This Only Murders in the Building review contains spoilers.
Only Murders in the Building Episodes 1 and 2
When Only Murders in the Building first premired in September of 2021 on Hulu, there was a lot of speculation over whether the cast would fit together properly and bring new life to the murder mystery genre on television. Steve Martin and Martin Short are proven icons, but Selena Gomez was able to establish herself as a worthy missing piece to the triumvirate. The chemistry was off the charts, and the streamer had a major hit on their hands, leading to an immediate renewal and the release of the second season less than a year later.
The first episode of this second season picks up right where we left off. The gang is suspected of the murder of Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell) after Charles and Oliver (Steve Martin and Martin Short) run into Mabel’s (Selena Gomez) unit to find their bloodied friend standing alongside the victim with a knitting needle in hand. It sets up this season’s whodunit in a clean fashion, and the famous tenants of the Arconia are brought in for interrogation.
This scene is somewhat bogged down by the pompous line delivery of Michael Rapaport, who plays one of the police questioning our protagonists. Any familiarity or even a look at the social media accounts of Rapaport will reveal to the viewer that his excessive spewing of f-bombs is his only true attempt at making the audience laugh, something that Mabel keenly breaks the fourth wall to reference to the viewer.
As we move forward past this scene, the trio are hard pressed to decide whether they are going to find the true killer of Bunny at the same time that they should be staying as quiet as possible to avoid further questioning of their role in the murder. This leads the three to go their separate ways for a little bit and examine what they want to do next that doesn’t involve true crime. The show has always done an excellent job from the very beginning when it comes time to fill in the blanks about their main characters and round them out so we care what happens next.
Mabel wants to prioritize an artistic approach to life. She meets Alice (Cara Delevinge), a fellow creative who sparks more than just projects and paintings in Mabel’s life (more on that later). Charles gets an offer to reboot his old show, Brazzos, just not in the role that he intended. And Oliver is the one who once again can’t escape the influence of true crime podcasting, agreeing in a run-in with Amy Schumar (playing herself) that he will take a look at selling the rights of the show to her so it can be made into a streaming television series (another little wink and nod to the audience about what we’re watching).
These solo ventures all shine a spotlight on the intricacies of each of these great characters, but it’s when they reconvene and go back to their mystery-solving addiction that the real fireworks start to explode again. The first big connection between the perpetrator of the murder and the victim is a painting that belonged to Bunny that ends up inside Charles’ apartment. The art depicts Charles’ father lying naked alongside a bare-breasted woman, and the audience has their first pin to put down on the clue board. Someone seems to be trying to frame the three for this season’s crime, and they aren’t going to go down without revealing the true culprit.
As the second part of the premiere begins, it’s become a plain assumption to everyone in the building that whoever stole the painting from Bunny’s apartment is the prime suspect. That means the gang have to get rid of the erotica while also trying to satisfy Charles’ curiosity for why his dad is in the piece.
This is another strong area of the show that continues in the second season. Having the mystery tied to the backstories of the protagonists makes the viewer more invested in the outcome. Charles is tied to something in Bunny’s past that would appear by way of his father, and Bunny’s mother appears at a celebration of her daughter’s life later that day at the apartment complex to confirm this suspicion. She wants the painting back, but when she learns that it’s only a replica of the original, she’s ready to leave while Charles still has more questions to ask of her.
As for Oliver and Mabel’s side plots, the aforementioned inclusion of Amy Schumer is somewhat of a distraction at this point. She continues to suggest to Oliver that she should buy the rights to the podcast, and the storyline feels like an underwhelming attempt to recapture the celebrity cameo magic of the first season. She even moves into Sting’s apartment, reminding the audience of the way the musician’s role in the show was more tastefully done.
Mabel grows closer to Alice, sharing a kiss with her that confirms the foreshadowed romantic intensity between them. Making Mabel a queer character is only a great thing if they choose to explore it fully. It just can’t be a one-off scene like in so many other Disney productions that include LGBTQ+ demonstrations.
So far the stories of Oliver and Mabel are disconnected from the greater plot, whereas Charles’ is fully overwhelmed by his inclusion. After Bunny’s mother reveals to him at the end of the episode that she had an affair with his dad, it dawns on him that Bunny could be his sister. The writers of the show deserve our trust that everything will come together like a jigsaw puzzle at the end of the season, but right now things are a little too scattered to make complete sense.
The sublime acting from these three superstars is always going to be the perfect diversion from any slow plotting, though. They never disappoint, and we’re very lucky to be able to watch them perform.
New episodes of Only Murders in the Building season 2 premiere Tuesdays on Hulu.