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Review: Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Returns with a Star-Studded, Showstopping Season 3

Review: Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Returns with a Star-Studded, Showstopping Season 3

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Following its successful debut and an equally addictive sophomore season, Steve Martin and John Hoffman’s whodunnit comedy Only Murders in the Building is back with more laughs, more players, and more mystery.

Warning: Spoilers for Seasons 1 & 2

By the end of Season 2, our sleuthing trio Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) cleared their names and solved the murder of cranky but lovable Arconia board president Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell). The case-cracking crew enlisted the help of other Arconia residents, along with Mabel’s ex-fling Alice (Cara Delevingne), to put on a show at their killer reveal party. In the end, it was Poppy White/Becky Butler (Adina Verson), assistant of Cinda Canning (Tina Fey), who killed Bunny and used the idiotic Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport) to help cover it up. 

A one-year time jump takes us to the opening night of Oliver’s highly-anticipated Broadway play starring Charles and Ben Glenroy (making us all gasp, “Is that Paul Rudd?!”). The actors have a hostile exchange with vague threats and warnings. Ben then takes the stage, struggles to deliver his lines, and keels over mid-sentence. This new death left us with, at minimum, four questions: Who is Ben Glenroy? What did he do and how does Charles know about it? Who is the mysterious “her” Charles tells Ben to stay away from? And most importantly, who murdered Ben Glenroy? 

Only Murders in the Building is a show where we not only get attached to the characters, we also get attached to the mystery itself. Naturally, we’re hesitant about new faces and cases. However, less than halfway through the first episode of Season 3, any previous apprehension seems silly. It doesn’t take long to get invested in the lives of new characters along with their relationships with our returning favorites.

Paul Rudd made a delightfully unexpected appearance in the finale, officially joining the cast as the season’s victim Ben Glenroy, a longtime action star making his big Broadway debut, which as we know, doesn’t end well for him. Rudd is great at playing a jerk, likely because he’s utterly kind in real life. Similar to Bunny and Season 1’s Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), Ben’s personality and treatment of others rubbed plenty of people the wrong way, making the suspect pool enormous. He gave just about everyone a reason to unalive him. 

Another big-name addition to the growing cast is the iconic Meryl Streep who, of course, effortlessly plays quirky actor Loretta Durkin with blonde braids and art teacher vibes. The season opens with a peek into Loretta’s lifelong love of theater. Even if you don’t consider yourself a theater fan, this montage is all kinds of whimsical. Her apartment, much smaller than anything at the Arconia, also has a playful atmosphere because it’s cluttered and cramped in a very New York way.

Aside from Ben and Loretta, other new characters are involved with Oliver’s comeback play, including Kimber (Ashley Park), described as both a Broadway ingenue and a “TikTok-addicted starlet.” Other cast members include Bobo (Don Darryl Rivera) and Ty (Gerald Caesar), with K.T. (Allison Guinn) serving as stage director. We get to meet Donna (Linda Emond), the producer who called Oliver with the job offer in the Season 2 finale. She’s overseeing her eccentric son’s first solo production. The two are as wealthy as they are weird but Cliff (Wesley Taylor) is a scene-stealer. 

Howard Morris (Michael Cyril Creighton) deservedly gets time in the spotlight this season. And yes, he’s still dating fellow Arconian and theater enthusiast Jonathan (Jason Veasey), the handsome Broadway performer who became the Simon to Howard’s Garfyodel after they met during the blackout last season. The power couple are both heavily involved with the play but maybe not exactly in the way they’d like to be. Howard also delivers one of my favorite lines of the season, which I will present without context: “Girl, you know I like sweaters.” 

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The trailer gives us a glimpse of more new and returning characters like Charles’ longtime hair and makeup artist-turned-girlfriend Joy (Andrea Martin), Oliver’s son Will (Ryan Broussard), and sardonic Arconia inhabitant Uma (Jackie Hoffman). We see a noticeably blonde Cinda Canning (Fey) looking zen in neutral-toned loungewear, an interesting sight compared to her usual brunette tresses and dark wardrobe. Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) is one of the first familiar faces in the trailer. She demonstrated her love of musical theater, as many characters have, so this season will be especially entertaining for her. 

With Charles and Oliver spending the year between murders preoccupied with the play, Mabel is a little out of the loop. The girl had a rough go of it the past two seasons, digging into her past friendships, revisiting unresolved trauma, and experiencing a heartbreaking betrayal by Alice, who used said trauma for her art.

Following the Season 2 finale, co-creator John Hoffman (The Larry Sanders Show) spoke about Mabel’s future, telling TVLine, “There are certain new pressures ahead of her and questions that she is asking herself about her own life, but she’s got a much more optimistic viewpoint.” There are some sparks between her and Jesse Williams’ Tobert (yes, like Robert with a T), a documentary filmmaker who finds himself enthralled by the murder of Ben Glenroy. 

World building is one of the best aspects of Only Murders in the Building. Since Glenroy died in a theater, fans were wary of the series straying from its original Upper West Side setting we’ve grown to love. But fret not, the Arconia is still prominently featured in Season 3.

With the season’s focus on Oliver’s return to Broadway, it only makes sense that our trio spends some time away from its storied past and secret passageways. Hoffman explained to EW, “Season 1 was really centered around a Mabel story, and then Charles and his father emotionally led Season 2 in many ways. It feels right to lean into Oliver a bit more and his dream of a potential comeback.” We love that for him. 

Season 2 further explored the exploitative nature of true crime and the ethics of profiting off the deaths and misery of others. Poppy was so obsessed with true crime podcasts that she was willing to kill an innocent woman just to get some new material. This season is less centered on the genre but still touches on some common criticisms like possibly creating a story where there isn’t one.

In the first episode, Mabel poses the question: “Who are we without a homicide?” She may be understandably eager to get back into investigating unsolved murders, but it’s a fair question considering the main interest shared among them is true crime podcasts. 

One element that really encapsulates the tone of the series is the soothing opening theme from Siddhartha Khosla (The Horror of Dolores Roach) that’s both happy and melancholic. His score throughout the episodes plays over the many “hunting for clues” and “discovering a new suspect” scenes while leaving the slapstick comedic moments quiet.

In its third outing, Only Murders in the Building remains a charming, heartfelt, wickedly funny adventure that combines classic comedy with a cozy murder mystery. Paul Rudd, Meryl Streep, and other new characters fit seamlessly into the mix, matching the natural chemistry between Martin, Short, and Gomez. After two seasons, it’s hard to keep surprising your audience with a new puzzle to piece together but the story continues to zig where you think it’s going to zag, keeping us engaged and entertained. 

Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building premieres its first two episodes August 8, 2023, on Hulu, followed by weekly episodes. 

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