Only Murders in the Building burst back onto screens with a new celebrity cast and a new investigation from everyone’s favorite trio of intrepid podcasters.
Artsy millennial Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), Broadway exile Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), and Ex-TV-detective Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) reprise their roles as the most endearing intergeneration team of courageous true crime podcasters.
In past seasons, we were blessed with hilarious appearances by Jane Lynch, Shirley MacLaine, and Sting (playing himself, naturally), among others. And this season, the show’s customary celebrity side character roles are filled by Paul Rudd as an animal-themed blockbuster superhero actor and all-around jackass—and Meryl Fucking Streep, who is evidently having a ball playing Loretta Durkin, an aging, struggling actress still waiting for that big break and who appears to have found it in Oliver’s new Broadway production.
As with season two, season three embarks upon the death revealed in the final moments of the previous season—in this case, Paul Rudd collapsing in the opening moments of opening night of Death Rattle, a truly baffling play that marks Oliver’s return to Broadway directing. Season three marks the first time that one of the celebrity guest stars has been the homicide victim whose demise sets the season into motion.
Another huge payoff of the show is its careful, empathetic exploration of its side characters, either the fascinating neighbors within the Arcadia itself or, in this case, the cast of odd characters that makes up the cast, crew, and production of Death Rattle. While we’re only two episodes in and the ensemble cast begins to come into collective focus. The show feels like unboxing a new toy set as a kid—all the scattered pieces as you catch glimpses of them are bright and exciting, even the ones that just tumble out in passing. The energy of the season is just winding up, and I like the sense of where it’s going—but of course the show’s usual twists and turns will probably throw me off the track as we go. Time will tell, and the wait is so hard.
Only Murders has a peculiar brand of humor that seems like it is carrying nicely into season three. It isn’t laugh-out-loud funny for the most part—it’s more a drama of larger-than-life characters, not exactly cartoonish or caricatured but hilariously absurd. If there’s a straight man (in the sense of the comedy term, not in the heterosexual sense) in this adventure, I haven’t yet found them. The comedy chemistry among the central cast has always been a core part of the show’s delightful hijinks. The unexpected grouping of Gomez with the elder comedy veterans Martin and Short has paid off in a big and heartfelt way.
I was initially worried that Streep would be too much of a heavyweight addition to the charmingly haphazard cast, bringing the ensemble down to an unintended focal point. But to my surprise and delight, she fits right in. The show acknowledges her as the first character featured in the show’s customary cold-open, addressing the beautiful and talented elephant in the room before allowing her to slot herself into the mix.
Season three is just picking up steam, not aiming for perfection or polish but rather the creation of an engagingly human story. If you’re just coming to the show, be sure to start from the very beginning. It’s a delightful ride.
Only Murders in the Building is streaming now on Hulu.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, ‘Only Murders in the Building’ wouldn’t exist.