Metro Weekly

‘Only Murders in the Building’ Review: Super Sleuths

The crime-solving trio of Martin, Short, and Gomez shine in a second, suspenseful season of 'Only Murders in the Building.'

Only Murders In The Building: Martin Short,Selena Gomez and Steve Martin -- Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu
Only Murders In The Building: Martin Short, Selena Gomez and Steve Martin — Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

Ladies and gentlemen, Sting has left the building. That is, the erstwhile Police man has moved out of the penthouse apartment at the Arconia, the storied Manhattan co-op at the center of Hulu’s nimble mystery-comedy series Only Murders in the Building (★★★★☆).

The show ushers in several new notable guests, including Shirley MacLaine, Andrea Martin, Michael Rapaport, and Amy Schumer, playing a particularly daft version of herself. And, following a nearly flawless debut season, season two moves in a slightly meta direction, with its lead trio of sleuthing neighbors all acutely aware they’re trying to live up to the high expectations set by prior success.

The series’ most successful component — the sparkling rapport between stars Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez as murder-solving, podcasters Charles, Oliver, and Mabel — remains gloriously intact. Their bonds, as performers and characters, feel deepened by the dangers they dodged throughout season one, and that are still reverberating through the building as the trio are pulled into their next 10-episode life-or-death mystery.

It’s the same mystery that hung over season one’s cliffhanger finale: Who killed ball-busting building board president Bunny Folger? According to NYPD detectives Williams (the drolly funny Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and Kreps (Michael Rapaport, really pouring on the New Yawker schtick), their number-one suspect is Mabel, who, unfortunately, can’t remember that she didn’t do it. Of course, as her buddies Charles and Oliver note, our Mabel could never do that — and she is one of the stars of the show — so, the hunt is on for the true killer.

The trio’s adventures in crime-solving get them tangled up with a stolen painting, a vengeful old foe, an under-the-table deal for the construction of a hideous new addition to the Arconia, and an entire building full of suspects. The mysteries and reveals — long-hidden affairs, secret peepholes and passageways — are just as juicy, with the benefit this time of a victim, in Bunny, whom we actually know and care about before she’s made a corpse.

Only Murders In The Building: Selena Gomez, Shirley MacLaine, Martin Short -- Photo: Barbara Nitke/Hulu
Only Murders In The Building: Selena Gomez, Shirley MacLaine, Martin Short — Photo: Barbara Nitke/Hulu

Even better, the writers find a brilliant way of briefly bringing back Bunny, played to profanity-laced perfection by Tony-winner Jayne Houdyshell. The series organically expands its world of characters, and the audience’s knowledge of the Arconia, truly the fourth main star of the show, with compelling digressions into the lives and apartments of characters we just barely got to know in season one.

Michael Cyril Creighton’s gay, cat-loving Howard even gets his own mini-romance, a fluttering few moments of sweet flirtation to lighten the often foreboding mood. Meanwhile, composer Siddhartha Khosla’s sprightly string-heavy score accentuates every mood.

In that regard, Martin appears more subdued as Charles, a natural emotional trajectory after being poisoned by his girlfriend in season one. But the wild-and-crazy comedian does get some good slapstick in on the set of a re-booted version of Brazzos, the cheesy cop show that made Charles sort of-famous in the ’90s.

Martin Short, still delivering the show’s best one-liners, is deliriously hectic playing the involuntarily retired theatrical director Oliver. The writers do well by leaning into the especially funny, yin-yang dynamic he shares with Gomez, who also stretches a bit this season, taking up a heated friendship, maybe more, with an enigmatic artist played by Cara Delevingne.

Surprisingly, Delevingne turns in a sly performance better suited to the show’s eccentric comic sensibility than Schumer’s oddball caricature of herself. But everyone in the building plays a part in the larger mystery, from our old pals Lester the doorman (Teddy Coluca) and Ursula (Vanessa Aspillaga), the gut-milk-hawking mailroom attendant, to Bunny’s equally tough replacement on the board, new mom Nina (Christine Ko).

Yes, the show is trying hard to live up to expectations — and the narrative maneuvering doesn’t appear effortless — but, given the level of difficulty in what Only Murders in the Building sets out to achieve, the series succeeds as a delicate balancing act of love and death.

New episodes of Only Murders in the Building are available for streaming weekly every Tuesday on Hulu. Visit www.hulu.com.

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!