‘Mystery Island’ (2023) Summary & Ending Explained: Who Killed Murtaugh, And Why?

Something strange is happening. There are a slew of murder mysteries in both the theaters and the streaming space. Perhaps Knives Out was so successful that it not only generated a sequel but spawned these other whodunnits, which try their hand at concocting a story and wow the audience with the revelation of the killer. The impact is clear, and whatever the case, murder mysteries either grip the audience in the right way or become way too convoluted, with the revelation of the killer being a tedious affair. Mystery Island, with its run time of 90 minutes, doesn’t make the plot too convoluted. The characters don’t take the story too seriously, which works for the kind of tonality the film seemed to be going for. The story begins on ‘Mystery Island,’ where a few wealthy people gather to solve fictional murder mysteries. The game turns deadly during one edition when the island’s owner is found dead.

Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?

Mystery Island begins when Baroness Jane Alcott calls her friend Dr. Emilia Priestly to Mystery Island. Emilia was a psychiatrist and helped the police department in London, talking to criminals and profiling them for their disorders. The job was difficult, as she was threatened by an inmate that she could be harmed in the real world. So when Jane suggested the getaway to Mystery Island, where she could use her observation skills and psychological education in a fun and recreational way, Emilia really wanted some time off from work, and Jane’s idea sounded fun. The island had the likes of hedge fund managers, popular influencers, and retired army personnel as players. Along with Jane, these people had invested money in the island, and being avid mystery lovers, they loved being part of one, even if it wasn’t real. Emilia thought that she would have a great time away from her job, but when island owner John Murtaugh’s body was discovered in the mansion they were all staying in, everyone, including Emilia, became suspects.


How Was The Body Discovered? Why Was Phoenix Arrested?

John Murtaugh’s corpse wasn’t so easily discovered. The rules of the game implied that a riddle, set by Murtaugh himself, would be played in front of the participants. They would then have to solve the riddle and find clues that would lead participants towards discovering one of the mansion’s workers acting as the dead body. Jane and Emilia figured the riddle out, and through a secret passage that they discovered, they were led straight to Murtaugh’s body. The play-acting phase had passed. The butler Frederick was found unconscious near Murtaugh’s corpse, and Detective Trent arrived on the scene. There was tension in the air, and people began to plot their way out of the mess.

Emilia wasn’t an investor in the island, and she overheard Phoenix, the influencer, finding ways to pin the murder on her. There were Carlos and his wife Morgan, Jay Ellis, the army major, and his friend Riley Peel. Everybody was a suspect, and Jane decided to stick close to Jay, as she thought him to be the murderer. Emilia went straight to Detective Trent, disclosing what she had overheard Phoenix discuss. The arrow now pointed at Phoenix, and the motive was later discovered. It turns out that she had threatened Murtaugh for breaking up with her. Murtaugh once dated Phoenix and broke off with her a few months ago, leaving Phoenix infuriated. Morgan was privy to the fact, and Phoenix had to be arrested, even though she kept denying that she didn’t kill him and that she only meant to get back together with John.


Why Was Lucia Killed?

Emilia’s mind was reading everyone’s moves. Jane was busy solving the murder mystery, and while Emilia was left to her own devices, she saw Riley going off into the woods and meeting the house help Lucia. Emilia had followed him, and Riley meeting Lucia in secret just didn’t add up. Riley had to have known Lucia before. Their interaction sounded like a fight, and soon Lucia was found dead near the shore. You might think Riley had something to do with it, but it was Morgan. Apparently, Riley had been called by Lucia to come on the island and write an exposé on Murtaugh and his failure of an island that would drown all his investors in debt. Lucia initially helped him with this article, but when she found chloroform and a dart in Morgan’s room, she started her scheme of blackmailing Morgan. Murtaugh was shot by a poisonous dart, and Frederick was made unconscious by the chloroform. So was Morgan the murderer? Did she kill Lucia because she had found incriminating evidence? No. Lucia tried to harass Morgan, and when things heated up, they had a scuffle, during which Lucia slipped and hit her head on the rock, dying instantly.


Who Killed Murtaugh, And Why?

Murtaugh was a creative genius. Everybody admired him and bore witness to his ability to keep the place running. But, as Riley pointed out, he didn’t have the financial acumen to run the place. If Carlos had not helped him out by bringing in angel investors, the place would have shut down long ago. Carlos Del Fuego, whose first name means ‘Free Man’ and last name means ‘Fire’, was found to be the murderer, according to Jay and Jane. While everybody else was busy saving their behinds, they busied themselves solving the original riddle Murtaugh had sent the players. Jane believed that Murtaugh had such a high IQ that he knew Carlos would kill him. So he had left the clues in the riddle that would help the best players find his killer. Jay and Jane solved the riddle, which said the killer is Freeman Fire. The motive, according to Jane, was that Carlos suspected Murtaugh of having an affair with his wife, Morgan. The case seemed to have been solved, but only Detective Trent and Emilia knew that the whole explanation was wrong.

Carlos did try to burn the letter that Murtaugh had apparently written for Morgan, as that made him seem like he really did have a motive to kill him. But he wasn’t the killer. Nobody was. Murtaugh had committed suicide, but not without a purpose. Murtaugh had cancer and knew he wouldn’t live much longer. Carlos had become the prime investor and wanted to make the island profitable, for which he wanted the island to be open to the general public as well. Murtaugh hated this idea, and Emilia concluded that the narcissistic tendencies in John Murtaugh made him feel small against Carlos, who had wealth, power, and control. So, as part of his last murder mystery, Murtaugh wanted Carlos to be incarcerated for something he didn’t do. He would suffer for going against the mighty Murtaugh. He had left a riddle easy enough for veterans like Jane and Jay to solve. But Emilia destroyed his posthumous plans. She called the hospital in New York, where the rumor was that Murtaugh had gone to meet Phoenix but had actually gone to meet an oncologist. He had planted the bottle of chloroform and the poisonous dart in Morgan’s room. He shot himself using a remote-controlled drone. His plan was almost a perfect one, but Trent and Emilia figured it all out and saved Carlos.

The fatal flaw in Murtaugh’s plan was his belief that nobody would question the fact that if he knew Carlos was here to kill him, why did he show up on the island in the first place? Trent had an initial hunch that something didn’t add up when he found the broken drone. The rest was done by Emilia. She had worked with criminals who didn’t like to be made to feel ‘small’, and she superimposed that assessment over someone like Murtaugh, which helped her get into his mindset. Carlos had made him feel small, and he wanted revenge in the most creative way possible. But he didn’t succeed. Carlos was free to go, and he promised to not change Mystery Island but tweak its economic model for profitability. Trent and Emilia grew closer to each other during the case, and the biggest career change happened in Frederick’s life when he was made the CEO of Mystery Island. Not a bad case for the butler, indeed!


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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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