Deadly Manners is a 10 episode, dark comedy murder-mystery series set in the winter of 1954. It follows the events during the night of the affluent Billings family annual dinner party with their distinguished, eccentric guests. However, all is not fun and games as shortly after the party starts, a snowstorm begins to rage outside, trapping all the partygoers inside their host’s mansion. When a murderer starts killing off those in attendance, the guests must figure out who is responsible, or at least how to stay alive — lest they be next.
Listen to it here (or wherever you listen to podcasts)
Deadly Manners‘ biggest problem is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to do. Poke fun at old-timey country house murder mysteries where the guests are always surprisingly unperturbed by multiple people dropping dead in a short time-span? Because it does that now and then. Guests lament that the dinner will take longer with a body in the kitchen or exclaim that the fourth murder now really makes the hostess look bad and I grinned at a few of these bits. But I also couldn’t help thinking of the older adaptations of And Then There Were None or Edgar Wallace’s Das Indische Tuch which played exactly that ridiculousness completely straight, with stoic butlers asking if Sir already knows how many plates will be needed for the breakfast tomorrow or – if it turns out that after another sudden and unexpected death – there is one plate too many, remove it with the same stoicism. And compared to that Deadly Manners always comes over as trying too hard. It drops these sentences in the middle of a conversation without caring about what comes before or after them.
But perhaps Deadly Manners has a slightly more serious intent and wants to make a point about old-timey country house murder mysteries always being very white and straight as well as very apolitical? Because among the main characters is a black woman (originally from Liberia and adopted by white American parents at a very young age), a Jewish couple and some secret Lesbians and McCarthy’s ghost makes his appearance (not literally). But they never really go deep into any of this. Half the characters drop some casual antisemitic stuff in between finding yet another body and discovering yet another dark secret. Olivia, the adopted daughter, argues about the effects of colonialism on Liberia and gets essentially told not to worry her pretty little head about this. But those scenes also hang in thin air. There are no consequences, nobody has a genuine change of heart. It feels like somebody had had an all-white script and decided it needed to be more diverse, swapped some characters but not given it any more thought.
And all of this ended in a finale that possibly also wants to poke fun at the kind of mysteries that lay open every character’s past sins in the final chapter but it just didn’t work for me. It was too far-fetched, too ridiculous and silly. Perhaps I wouldn’t have minded it as much if the rest of it had captured me more. But as it is, I’ll give the possibly 2nd season a miss.