This post contains spoilers.
The Hulu black comedy series Only Murders in the Building couldn’t have come at a better time as we were enthralled in the case of Gabby Petito, a blogger who went missing over the summer and then her body was found in Wyoming murdered by strangulation. As I’m writing this, the FBI has confirmed that the body of Brian Laundries, of whom she was involved in a relationship, was found dead in Florida.
The show co-created by Steve Martin, who played one of the leads, Charles-Haden Savage, an aging actor who at one time played a popular police detective on a TV series, really struck to the heart of why high-profile murder and crime cases have become so popular. Investigation Discovery was giving a show to any former homicide detective for a while. Other streaming services, such as Netflix, seem to have weekly docuseries devoted to crime cases. Podcasts are just as popular and profitable.
Even before the high profile cases involving the Menendez Brothers, O.J. Simpson, and Tonya Harding were discussed at length by almost everyone, libraries and book stores were full of true-crime books. After he shot Jesse James in the back, Robert Ford would recreate the moment on stage in a traveling theater. But being a crime journalist, there is nothing glamorous about sitting in court hearing people cry or scream at the people who killed their loved ones.
Getting back to the series, Charles lives in the Arconia, an apartment co-op building in an affluent Manhattan neighborhood. Two of his neighbors, Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), a struggling Broadway director, and Mabel Moira (Selena Gomez), a 20-something with a shady past, work with Charles on a podcast as they investigate the death of another tenant, Tim Kono (Julian Cihi). NYPD detectives close the case as a suicide but since they all three had seen Tim earlier on the elevator in a different mood, they don’t believe he killed himself.
Over the series, they did their own investigative work, with some hilarious results, even attracting their own fanbase and being more or less ridiculed for it on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as they get a Greek chicken food company to sponsor them. Halfway through the season, it was announced a second season was approved. But I had a feeling they had anticipated this.
Tim and Mabel used to date. Mabel is staying in her aunt’s apartment while renovating it. We learn she used to pal around with Zoe Cassidy (Olivia Reis) and her boyfriend, Oscar (Aaron Dominguez), when she was in school. Zoe died on a New Year’s Eve Party held on the roof when she was pushed off. Oscar was blamed and sent to prison and it caused friction between Tim and Mabel.
Only it was revealed in the seventh episode that Zoe’s death was an accident caused by Theo Dimas (James Caverly), the deaf son of Arconia tenant and businessman, Teddy (Nathan Lane). Teddy owns the Greek chicken company sponsoring the podcast and he forced Tim, who witnessed Zoe’s death to keep quiet.
In the final episode, we learned that it was Jan (Amy Ryan), a professional bassoonist, who was having a relationship with Tim, who killed him by poisoning him and then staging the crime scene to make it look like Tim shot himself. Then, she set off the fire alarm to cause confusion. Jan had also started a relationship with Charles and while it was nice seeing Martin and Ryan together in scenes, I actually like this twist.
However, I feel they may have taken it another way had the series not been renewed. This might explain a few loose ends in the series. At the beginning of the first episode, Oliver and Charles are running toward Mabel’s apartment where they find a dead body on the floor and Mabel kneeling over it. The season finale picks up here with all of them being arrested. The body was Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), the bossy co-op board leader. Charles and Oliver got suspicious texts that would lead them to Mabel’s apartment where Bunny has been stabbed with a knitting needle.
This could also be used to explain the note Jan found on her door, even though she stabbed herself to make it appear she isn’t the killer. Also, did someone else poison Winnie, Oliver’s bulldog? And what was Det. Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) talking about when she said that Tim’s cellphone had been ordered not to be processed? Does she know something and that’s why she told Charles, Oliver and Mabel not to say anything as they’re led out of the building?
I’m looking forward to the second season. However, I hope the showrunners do a few things differently. I was not a fan of the overuse of Tina Fey as Cinda Canning, a popular podcast host. The entertainment industry just seems to never really been able to do anything with Fey aside from her Sarah Palin impersonation. She’s not a good actress. She might be a good comedy writer, but she’s just not good in front of the camera. And since it’s been almost 30 years since the debut of The Larry Sanders Show, the joke of celebrities being major jerks has been over since the mid-1990s.
I like the guest starring of Sting in a fictionalized version of himself. And Jane Lynch as Sazz Pataki, who was Charle’s stunt double on his TV show, Brazzos, was a nice surprise. There’s also an in-joke here about how women are sometimes used as stunt doubles for young boys in movies and TV shows. I sure hope the showrunners bring her back for the second season. Seeing her and Martin work together was one of the season’s highlights.
Another highlight was the seventh season told from the perspective of Theo as it was mostly done with American Sign Language and almost no audible dialogue. Caverly is deaf in real life. With Sound of Metal and the A Quiet Place movies, deaf people are finally getting the recognition they deserve in movies and TV. I’m saying this as someone who’s hard of hearing in my right ear.
Ali Stoker, who is paralyzed in real life from the waist down, played one of the podcast fans, Paulette. I liked seeing her as well. However, I hope Jaboukie Young-White, who played fellow fan Sam, is gone in the second season. Young-White has appeared on The Daily Show and does absolutely nothing but smile and laugh while he’s trying to say his lines. Jimmy Fallon was also accused of doing the same thing on Saturday Night Live but at least he can blurt a few lines in between the laughs. Young-White has no acting or comic ability, he makes Fallon seem like Sir Laurence Olivier.
But even the best shows sometimes have a few flaws. Martin and Short have been working together on many movies and projects they’re always a joy to see together. They know how to feed off each other like a good comedy team does. And Gomez is coming into her own as a good actress. It’s not just stunt casting putting her in this role. She really nails it and I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets an Emmy nomination. And Martin has one of his best roles in years. It was also nice seeing at 76 he can still do physically comedy.
With 10 episodes, it can sometimes be tedious with other series. Here, they ended with us wanting more and on a cliffhanger guaranteed to offer just that.