Only Murders in the Building: Is Meryl Streep’s Loretta a Red Herring?

Only Murders in the Building season 3 could be using its biggest star to misdirect from the real murderer.

Meryl Streep in Only Murders in the Building season 3.
Photo: Patrick Harbron | Hulu

This article contains spoilers for Only Murders in the Building season 3 episode 3.

We’ve all come to love Only Murders in the Building for a variety of different reasons. Whether it’s the show’s ability to create a setting and give hints about the story through the title sequence, or the quick-witted jokes delivered by comedic legends, this Hulu staple has something to draw every type of viewer in. But at its heart, Only Murders in the Building is a murder mystery . . . hence the name of the show. For 10 episodes, it’s immensely fun to try to put all the puzzle pieces together and deduce who the killer is. Early on in the season, this task is always more difficult than later on. We don’t have much to go on yet, and the show tries to intentionally direct our attention to diversions or red herrings that will later be revealed as facades. 

It certainly feels like Only Murders in the Building introduced two new characters exactly for this purpose. Paul Rudd’s eccentric Ben Glenroy is the victim of the season’s murder plot, and Meryl Streep’s scatter-brained Loretta Durkin is flagged as the number one suspect, or at least that is the vibe the writers are going with so far. We know that with so many episodes left and a myriad of mysteries not even fully revealed, Loretta will be just one of many suspicious folks on our radar. We do have about a third of the season under our viewing belts, though, so it might be time to start deciding whether Loretta really has it in her to take Ben Glenroy out of the picture, or whether her involvement is coincidental. 

Loretta Durkin and Ben Glenroy: Enemies? 

From the first episode of the season, Loretta certainly seems to have a motive to take out Ben: she wants his starring spot in Oliver’s play. After finally getting her big break after decades of despair and failure, Oliver has given her a shining opportunity (or so she thinks) to show the world how talented she is. Ben Glenroy has an outsized personality, though, and he immediately threatens to overshadow Loretta’s moment. 

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When Loretta thinks Ben is dead after that opening night on stage, she appears relieved the show will have to be canceled. This seems to be in direct contrast to her aspirations of becoming a stage star, though. Why then was she so disappointed to see him rise from the dead in the season premiere if all she wants is to become a star actor? 

What Does Loretta Really Want? 

Loretta’s other key personality trait that we’ve learned in the first three episodes of the season, beyond her questionable acting abilities (which is ironic given that she’s portrayed by literally Meryl Streep), is that she has a flirtatious affection for Oliver. Martin Short’s excitable director character seems to begin sharing those feelings at the end of “Grab Your Hankies” when they smooch at the news of Loretta staying on board with the play. 

Maybe all Loretta is looking for is a late-life romance? That would seem too uninteresting and cookie-cutter for a show like Only Murders in the Building. There’s definitely some weird motivations behind Loretta’s behavior, we just don’t have enough tangible evidence to identify them. So far, Loretta may just be a bluff, an effervescent presence to get us off the scent of another suspect that is beginning to smell a little fishy. 

Is Kimber the True Suspect? 

The end of the third episode, “Grab Your Hankies,” already tries to put more emphasis on Loretta’s castmate, Kimber (Ashley Park), being a person of interest in the Ben Glenroy murder than Loretta herself. We know that Ben had a handkerchief on his person when he was killed, and in an effort to identify whose piece of cloth it might be, Charles uses his efforts in this episode to collect the entire troupe’s handkerchief collection. The only person who couldn’t provide one for the collection was Kimber, which obviously leads Charles to think her handkerchief could be the one Ben was holding when he died.

The final narration of the episode also features Kimber talking suspiciously about the lengths you sometimes need to go to for success in the world of acting and in life in general. Some slick cinematics and facial expressions from Kimber are intended to serve as red flags for the audience as the credits roll. Loretta is belting her incredible vocals across the room for everyone to enjoy, but Kimber looks like she’s plotting something against her. 

Does this mean Kimber is the true suspect instead of Loretta? Or maybe the two actresses are planning something antagonistic together? It’s way too early to tell, but Only Murders in the Building never puts hints in for no reason whatsoever. If there are mystery antennas going up in episode three, it’s because we need to pay attention. The killer might just be right under our noses yet again!

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The first three episodes of Only Murders in the Building season 3 are available to stream on Hulu now. New episodes premiere Tuesdays through the finale on Oct. 3.