill Bill, the Bride wakes up from a coma to learn that she had a child during the coma who was taken away from her. What if Darby got shot by the Silver Doe murderer and was in a coma, pregnant with Bill’s child? Bill seeks out and enlists Lee’s help, telling her all about Darby through the Polaroids he’s taken. They get her boyfriend Andy involved and he and Lee agree to raise the boy as their own?

This could also explain why they took DNA samples, er…I mean, health check swabs before boarding the plane. Maybe Darby was the only real target for that, for reasons yet to be revealed.

Eva stands over Darby on a medical bed, viewed through the heads up display include a helmet
WARNING – AIR 00:01:26

Quick Takes

A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:

  • There were a couple of dialogue callbacks in this episode that stood out to me. When Darby explains to Sian how the pacemaker hack would work, she says, “Yeah, it’s dark.” Her online friend warned her in Episode 1 that rich people at Ronson’s level are always “up to some dark shit.” Sian talks of her father only wanting to look up at the stars, just as Bill told Darby you can just “lie in the snow and look up for free.” Do these mean anything? Only time will tell.
  • Speaking of the dialogue, some viewers are getting annoyed by the repetitive use of the word “hack” in the show. I guess they feel it’s hackneyed.
  • Since the most egregious head-berating clues came from Darby’s flashback, could her flashbacks be suspect? We’ve been primed by Brit and Zal to expect the present affecting the past affecting the present, a pseudo-metaphysical looping to how time is played with in this series. Is Darby replaying and rewriting her memories to fit present circumstances? Sharp-eyed viewers caught Zoomer sneezing when Darby ran into him in Episode 3. Remembering, perhaps correctly, that Bill legitimately does have that condition, did her brain overlay this nonsense about his mom’s psychic, trying a little too hard to connect the dots and put Bill and Lee together? Is she an unreliable narrator to herself?
  • Should we be suspicious that Todd asked where the car was? Did he want to get to it and remove evidence of an external hack that caused the accident, for instance?
  • Todd tells Darby, as he’s taking her electronics, that the hotel’s internet is shutdown, until after the storm anyway. If that’s true, why did they need to take their electronics?
Darby and Sian stand on the snowy bluff, Darby using the red signalling light
  • Lee confirms she invited Rohan, saying that it’s her fault he died. Or was that some sort of confession of culpability in the hack of his pacemaker?
  • Could Sian be disgruntled about Andy turning her space program into an empty PR campaign?
  • Maybe Sian learned hacking skills from Andy in exchange for teaching him medical skills, like performing a tracheotomy.
  • Darby tells Sian that “one night” she followed Rohan to the bluff, instead of “last night.” Does it mean anything? Probably not, but it stood out as weird.
  • We can extrapolate that Darby never looked for Bill because why would she look for someone who left her and who knows where she lives?
  • If the first life that a serial killer takes tends to be someone they know, should we be looking to the people who knew Bill? Assuming that needs to be more intimate than just making a mean tweet about him, the only known candidate that fits that bill would be Lee.
  • Lu Mei’s father had a Heartfront pacemaker home monitoring system, giving her familiarity with the device that was used to kill Rohan. Hmm.
  • Darby’s reaction to the name “Faye Winter” was a little weird to me. It’s not that unusual of a name. Is she now famous or something?
  • Another theory making the rounds is that Darby’s father is the Silver Doe killer. Kind of out there, in my humble opinion, but he would be someone who smells of bleach, given his job, and now we learn he’s not a widower; Darby’s mom “left” them.
A Murder at the End of the World S1E4 - Darby and Sian stand over Rohan's body in the kitchen freezer, blue lit
Alas, poor Rohan

In the News

Here I’ll link you to some additional tidbits and interviews from around the internet related to the show.

  • There was an interesting letter published by the FX Director of Social Media & Content that gave some informative background info, such as the idea that Andy Ronson is actually modeled on Willy Wonka, not any modern day “tech king.”
  • FX put out another watch-a-long video for Episode 3 on their YouTube channel.
  • Your Reddit crew, working hard for you, has an analysis of the timestamps and what’s happening in the security video footage posted three weeks ago to FX’s YouTube
Darby stands framed in an snow blinding white window, stunned look on her face


In many ways, Episode 4 was a break in the action. A mid-point reassessment of what we know delivered through the exposition of Darby bringing Sian up to speed on all her personal theories. Everyone who tries to inform Darby’s investigation is getting picked off: Bill, Rohan, and now an attempt (or two) against Sian. In the flashbacks, Bill and Darby stand on the threshold of identifying their killer, as the trail leads them back around to the point where we started.

More mysterious than the mysteries, however, is the way these two stories are being told. We are not just being spoon fed clues; some are being jammed down our throats. We’re also being giving visual and audio cues that seem purposely misleading. The story has become so grounded that feels like we too are six stories underground, but can we believe it? This is Brit and Zal, darn it. There must be more going on here. I still have faith.

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 4 as well.

All images courtesy of FX Networks

Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

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