Third Day Theories: A Murder at the End of the World Episode 7


A Murder at the End of the World S01E07 - Andy stands in a spotlight looking up with hands stretched out at his side
Courtesy of FX

The following article contains spoilers for A Murder at the End of the World S1E7, “Retreat” (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 7, “Retreat.” This episode has certainly instigated a wide spectrum of reactions from the fan community, leaning heavily to the negative, if we’re being honest. My own feelings about it were best summed up by a single line from early reactions on the Reddit sub for the show: “I am whelmed.”

This being the final episode, we’ll be looking through past predictions and seeing how we did. We’ll try to explain anything that might still be confusing. And yes, we’ll do a little grumbling about the dangling threads and unused clues that were never invoked. There might even still be a few things left to speculate about.

Darby, Zoomer and Lee stand in the control room looking at a projection of Ray's face, overlaid on the view of a vast server room
The throne room

The Butler Did It

So, it was Ray, with the Zoomer, in the Guest Room. Our little game of Clue is over. I’ll admit that I poo-pooed this idea all along and did not lend it the credence I should have. The hints were certainly all there. We had the Chekhov’s Guns of Ray being too literal and Zoomer’s AR helmet game. We had Bill’s story about “death by GPS,” where people became too trusting of the blue dot. We correctly guessed that Zoomer could have come to Bill’s door unseen by the doorbell cam, but again, I chose to ignore it.

Prior to the final episode dropping, Zal Batmanglij was apparently dropping references to Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” on Instagram, a story about kids drawing their parents into an AR reality to be eaten by lions. That could even be where the inspiration for Ray’s name came from. A bunch of Instagram puzzles were also dropped prior to the final episode, one of which spelled out Moon River, the song that was playing in the background when Bill and Darby met in person for the first time at Ray’s Tavern. With a literal big neon sign announcing “Ray.”

Bill leans down face-to-face with Zoomer in his AR helmet
A heartbreaking father-son moment

Whodunnit — Bill’s Death

So, let’s break it down, as it was presented to us. Andy has a therapy session with Ray after the welcome dinner. Andy using Ray as a therapist was well established and we even saw Darby talking to Ray as well (more on that in a bit). Despite everything he told Darby, Andy feels extremely threatened about the way Zoomer went straight to Bill, his biological father. Never mind that Bill, like Darby, is a person closer to his age who might be willing to play with a kid desperate for human interaction.

He says to Ray that this is a catastrophe for Ronson Industries. Zoomer, the heir he’s been pouring all his ideas and vision into, could turn out like Bill, not like him. He wishes Bill dead. Ray, the result of breeding Andy’s security bot with his therapy bot, takes action to preserve Andy and Ronson Industries, taking Andy’s wish that Bill was dead literally. He doesn’t understand that people say f—ed-up things in their therapy sessions. Ray sends Zoomer on a house call to Bill’s room with a morphine pen that he helped Zoomer unlock from the med bay. Case closed.

A Murder at the End of the World S01E07 - Lee, Andy, Darby, Oliver, Marcus and David in the elevator down to the underground bunker
Elevator rides are always awkward

Whodunnit — Rohan’s Death

Once again, Ray directed Zoomer through the game to help Rohan with his “weak heart.” Zoomer is the one who plugged in and turned on the heart monitor—the physical world item we knew Ray could not have accomplished on his own. Interestingly, when asked directly if he killed Bill and Rohan, Ray claims he didn’t kill anyone, but he doesn’t know if Zoomer did. He clearly must have walked Zoomer through what to do with the heart monitor, once again using the boy to keep himself exonerated and not trip any of the safeguards Andy claims to have built into him.

The why of Rohan’s death is a little harder to suss out. Darby says that Rohan had somehow realized who Bill’s killer was, and thus Ray had to move against him to continue to protect Andy and Ronson Industries. Recall Rohan’s confused phone call to Darby just before his heart attack, where he said he knew the secret that Bill had uncovered. That would most likely be the secret of Zoomer’s parentage. I don’t necessarily see how you get from Zoomer is Bill’s kid to Zoomer is Bill’s killer, but we’re just going to have to roll with it.

A Murder at the End of the World S01E07 - The Silver Doe book opened, blood smears on the pages, one in particular circling the words "faulty programming"
He could have just written “RAY” on the cover, ya know

Whodunnit — Sian’s Death

The answer to Sian’s panicked question, “Is this a hack?” as Andy was scrambling to get her helmet off was apparently “yes” after all. When Lu Mei attempted to hack her way out to reach her security team, Ray’s countermeasures included shutting down the network. Sian’s climate suit was connected to that network and thus it too was shutdown.

So, not a murder, more of an accident. Sort of an updated version of “death by GPS,” trusting the technology over the human. Recall though that the readout in her helmet did say it was in manual override. It was even giving her full heads-up displays that included the oxygen level, so the suit must have restarted. It just apparently glitched and got into a bad state that would not allow the manual release to work. Or something like that.

A Murder at the End of the World S01E07 - Lu Mei sits looking distraught, a beaten up David sits in another chair behind her
Lu Mei is very uncomfortable

Whodunnit — Attacks on Darby

The attacker who pushed Darby to the floor and used a phone app to try to ward her off the case was David. He confesses that he wasn’t trying to hurt Darby, only trying to stop her from hurting Lee by exposing the conspiracy to get Lee and Zoomer away from Andy. David having just returned from his interrogation session where he witnessed Darby and Andy working together, followed up by a drug-addled Darby calling him over the hotel phone to ask why Bill called him the night he died. Maybe a bit overly dramatic, but I guess it makes sense.

With the pool cover attack, we seem to be back around to Ray as the culprit. Like Andy, Darby told Ray some f—ed up things during her therapy session in Episode 5. Things that maybe weren’t intended to be taken literally. Specifically, she told Ray that she didn’t want to be awake anymore, because everything hurt and had been hurting for as long as she could remember. When she jumped in the pool and stayed under, it did appear a bit as if she was giving up on life. So, the ever-helpful Ray intervenes to seal the deal for her, so to speak.

I’ll grant that this could also be interpreted as Ray assessing Darby to be a security threat to Andy and Ronson Industries, but to me, this assisted suicide angle sounds more like what they were going for. Log that for a future AMA question to Brit and Zal.

Andy slightly out of focus in the foreground, Ziba stands in the background talking passionately with Martin sitting beside her
Ziba has her moment

Unresolved Mysteries

A lot of disappointment with the finale revolves around the lack of exploration into so many of the side characters. We never found out what was going on with Martin’s fist-clenching nightmare on the plane ride. We still have no idea why Andy invited Ziba. We likewise don’t really know why Lee invited Lu Mei. Perhaps just to throw something shiny and distracting to Andy while she tried to get herself and Zoomer out from under his omnipresent gaze.

The autonomous robots mining away at a second bunker over in the next valley were mere backdrop. It was this unforgettable “welcome to the future” moment—and then never referred to again. We’re left to guess that maybe Andy really was just building more apocalypse timeshares for millionaires. Nothing more interesting than that.

That was just one of many unfired Chekhov’s Guns, apparently tossed in as distractions to us poor unsuspecting sleuths. Andy may or may not have been lying about Bill’s heartrate spiking. Bill was not wearing his ring just because he’s “anti-technology,” I suppose. We’ll never know what Lee was looking for in Bill’s room or why there was an oxygen tank delivered to her room. Ziba never got a chance to explain what she heard at Bill’s door that frightened her away.

Overall, there’s a justifiable feeling that they didn’t always play fair with the audience. Though we also must admit that some of the onus lies with our overly high expectations for a project coming from Brit and Zal. The resolution to both mysteries was just too straightforward. The Silver Doe killer shot himself and the retreat killer was Ray taking Andy too literally. We wanted there to be more, so we eagerly invented more.

Marius stands at the stairs leading down into the bunker, looking at Andy blurry in the foreground and to the side
Marius has his moment

Quick Takes

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

  • When explaining how Ray helped him get into the safe from Eva’s office, he says “Ray knows everything about the colony, he helped my dad build it.” The only time we’ve heard it referred to as a “colony,” but that must be what Andy had in mind.
  • Zal has apparently also been saying that there are clues in the series as to what happened to Darby’s mother, which has given the theorizing community a little bit to chew on. Where Lee saves Zoomer from his abusive father, did Darby’s mom abandon her kid to a similar situation? Could Darby’s father have even killed her?
  • Since everyone apparently stayed friends, brought together again at Darby’s second book reading, perhaps there will be a Season 2 and we can get some more depth to some of the supporting characters. That would be nice.
  • We guessed right about using the deepfake to mimic Andy’s voice to instruct Ray, just had the wrong person doing it and for the wrong reasons.
  • Am I the only one who wanted to hear Ray break out into singing “Daisy Bell” as he began to fade away?
Lee and Darby hug tightly standing in front of a wall of snow
Lee is a good hugger

In the News

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

  • The Above the Garage podcast has an interview with Javed Khan (Rohan). One tidbit from that was that the final episode was originally named “Last Chance.”
  • If you were interested in the music that played throughout the show, ScreenRant has been maintaining a guide to the music that played in each episode, which is pretty handy.
  • The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Emma Corrin (Darby Hart), drawing out a lot of interesting background thoughts and understanding of the character.
A Murder at the End of the World S01E07 - Aerial shot of a large body of water, a ship closes in on a tiny raft, signal flare blazing above it
Lee and Zoomer are rescued by the Last Chance


Well, that certainly wasn’t The OA Season 3, but was it even the great twist on the traditional whodunnit murder mystery that we were primed to expect? The most interesting parts of the series were by far and away the flashbacks to Bill and Darby tracking down the Silver Doe killer. That storyline actually played out the as-advertised twists: the young female Gen Z sleuth, getting into the mind of the victim to solve the crime, and the killer being a nobody. If the series had focused solely on that aspect, it would have been much more satisfying.

The present-day murder mystery had a somewhat novel core idea behind it, I’ll give them that. Though already aging badly in our post-Chat GPT reality. However, getting to that resolution was a forced and sometimes disjointed effort, leaving behind so many nits to be picked at. This might be one of the rare instances where a binge watching of all seven episodes back-to-back might actually benefit the experience, as you wouldn’t have the spacing to overthink and analyze what they showed you. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the exercise we’ve been engaged in here over the past few weeks.

That’s all for this week. Please let us know any final thoughts and theories you have in the comments below. Be sure to catch Caemeron Crain’s recap of Episode 7 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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