TV Review: ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 3

Selena Gomez as Mabel, Martin Short as Oliver and Steve Martin as Charles in Hulu's 'Only Murders in the Building.'

(L to R) Selena Gomez as Mabel, Martin Short as Oliver and Steve Martin as Charles in Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu.

Launched with the first two episodes on Hulu, the third season of ‘Only Murders in the Building’ proves that the creative team and cast have what it takes to (somewhat) move the show outside of the confines of the beautiful Arconia building for a story that makes even more use of Oliver Putnam’s (Martin Short) character.

Created by John Hoffman and Steve Martin (who also stars as the wonderfully ego-tastic, but also charming Charles-Haden Savage), this is a show that successfully blends old school comedy with the present-day obsession with social media and true crime podcasts.

‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 1 & 2 Recap

Charles (Steve Martin), Mabel (Selena Gomez) and Oliver (Martin Short) on Hulu's 'Only Murders In The Building'.

(L to R) Charles (Steve Martin), Mabel (Selena Gomez) and Oliver (Martin Short) on Hulu’s ‘Only Murders In The Building’. Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu.

The series follows three amateur sleuths –– actor Savage (who spent years on a low-rent police show and still dines out on his minor fame), down-on-his-luck, flamboyant theatre director Putnam and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), a young artist whose life suddenly becomes intertwined with Charles and Oliver’s when a former friend and fellow resident of grand New York apartment building the Arconia is found murdered.

The three also bond over their shared love of a true crime podcast called ‘All is not OK in Oklahoma’, and quickly decide to launch their own as they dig into the truth behind Tim’s death. As they work their way through the suspects (including the variety of quirky occupants of the building), they learn that the real killer is Jan (Amy Ryan), a musician who Charles has been dating.

Season 1 ends with cranky building head chief Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell) dead in Mabel’s apartment, with Mabel framed for her murder. The second season is dedicated to Charles, Oliver and Mabel figuring out what really happened with Bunny, and how a mysterious painting factors in.

It also features more from Cinda Canning (Tina Fey), the driven, arrogant creator of ‘All Is Not OK in Oklahoma’ as she seeks to find a compelling follow-up to her hit series. Our heroes initially think that Cinda, and then artist Alice Banks (Cara Delevingne), whom Mabel briefly dated, might be the killer, but it is revealed to be Cinda’s overworked assistant Poppy White (Adina Version), who was actually the not-so-dead subject matter of ‘All is not OK’ and yearns to have a podcast of her own.

Where does Season 3 take the story of ‘Only Murders in the Building’?

Paul Rudd as Ben in season 3 of 'Only Murders in the Building.'

(L to R) Paul Rudd as Ben in season 3 of ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu.

At the end of Season 2, we jump a year forward, to the opening night of Oliver’s new play, ‘Death Rattle’. Its leading man, the annoying, smug Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd), who clearly has no love for Charles, also starring in the production, collapses dead on stage.

It’s revealed later in the initial episode that Ben is not actually dead but had a medical condition. And he promises to be a changed man, ready to make amends for his bad behavior during the play’s initial stages. He doesn’t get long to do that, though, as he’s pushed into an elevator shaft at the Arconia, landing on the car containing Charles, Oliver and Mabel. And so, another murder mystery is set in motion…

Who else appears in ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 3?

Meryl Streep as Loretta in Hulu's 'Only Murders in the Building.'

Meryl Streep as Loretta in Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu.

Along with some recurring faces, including Arconia residents Howard Morris (Michael Cyril Creighton) and Uma Heller (Jackie Hoffman), the show draws on a typically rich mix of guest stars, most notably Meryl Streep, who plays wannabe actress Loretta Durkin. Also guesting this year are Andrea Martin (introduced briefly last season) as a make-up artist who used to work with Charles on Brazzos and still carries a torch for him, Ashley Park (as another member of the ‘Death Rattle’ cast and Jesse Williams as Tobert (not a spelling error, his actual name), who has been hired to document Ben’s work on the play.

Related Article: ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Serves Up More Murder-Podcast hijinks with August 8th Return

Does ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 3 kill it?

Selena Gomez as Mabel and Ryan Broussard as Will in season 3 of 'Only Murders in the Building.'

(L to R) Selena Gomez as Mabel and Ryan Broussard as Will in season 3 of ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu.

Given that it helped kick off the current trend of more comedic murder mysteries and has enjoyed big success with its first two seasons, the pressure is naturally on the third to keep the magic happening. It’s fortunate to report then, that the formula continues to work, and expanding the scope of the show further beyond the Arconia and into the world of theatre provides plenty of fuel for fresh mystery and comedy.

Short’s Oliver in particular is given room to shine this year, his dedication to the play and typically over the top style working really well as he attempts to mount his big comeback and slowly falls for Streep’s struggling artiste.

She is, as you might expect, fantastic in the role of Loretta, who has been enchanted with theatre and acting since she was a young girl but has faced years of frustration and rejection. Beyond the sheer meta pleasure of seeing one of the most highly regarded actors playing someone who can barely get an audition, she grabs every moment and makes it work, from her sensitive, tentative flirtation with Short to her laugh-out-loud attempts at accents during the first read-through.

Meryl Streep as Loretta and Martin Short as Oliver.

(L to R) Meryl Streep as Loretta and Martin Short as Oliver in Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu.

Rudd is also a great addition, playing the typical movie actor who has fully bought into his own publicity but still wants to come across as everyone’s friend. As with Streep, him playing against his own personality works superbly.

Which is not to diminish the work of the main cast, who still put in excellent performances as ever. Short, as mentioned, flourishes given the altered setting, while Martin and Gomez are right there with him. It’s a part of ‘Only Murders’ magic that Gomez blends so well with the old school comedy stylings of Martin and Short.

The show itself is still just as clever, and while perhaps not as funny as previous seasons, still has plenty of wit to display.

Any issues?

Selena Gomez as Mabel and Steve Martin as Charles in season 3 of 'Only Murders in the Building.'

(L to R) Selena Gomez as Mabel and Steve Martin as Charles in season 3 of ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu.

It’s perhaps a pity that the main three are kept largely separate early on, as the repartee between Martin, Short and Gomez as the main two bicker and Mabel puts up with her favorite “olds” is a true highlight of the series.

Yet kudos to the writers, directors and cast for pushing ‘Only Murders’ in refreshing new directions while maintaining what really makes it a killer watch. The competition might have heated up in the past couple of years in the mystery-comedy genre, but this remains among the best.

‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 3 receives 9 out of 10 stars.

Martin Short as Oliver in Hulu's 'Only Murders in the Building.'

Martin Short as Oliver in Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu.

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