Arts and Entertainment

The Show Must Go On: Only Murders in the Building Season Three

Only Murders in the Building season three returns with exceptional humor, music, acting, and an unfortunately predictable plot.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Gaining 719 million minutes of watchtime during season three’s release week, Only Murders in the Building and Arconia residents Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), and Charles Haden-Savage (Steve Martin) are back at it again. The dynamic trio reunites after solving the mysteries of Tim Kono’s and Bunny Folger’s untimely deaths in the first two seasons through their investigative podcast, Only Murders in the Building. This time, they are trying to put the murderer of star actor Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd) behind bars. But will they determine who murdered the leading man in time to save Oliver’s flopping Broadway show?

Loretta Durbin (Meryl Streep) is an aspiring actress who has spent her long life chasing the spotlight to no avail—that is, until Death Rattle. Loretta is cast in Oliver’s murder mystery Broadway production along with famous actor Ben Glenroy and slightly outdated actor Charles Haden-Savage. The show’s producers are mother-son duo Donna (Linda Emond) and Cliff (Wesley Taylor), who have an uncomfortably close relationship—who kisses their mother on the lips? On opening night, Ben is murdered, and Mabel, Charles, and Oliver discover his corpse when it crashes through an elevator ceiling. Mysterious figures surround them: a Glenroy-obsessed girlfriend, an underappreciated brother, and a “security guard” stalker—but who really killed Ben Glenroy?

Ben’s murder throws a wrench into the group’s dynamics: each member of the podcasting trio abandons Only Murders in the Building in pursuit of their individual dreams. Martin’s performance perfectly conveys Charles’s internal conflicts throughout the season, from investigating Ben’s death to participating in Death Rattle. While the show’s script undeniably indicates that Mabel’s interests lie in true crime, Gomez’s flat acting provides little information about her character beyond that. In comparison to previous seasons, Gomez’s acting is underwhelming; her voice often sounds emotionless, save for a few moments of morbid curiosity.

That being said, each of the characters does experience intense emotion—all three find themselves falling in love. A central focus on romance humanizes the characters; each individual desires a sense of belonging and someone with whom to share their life. This plot device shifts the season’s focus away from true crime and toward the ups and downs of complicated relationships. An interesting example of this is Cliff and Donna, the mother-son producer duo—while they might get too close for comfort, they ultimately want the best for one another, even if it means allowing them to make their own decisions.

Maternal obligation is not limited to the script, as songs like “For the Sake of a Child” and “Look for the Light” express similar themes. Composed and written by highly accomplished musicians, writers, and Broadway stars from Michael R. Jackson to Sara Bareilles, Death Rattle Dazzle’s soundtrack shows a true appreciation for Broadway. With booming instrumentals that sweep one off of their feet, “Creatures of the Night” sets a mysterious tone for the rest of the show. Martin and Streep’s solos, “Look for the Light” and “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?,” respectively, and their duet piece, “For the Sake of a Child,” benefit from the nuances each seasoned actor places on the thoughtful lyrics.

While the musical aspect of Only Murders in the Building is new, the show’s comedic prowess is not. Only Murders in the Building season three might be the most comedic season yet. Awkward interactions between characters, uniquely hilarious personalities, and Martin’s “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?” performance provide just a few of the season’s well-timed jokes.

The pacing of the plot, however, leaves much to be desired. The discovery of new clues and plot development throughout the season were inconsistent and mildly disorienting. Season three began at a moderate pace, but as it dragged on, it began to lag. Fluctuations in the trio’s closeness caused developments to spread across multiple episodes as characters failed to communicate with one another. These frustrations were amplified by the unsatisfying speed-reveal in the finale. Only Murders in the Building has become predictable; there is a pattern to the investigative trio’s epiphanies, suspects, and reveals that removes the thrill from its final episodes. 

Season three was a highly entertaining, hilarious, and well-developed murder mystery. That being said, Only Murders in the Building is in serious need of revamping; though an interesting plot line, making the show part-musical was not enough. The formulaic approach to episodes has made it lose its original purpose: to be a mystery. Renewed for season four, Only Murders in the Building has by no means lost its potential; its actors and writers are extremely talented, but they need to prioritize the mystery.