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Who Murdered Axel Collins in ‘While Lines’ on Netflix?
Netflix’s White Lines is a complete trip. The series, which begins with Zoe Collins Walker (Laura Haddock) arriving in Ibiza to investigate the 20-year-old murder of her beloved older brother, Axel, starts off reasonably enough. We’ve all seen murder mysteries before, so as White Lines introduces its intriguing array of Ibiza locals, including Axel’s hapless pal Marcus, local power family the Calafats, and Boxer, their murderous but otherwise extraordinarily patient head of security, the show seems poised to be a pretty straightforward suspense series.
But then, things kind of go left. Axel is put slightly on the back burner as Zoe embarks upon a very inadvisable affair with Boxer, the Calafats undergo some truly horrifying family therapy sessions, and everyone does a whole lot of partying for a group of people newly traumatized by the discovery of their loved one’s mummified corpse. In the end, though, the series gets back to the business finding out who killed Axel Collins.
By the final few episodes, pretty much every character has a reason to want Axel dead—and to be fair, he was a truly terrible human being. He arrives in Ibiza from Manchester with his pals Anna, Marcus, and David, and together the quartet of ’90s cool kids build a dance music empire, DJ’ing packed orgiastic parties and opening a string of clubs. But at the same time, Axel cheats on his (16-year-old!) girlfriend Kika Calafat with her mother, humiliates her brother Oriol, belittles Marcus, toys with David’s heart and gets him hooked on heroin, starts a fight club (?), and is just generally an obnoxious, self-destructive party boy.
This messy tale of coked-up dogs and holiday fight clubs all begins with four DJ friends partying in Ibiza in the late ’90s.
Anna is also revealed to be pretty terrible. She allows Zoe’s 14-year-old daughter to go to an all-night rager and afterparty on her very first night in town (though Zoe really should have seen that coming), and her own daughter reveals that it was Anna’s desire for a lavish house that led Marcus into the financial straights that culminated with his broken leg and the murder of two Romanian drug dealers. Worst of all, we learn that Anna cheated on Marcus with Axel on the night of their wedding. So it doesn’t come as the biggest surprise when Anna confesses that she and Marcus murdered Axel.
Here’s how that plays out. In Episode 9, Zoe’s dad kidnaps Oriol Calafat, believing him to be Axel’s killer. But Oriol escapes, crashing the car and killing Zoe’s dad in the process. So Zoe enlists Anna’s help in kidnapping her ex-fling, Calafat family fixer Boxer, and tortures him with a power washer to find out whether he or the Calafats killed her dad and/or brother. (This is at least the 5th kidnapping in White Lines’ ten episodes. Marcus was kidnapped twice.) Boxer insists that he and the Calafats are innocent, but reveals that Axel sold all his clubs to Oriol right before his death in a massive cash deal. David helpfully shows up to offer an alibi for both him and Oriol—they were busy having heroin-fueled sex when Axel was killed. He could have solved a lot of problems and perhaps saved Zoe’s dad’s life by volunteering that earlier, but whatever.
Will Zoe stay in Ibiza? Will Boxer ever get tired of her literally torturing him? Will he rethink his commitment to wearing dark denim in the Mediterranean?
And then, Anna decides to just… confess. 20 years ago, Axel burned the money he earned with the nightclub sale, hoping to give their spiraling friend group a fresh start. He confesses this to Anna while snorting coke in a swimming pool, but he goes into convulsions and begs his pal for help. Instead, Anna, furious about the lost money and afraid that Axel could tell Marcus about their infidelity, holds him underwater and attempts to drown him. Marcus stumbles upon the scene, and Anna enlists his help in disposing of the body. They load him into the trunk of a passed-out Oriol’s car, and hit the road, but Axel isn’t quite dead yet. He manages to escape the trunk, only for Marcus to back the car into him and for Anna to finally stab him to death.
“You feel sure that when you do find out, you’ll get closure. But it doesn’t work like that,” Zoe concludes after the confession. “When you find out the truth, it just leaves you cold.” She scatters her brother and father’s ashes into the ocean, and that appears to be the end of the Axel Collins saga. Does she tell police? Will she be staying in Ibiza, now that her dad is dead and her marriage is destroyed? Who knows! But in the episode’s final scene, Marcus lays out a business plan to Mr. Calafat that could find them becoming big-time drug distributors—leaving the door open to Season 2.
In the end, White Lines solved every mystery but one: Why did Mrs. Calafat jerk off that priest? Seriously, what did that have to do with anything?
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.
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