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A Mystery in the Making: Only Murders in the Building

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

An actor, a washed-up director and a 28-year-old woman with no confirmed occupation walk into a restaurant.

No, that’s not the start of a corny joke but the meet-cute for the three main characters of Hulu’s new series, Only Murders in the Building. The ten-episode series wrapped up with a suspenseful finale leaving many unanswered questions for watchers. 

The Plot

Charles Haden-Savage (Steve Martin), Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) are true-crime junkies. When the fire alarm goes off in their ritzy New York City apartment building, the unlikely trio find themselves waiting out the drill in a nearby restaurant, where they bond over their mutual love for the true-crime podcast, All is not OK in Oklahoma.

Things take a turn when it’s revealed that Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), a temperamental businessman living in the building, has been found dead. Though the police write it off as suicide, the trio sense foul play and take it upon themselves to uncover the truth behind Tim’s death. Oliver comes up with the idea to turn the investigation into their very own podcast.

As the investigation unfolds, we realize this mystery has a history. In episode two, it’s revealed Mabel and Tim were childhood friends, part of a group of four who called themselves ‘the Hardy Boys,’ after the famous novels.

Why it Works

Only Murders in the Building is a classic whodunnit, set apart by the humour and warmth fueled by the generation gap between the characters. Their chemistry is so engaging, it almost enters the realm of feel-good comedy, even with a full-fledged murder investigation going on.

The show also does an admirable job of keeping the plot interesting, following different characters in each episode. After initially revolving solely around the three protagonists, the focus shifts to podcast fans, suspects, neighbours, old friends and a police officer, all of whom offer unique perspectives on the situation.

The cast is also quite star-studded, featuring appearances from Tina Fey as the host of All is not OK in Oklahoma, Jane Lynch as Charles’ old stunt double and Nathan Lane as Oliver’s former co-worker. There’s even a surprise cameo from rock singer Sting, where he plays himself.

Sting is just one of the unexpected elements viewers of this show can look forward to. Murder mysteries can often be predictable. Tropes pioneered by mystery icons such as Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are stale when executed incorrectly, but Only Murders in the Building finds a way to put a fresh spin to them.

For example, the suspects are unpredictable. Until the end of the season, the list of suspects is long but reasonable. Each episode follows a natural lead and when it doesn’t work out, there’s always a new possible suspect to follow. 

The episodes themselves are unique. In episode three, Oliver narrows down the list of suspects by imagining he’s writing a musical. In episode seven, which follows a deaf character named Theo Dimas (James Caverly), the audio design is mostly silent, which works as a reflection to how Theo experiences life. The final episode follows Tim’s last moments narrated by him to show the audience what really happened the night of his death. 

In addition, all the characters have their relatable moments for fans to enjoy. While solving a murder is hopefully not an everyday task for most of us, the show plays with themes of romance, broken relationships, losing a loved one, career failures and dealing with disabilities. 

The show also knows how to bring the characters and viewers back to reality. In episode nine, the question of ethics comes into play. The main characters are threatened with eviction if they don’t put a stop to their podcast, due to the privacy issues impacting the rest of the building. While Mabel and Oliver look for a way to solve the murder and continue the podcast, Charles believes they’ve already risked too much, which is true, even if his stance isn’t maintained for long. 

A Killer Aesthetic

A good show isn’t only about acting and plot. It has to look good, and this show knows how to follow the right aesthetic. The show is mainly set in the Arconia, a wealthy, 14-story building located on the Upper West Side. As we meet each character, we’re taken into their apartments, decorated to fit their personalities. 

Mabel’s place is unfurnished and undergoing renovations, matching her vague, mysterious aura. Oliver’s lavish home is filled with theatre paraphernalia and unique furniture. Charles’ apartment is neat and straightforward, like a real estate photo shoot. 

The show takes place during the colder seasons, creating a perfect excuse to display extravagant fall fashions, particularly for Mabel. In each episode, she’s seen donning a new trendy coat. Whether it’s a chocolate brown leather trench, a furry rust sherpa jacket or a cream fuzzy coat, Mabel clearly owns fall fashion. 

The suspenseful show matches the chilly, dreary weather and really gets viewers in the fall and Halloween spirit. 

With all that being said, Only Murders in the Building is a captivating murder mystery with twists and turns. Complete with a cliffhanger ending alluding to a second season, we’re just as curious to find out what happens next. 

Samira Balsara is a third-year journalism student at Ryerson University. She is interested in pursuing a career as a news anchor or a career in fashion journalism. Apart from writing, she likes music (mainly Taylor Swift), reading and making Pinterest boards.
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