This recap of Only Murders in the Building contains spoilers for season 1.
One of the more eclectic concepts to come out last fall was Hulu’s engrossing and enjoyable Only Murders in the Building. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise, as the show starred bastions of comedy Steve Martin and Martin Short, and most of what they have done (especially together) is pure gold. Giving this duo a third corner of comedy is Selena Gomez, who injects the main cast with youth and millennial-appropriate sarcasm.
With the first season’s deadly enigma being solved, the three amateur sleuths didn’t get much time to celebrate, as a second hurried and horrific homicide happened within mere moments. Before they start recording the second season of their podcast and solve a second crime, let’s give you a refresher about all the twists and turns of season 1.
The Trio Forms
Taking place on what seems to be a perfect New York late-Autumn day, as if Nora Ephron herself ordered the weather, each one of the main characters narrates their own personal New York minute.
There’s Charles (Martin), a former TV actor who had some notoriety decades ago with a dated-detective television show entitled Brazzos. Then there’s Oliver (Short), a colorful stage-director who walks with a more energetic pace through the streets of Manhattan, his vivid purple trench coat flapping in the breeze. Just as colorful, but perhaps more reserved with her exuberance is Mabel (Gomez), a young woman who doesn’t reveal exactly who she is, or what she does, only that she has ongoing fantasies of one day taking a knitting needle down the bone on anyone who dares attack her.
The three live in the Arconia, an elegant apartment complex in the Upper West Side. As they arrive at almost the same time, they eventually find themselves on the same elevator, with the talkative Oliver forcing the conversation. Before the cinematically long elevator ride is finished, a fourth resident, Tim Kono (Juliane Cihi) gets on, breaking what awkward silence Oliver will allow with his telephone conversation.
As the three main characters settle into their respective apartments, they all begin listening to the newest episode of their favorite true-crime podcast, Everything is not OK in Oklahoma. Charles is barely able to take a sip of wine, and Oliver has only begun to enjoy his appetizing dips when a fire alarm goes off, and the residents of the Arconia must evacuate.
Charles settles at a restaurant across the street, and begins to map out the clues from the new podcast episode. Oliver stumbles in, recognizes the specific pieces of the puzzle, and he and Charles begin to bond. When Mabel finally makes her way into the restaurant, Oliver invites her over, and she too is shocked to learn her elevator acquaintances love the show as much as she does.
When they finally return to their building, there is even more of a police presence than expected for a fire alarm. Lester (Teddy Coluca), the Arconia’s doorman, tells them there’s been a death in the building. The three, still riding the high of the last podcast episode, decide to sneak back into the building to check it out. As they slink upstairs, they see Tim Kono, dead.
Not satisfied with the theory of suicide from Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), the trio start an investigation of their own in the middle of the night, and decide they should also initiate their own true-crime podcast.
Everyone Has Secrets
Oliver in the very first episode asks Mabel to peel the proverbial onion of her life for he and Charles. Being a very guarded and sardonic person, we learn very little about the youngest member of the group, yet slowly it’s disclosed that Mabel has been hiding who she really is and her connection to Tim Kono.
In her youth, Mabel and Tim became friends, and eventually, with the superintendent’s son, Oscar (Aaron Dominguez), and another resident of the Arconia, Zoe (Olivia Reis), the four formed “The Hardy Boys”. The group’s name was merely a tribute to Mabel and Tim’s love of the classic mystery stories, but in their late teen years, it meant breaking into apartments when the tenants were on vacation.
On one of her winter visits to her Aunt’s place, Mabel and the other three Hardy Boys were celebrating New Years’ on a rooftop party. New York is often known for memorable New Years’ celebrations, but this one stands out for a much darker reason. By the end of that party, Zoe had fallen to her death, allegedly pushed by Oscar, but that may not be the whole truth, nor is it the end of that part of the story.
Before Tim’s apartment is cleaned out, Mabel sneaks in one last time and looks at the dozens of Hardy Boys novels Tim has stacked on his bookshelf. As soon as she picks one up, jewels fall out of a compartment within the hollowed out book. It would appear that even the dead have massive secrets, and Mabel unearths a massive hoard of jewelry Tim has been hiding.
As the story (or onion) unravels, there are tons of other secrets our heroes reveal. Charles is constantly reminded of a mysterious “Lucy” who was once in his life. He holds the secret of a past relationship, and his once surrogate daughter, Lucy tightly, until he eventually opens up to his new girlfriend, a bassoonist named Jan (Amy Ryan).
While you would think that Oliver is a classic over-sharer, there are some things he has barely revealed to anyone. His last major show was a major flop, injuring a dozen actors in a stunt for his stage adaptation of Splash. He’s been out of work ever since, separated from his former wife, estranged from his son and grandkids, and often begging for money.
The Mystery Unravels
The podcasting trio digs deeper into Kono’s murder, and begin to look within the Arconia, suspecting their other neighbors. As they do, the danger increases. Someone within the building is definitely displeased that the trio are digging into Tim’s death. Oliver receives a threatening note minutes before he finds his beloved bulldog, Winnie, poisoned. Jan also receives a threatening note taped to her front door, and the next time Charles goes to see her, she is found stabbed, lying on the floor, grasping at life.
Oscar, having been released from prison for the death of Zoe, joins the team to help clear his name, and possibly solve Tim’s death. As he begins to help with the investigation, the team discovers that Tim was trying to take down a mysterious figure known only as “Angel”, a black market jewelry dealer. This would explain the jewelry collection found by Mabel.
Angel is revealed to be Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane), one of Oliver’s oldest friends, and ironically, a major sponsor of their podcast. Teddy used to fund Oliver’s productions, but since the bomb that was Splash, they grew apart. It was only Oliver’s need for podcast funding that brought them back together, and when Teddy wrote the podcasters a sizable check, Oliver and Charles discover “Angel Industries” written on the corner. The trio discover that Teddy and his son Theo (James Caverly) are robbing the dead and selling the jewelry.
The Hardy Boys once visited the Dimas’ apartment, at which time Zoe stole a rather massive emerald ring. On the faithful New Years’ night of her death, Theo asked her to return the ring, feelings were hurt on both sides of the conversation, it got heated, and Zoe was accidentally pushed off the building. Tim was trying to expose the Dimas’ operation because he was the only witness to Zoe’s death, and Teddy threatened he and Mabel, should Theo ever be implicated.
The Killer is Revealed
The case would have been neatly packaged like one of the Dimas deli’s delicious chicken wraps if this meant that the Dimases had also killed Tim. In fact, they were absolved of that specific killing, due to evidence discovered by Detective Williams. When she informed the group Tim was poisoned before he was shot, and it couldn’t have been the Dimuses, the trio had to take the investigation in a whole new direction.
Could it be Bunny, the bitchy Tenant Board President? Could it be the vengeful cat-Daddy, Howard? Could it be dog hater, and Grammy award winner, Sting?
When the trio first raided Tim’s apartment, they hurriedly took as much as they could, including Tim’s sex toys. Among the paraphernalia was a mysterious device that Oliver and Mabel discover is a bassoon-cleaner.
It was Jan.
She had a torrid affair with Tim at one point. After discovering the large emerald ring in Tim’s apartment, she was enraged by the fact she thought Tim was seeing another woman. Tim bought it off the black market to prove the Dimases were responsible for Zoe’s death, unbeknownst to Jan. After she poisoned and shot Tim, she stole the ring for herself. Oliver and Mabel find the ring in Jan’s apartment, confirming their theory, but not before Charles was poisoned (only slightly) by Jan. But in a brilliant move befitting of Brazzos, before he fell victim to the same muscle paralysis Jan used on Tim, Charles recorded her confession. The three stop Jan from her final nefarious plan, and she is arrested.
Only Murders in the Building Season 2
One of the greatest treats upon rewatch of the first season is the fact the show begins the way the season ends. A frantic Oliver and Charles shuffle down flights of stairs to find a bloody-Mabel hovering over a body wearing their tie-dyed podcast merch.
To think that the show introduced the main plot of the second season in the first minutes of the season 1 premiere is a welcome treat, and season 2 promises to be just as delicious. The victim of this second murder is none other than Bunny, the hard edged antagonistic President of the Tenant Board.
With Mabel, Oliver and Charles being arrested and removed from the Arconia in handcuffs, what is to become of our heroes? Why was Mabel found with the body in her very apartment? Who killed Bunny?
It would appear the podcast has been renewed for a second season.
Only Murders in the Building season 2 premieres June 28 on Hulu.