Only Murders in the Building is one of those shows that took the world by storm when it premiered in 2021. Released during the early part of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Only Murders was one of those series that everyone was watching and talking about. It was like a collective murder mystery, that everyone and their mother was trying to solve. The only thing crazier than the grip this series had on the world is the fact that Hulu managed to capture lightning in a bottle twice. And now they are hoping to do it once again with Only Murders in the Building season 3.
The series returns with its ten-episode third season, kicking off the run with a two-episode premiere on August 8. John Hoffman, the co-creator of the series with star Steve Martin, directs both episodes and helped write the first, “The Show Must…” along with Sas E. Goldberg. Writing the second episode, “The Beat Goes On” are Ben Smith (Barry, Santa Clarita Diet) and Joshua Allen Griffith (Mrs. America). And of course, what would Only Murders in the Building be without its three stars, Steven Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez? Joining them is quite a few familiar faces, as well as the supporting cast that elevates this series to one of the best Hulu, has to offer. So where exactly is Only Murders in the Building season 3 taking us viewers?
[Warning: Mild spoilers from the first two episodes of Only Murders in the Building season 3 are below!]
A tried and true formula that works for this Hulu series
What would Only Murders be without…well murder. This is a question that is posed within the show in a very meta way. While the closing moments of season two gave viewers a general idea of what to expect from season three, the episode takes some time to reverse the clock and show us how they got there.
For those that need a quick refresher, season 2 ended with a flash forward to a year later, on the opening night of Oliver’s (Martin Short) Broadway play. With his friend Charles (Steve Martin) waiting in the wings for his entrance onto the stage, and Mabel (Selena Gomez) in the crowd, the scene was set for a perfect night. That is until hot shot star Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd) drops dead on stage.
Of course, there’s another murder for our three main characters to solve, the concept is in the title. However, a formula that feels exhausting and tiresome in shows like Riverdale (like seriously, how many serial killers does that one town have?) isn’t so in Only Murders in the Building. Sure it can feel a bit ridiculous to think that there’s a third murder that just so happens to involve these three once again, but the show embraces the ridiculousness of it and adds that to the meta-humor sprinkled throughout the series.
Part of why it works as well is because the series has become so much more than the basic premise that it sold in the first season. The core of Only Murders in the Building is the relationship between Mabel, Oliver, and Charles. Season three brings into question who they are and what their relationship is without murder, mostly in Mabel’s overthinking. This line of thinking is just touched on in the narrative of the first two episodes, but now with a new murder to solve it’s easier for the characters to push those thoughts from their minds. However, I assume and also hope that we come back to it because it’s perhaps the most real storyline in the entirety of Only Murders.
The good and the bad of Only Murders in the Building season 3
On top of the relationships that are so crucial for the story, honestly, the bonds that Martin, Short, and Gomez are the best part of this series, the murder mystery itself is incredibly interesting. Something unique about this series is that each season has a distinct mystery surrounding the murder, and it never felt like it was repetitive. Sometimes with series such as Law and Order, it’s like you’ve seen one story you’ve seen them all. However, Only Murders in the Building embraces new techniques of storytelling and have crafted such one-of-a-kind stories, that the show reinvents itself with each outing.
There’s one technique specifically that I didn’t see in season one or two that Only Murders in the Building season 3 uses, which centers around Mabel’s tie to the mystery. Each of the main characters has a specific relationship with the deceased, some more personal than others. Mabel’s story is poised as the outsider for many reasons, both in the building and now in her friend group, so the technique of how she thinks and communicates about the murder is something that jumped out to me.
Something about Only Murders in the Building that has always been striking to me is the similar feel to Veronica Mars it gives me. Those who know me know that Veronica Mars is one of my favorite shows, so it’s high praise to fall into the same category. The blend of dark realism and unadulterated humor is key to shows like these, which Only Murders does so well. Not only is this series of the best out there, but it’s skyrocketing to my favorite show of all time.
The acting in Only Murders in the Building season 3 is top-notch, with Selena Gomez once again stealing the show as the perpetually snarky Mabel. Mabel has a wit to her, having been hurt many times over, so she looks at the world as a bleak landscape compared to the hopeful energy of the two old men she’s become accustomed to having around. The greatest thing about Mabel is how much she’s grown since the beginning of the series.
Charles and Oliver still feel very much like who they were since episode one, with minor character development. But Mabel has grown tenfold, constantly adapting and taking on that bit of hope from the other two. In this season, she begins to question a lot about her place in the friendship, which pushes her to make some wild choices for the sake of not losing her friends. As someone who grow up super nerdy and struggled to make and maintain friends, this hit me hard. This is the story I both need and want to see on screen.
Joining the trio this season is two major stars, Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep. Paul Rudd is the star of Oliver’s play, who unfortunately dies, meaning that his part is limited in the long run. However, this rule is a huge departure from the typical roles I’ve come to expect from him. At times I wondered if he was miscast a bit because even when he’s supposed to be an asshole, he’s still lovable. But also, it’s Paul Rudd, I don’t think I could ever hate that guy.
Perhaps the best part though is Meryl Streep. I grew up in a house that practically worshipped at the feet of Streep, who we believe can act almost any part. The same principle holds steady here. Streep plays a role where she can explore her comedic charm, however also showcases a dark and twisty center. She blends them effortlessly and just steals every scene she is in. You can almost feel everyone else in awe to be around her, because of the power she holds.
The only possible drawback of this show would be for those who don’t care for TV-MA. This series has tons of swearing, as well as some dark or crude humor depending on the situation. It always feels light, at least to me, but that could impact someone’s enjoyment of the show. I used to know someone who loved Enimem but would wait to get the albums without swear words. Obviously, Only Murders in the Building wouldn’t be for her.
Overall, the first two episodes of Only Murders in the Building season 3 are a strong opening chapter to what should be an even stronger season. Those who loved the first two will feel like they are back home once again, among the friends made in the Arconia.
Only Murders in the Building returns with two episodes on August 8. Will you be checking it out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.