Explainers

Netflix’s Murder Mystery, Explained

June 14, 2019
13 min read

The summer is upon us and there is no better time than this to curl up on the couch with a good murder mystery on your screen. Netflix has served a murder mystery laced with humour to give you a good time. ‘Murder Mystery’ stars Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in the lead roles and is set on a yacht where a rich, old man dies, leaving behind a fortune that everyone jumps at the moment they see his corpse. The film is directed by Kyle Newacheck, who has previously worked on ‘Workaholics’, ‘Adam DeVine’s House Party’, ‘Happy Endings’ and ‘Community’. If you haven’t yet seen the film, I advise you to bookmark this article for later and go watch the film on Netflix. You don’t want the mystery spoiled for you.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Summary of the Plot

Nick (Adam Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) have been married for fifteen years. He is a police officer trying to become a detective. However, he has failed the test for the third time now. He is sharp but succumbs under pressure. And also, he is not really a good shot. (Makes you wonder how he became a police officer in the first place!) Audrey is a hairdresser. She loves to read mystery novels and there is just one thing that she really wants from her husband, to make good on the promise that he made to her the night of their wedding- a trip to Europe. But fifteen years pass by, and they haven’t travelled anywhere. Moreover, Nick hasn’t told his wife about his failure in the test and she thinks that he is a detective.

Anyway, on the eve of their wedding anniversary, a conversation prompts Nick to tell Audrey that he has bought tickets for them and they are to spend the honeymoon they never had in Europe. On the plane, while sneaking around in the first-class cabin, Audrey meets a dashing billionaire- or at least, the nephew of one- Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans). He’s a character who seems to have come straight out of the mystery novels that Audrey reads. Also, he is a viscount. Not a lord. He is charmed by her and invites the couple to spend their time on the yacht, where he is going to attend the celebration of his uncle’s wedding to his ex-girlfriend.

Audrey and Nick meet a bunch of other people on the yacht: Suzi (Shioli Kutsuna), Cavendish’s ex and now aunt; a famous actress Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton) on whom Nick has a strong crush; Colonel Ulenga (John Kani), Malcolm Quince’s (Terrence Stamp) trusted old friend; Sergei (Olafur Darri Olafsson), Ulenga’s bodyguard; Tobias Quince (David Willaims), Malcolm’s son; Juan Carlos (Luis Gerardo Mendez), Quince’s godson; and Maharajah Vikram Govindan (Adeel Akhtar), Quince’s business associate.

The Dynamics of the Quince Circle

Before we delve into the question of who killed Malcolm Quince and why let’s take a look at all the people involved in the case and how they are related to each other. Malcolm Quince is a billionaire and is a very well-known person, considering that Audrey has heard of him, even if she knows nothing about Charles Cavendish. Speaking of him, he is Malcolm’s nephew and has always had a difficult relationship with him. One of the things that have soured their bond is Quince’s habit of eyeing other people’s treasures, of wanting what others have and then stopping at nothing to make it his. Something similar has happened with Charles as well. His young girlfriend has been seduced by the old man, and to his immense heartbreak, they have married each other.

Next, there is Colonel Ulenga. He became one of Malcolm’s closest friends after he saved his life. Many years ago, there was an explosion and Quince would have died, hadn’t Ulenga pushed him aside and received the impact of the blast on himself. As a result, the colonel lost his one eye and one hand. He went into a coma for six months and woke up to face a misery that Quince had inflicted on him. Ulenga had been in love with a woman named Madeleine. When he went into a coma, Quince seduced his way into the heart of the woman and by the time the colonel recovered, they had already been engaged. Keeping in mind his friendship with Quince, Ulenga didn’t pursue the matter further but secretly harboured resentment against Quince for stealing his girl.

Malcolm Quince is surrounded by a lot of people that he holds in good faith due to different reasons. However, his own son hasn’t been able to live up to his expectations. Tobias Quince is a typical example of a child not being able to live up to the legacy of a great parent. He wants to gain his father’s respect but also hates him because he has never treated him like a son. Instead, he has acknowledged his grandson, Juan Carlo, and even Charles, with whom he has some sort of rivalry. This makes Tobias angry with his father, which ultimately works against both of them.

Malcolm’s relationship with Juan Carlo is also mired with a disaster. Juan Carlo’s father had been a race car driver for Malcolm. In one of the races, due to Malcolm’s oversight of a precaution or safety, Juan Carlo’s father had to pay a hefty price. He met with an accident and lost both his legs, which made him unable to take care of his family and to do pretty much anything else. In order to make things right for him, Malcolm took the mantle of Juan Carlo’s godfather and helped him become a successful Formula One racer.

And then, there is Grace. While we know why everyone is on the yacht and what their relationship is with Quince, we don’t really know why a movie actress without any connection whatsoever is there. But things become clearer by the end. Grace’s story is actually related to Malcolm’s betrayal of Ulenga. After marrying Quince, Madeleine got pregnant. However, she died during childbirth, and so did the baby. Or, that’s what everyone was told. What happened here is that the relationship between Quince and Madeleine was illegitimate. He wanted a son, but a daughter was born and this made things even worse for him. So, he faked their deaths and continued to provide for them in secret. This baby girl was named Grace.

The Red Herring

Just like every good murder mystery, ‘Murder Mystery’ has a lot of red herrings. You have to wait for a character to die to find out if they were the murderer or not. Everyone has a reason to kill the other and as the story moves forward and some secrets come to light, the plot gets thicker. In the room that Malcolm Quince dies, we have eight people, not counting the protagonists. Some had stronger reasons than others to kill the old man, and once he dies, no one really seems to shed a tear on his grave- not even Suzi, for whom he is supposed to be the “love of her life”.

The one that we suspect the most is Cavendish. As Nick says, he has all three reasons to kill Malcolm. He is supposed to inherit his money; he is in love with Suzi and he wants revenge against Malcolm for taking her away from him. Also, he seems a bit shady and we still don’t know why he would invite complete strangers to an intimate event in a yacht. Did he bring them here just so he could frame them?

The other suspect is Suzi. But the ground of arguments against her is very shaky. She clearly married Malcolm for his money. The old man seems too bitter to love her enough and for her to love him back. He is very old and he is insanely rich and he wants to give her his fortune. The only thing left for him to do now is to die. However, it would work out great for the young bride had a new will been signed. Moments before Quince is about to do it, he is killed. And just like that, Suzi’s motive is gone.

By the end of the film, we discover that Charles and Suzi had been working on a plan of their own. But it has nothing to do with the murder. Charles had been on Malcolm’s old will and had the old man decided to go ahead with it, there wouldn’t be any problem for him. But then, he hated his uncle and if there was a better way for him to take over everything he had, why not do that. He uses his girlfriend, Suzi, to seduce Malcolm into marrying her. Turns out, the viscount hadn’t been heartbroken at all. This was his plan all along. If Malcolm gave over every penny to Suzi, they would only have to wait a few years for the old man to slide into his grave and Charles would have everything. They might have killed the man eventually, but not before signing the new will.

The other red herrings were Colonel Ulenga and Tobias Quince. Both of them had strong reasons to want Quince dead. Ulenga had been harbouring a long-time resentment but didn’t take any harsh steps because Quince had been compensating him very well. But when he is removed from the will, maybe the dam finally breaks and he decides to give the old man a piece of his mind. Tobias’s reason to kill his own father was the resentment and hatred he had harboured for so many years. Now that his father was ready to give it all away to his new wife, he decided that enough was enough and he wouldn’t take it anymore.

One step at a time, all these red herrings are cleared from the suspect list because most of them end up dead. Tobias is the first one to fall and what immediately clears him from suspicion is the circumstances under which he meets his end. A clearly staged suicide is an indication of someone else’s involvement. Also, the typed letter instead of a hand-written one makes it shadier. Ulenga is cleared from suspicion after Audrey and Nick find him flossing while they try to safely cross the ledge to save themselves from the shooter who kills Sergei. The doubt closes in on Charles, especially when his involvement with Suzi comes to light. However, he and Suzi die soon after, and that chapter is closed.

Who Is the Real Killer?

Like it often happens in murder mysteries, ‘Murder Mystery’ gives us hints about the identity of the murderer even before the murder happens. In the plane, while Audrey is reading the book, Nick remarks that it is always “the butler”. After Quince is killed and the couple is considered a suspect, they begin to question everyone in order to get a sense of their relationships with each other. This is when the Maharaja tells Audrey about Juan Carlos’ history and says that he is most probably the murder, but isn’t really sure because there is no evidence to support it. While contemplating who could have done and how it could have happened, Audrey tells Nick that it is not the doing of a single person. Someone had to turn out the light before the other could stab Malcolm. Otherwise, how would the murderer know when the lights would go out. And she was right, to a great extent.

When the lights go out and Malcolm is stabbed to death, there is only one person who is not in the room, and that is Grace. She leaves the gathering after Malcolm makes the changes in his will clear to everyone and displays a condescending behaviour. When she is not in the room, how could she possibly kill anyone? More importantly, what’s her motive? How is she related to Quince anyway? We ask ourselves these questions when we try to raise a finger on her, but we don’t have the answers. Not yet. One layer at a time the mystery surrounding her past is revealed and it turns out that she is the one to gain the most from everything. After Tobias, she is the only surviving child of Malcolm and hence a true heir to his fortunes. Her obscure past works in her favour and she stays out of line and out of sight for the most part.

Her part in Malcolm’s murder becomes clear when you start thinking about who turned off the lights. She left the room, just so she could keep everyone in dark long enough for her partner to plunge the dagger in Malcolm’s heart. It turns out that Tobias wasn’t truly a victim, after all. His murder had been staged and his confession was partly true. He had been working with Grace. Both of them were disgruntled with their father because of the way he treated them. They wanted his money and they wanted him gone. So, they hatched a plan to make the world a better place for themselves. But Tobias underestimated Grace. She was greedier than he imagined. After Malcolm’s death, the money would split between her and him. But she wanted all of it for herself, so she kills him before a similar thought crosses his mind and he decides to kill her. She is the one who kills and attacks others, and the skills she had learnt for her movies come handy for her in this situation.

After Audrey and Nick come to realise her true identity and find a way to fit her into every suspicious scenario, all the pieces fall into place. How every murder would have come to pass, how she would have attacked others and gotten away with it fits the bill. She is arrested and the case of closed, until the Maharaja puts forward a question. When Sergei was killed, Grace had been with him in the bar, all along. How could she have possibly killed the Chewbacca, if she had been somewhere else?

This brings us to a new realisation, there is one more person involved in this. Some quick thinking leads them to Juan Carlo and it turns out that the Maharaja is great at making guesses. He was right, Juan Carlo wanted revenge on Malcolm and his family, so he turned Grace against him and asked her to use Tobias to kill him.

Murder Mystery: Will There Be A Sequel?

The possibility of a sequel for ‘Murder Mystery’ depends entirely on how it performs with the audience. The critics haven’t been so happy with the film. It has received some criticism for being bland and unoriginal, and for not being so good on the comedy as well. However, it isn’t uncommon for the audience to go against the opinions of the critics. It might take some time to see how people react to it. The question now is: is a sequel even possible? It is. Nick is very well on the way to finally become a detective and Audrey has proved that she doesn’t read mystery novels just to pass time. Another murder, another situation could easily emerge for them and we could see the duo back in action. The decision of a sequel rests with Netflix and we might have to wait a while to get that.

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