Only Murders in the Building Season 3 Review – The crime-solving trio’s finest act yet


Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Episode Guide

Episode 1―| Rating – 4/5
Episode 2―| Rating – 4.5/5
Episode 3―| Rating – 4.5/5
Episode 4―| Rating – 4.5/5
Episode 5―| Rating – 3.5/5
Episode 6―| Rating – 3.5/5
Episode 7―| Rating – 4/5
Episode 8―| Rating – 3.5/5
Episode 9―| Rating –  5/5
Episode 10―| Rating – 4/5

The creatives behind any television show spanning multiple seasons – especially if they are successful – always aim higher. Their energies are devoted to figuring out how to make the next installment better. The margins of improvement are fine and the chances to make mistakes aren’t many. Martin Short and Steve Martin – the Martins – mostly get it right in Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building, Hulu’s most successful comedy television show yet. They find their groove quite early in the season, and on the back of stellar cast additions (Meryl Streep, Paul Rudd, and Linda Edmond) create cinematic moments of brilliance in their theatrical setting. 

The new season is once again funny, has an engaging storyline, and takes one step further to enhance the quality of character arcs in a never-before-seen way. A lot of work has gone into ensuring that each of the trio reaches deep to confront and cradle their insecurities and fears. The journey from start to end isn’t linear for them. They navigate tough challenges to keep going in the face of mounting problems, with each other and of their own as well. But in the same breath, Only Murders in the Building does not lose its rustic charm and controlled chaos. 

The plot in Season 3 begins on the opening night of Oliver’s new play and the ill-fated murder of its celebrity star, Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd). People are quick to grieve his death, including the cast members, most of whom do it out of obligation. The afterparty of the play’s success becomes an unofficial funeral for Glenroy, although there is a proper, more ceremonious function later as well. However, in a moment of sheer madness, Ben wakes up from his brief slumber to “kick it” once again. Yes, Ben Glenroy is not dead, although it does look like he was poisoned! 

He gatecrashes the afterparty and warns the person who tried to murder him that he is out to get them. Unfortunately for Ben, his resuscitation does not last long, and he is murdered – with fitting permanence this time – at the Arconia when he is pushed down an elevator shaft. Charles, Mabel, and Oliver have difficulties working together to solve the case. Oliver is initially the chief culprit as he prioritizes the play over everything else.

Producers Donna (Edmond) and her debutant son Cliff (Wesley Taylor) do not let him get comfortable. He also chances his luck at finding love in his life in the form of amateur actress Loretta Durkins (Streep). Charles finds a distraction in Joy, whom he inadvertently ends up proposing, and eventually breaking up with. But even he isn’t able to fully commit as Mabel finds herself alone piecing the puzzle together on this one. 

The Martins and their staff of writers use the established formula of storytelling with minor tweaks to make it more urgent. The new season pays deliberate attention to creating friction between our protagonists in the most human way possible. The feeling of loneliness that surfaces in each character’s arch is characteristic of how the most densely populated city in the world can be isolating. Noticeably, the tone in Season 3 is relatively more melancholic. That comes at the compromise of settling for a less formidable armory of humor and sassy one-liners, although it is difficult not to find the latter in anything Martin Short’s involved with.

Season 3 of Only Murders is not unfunny but barters its affable, fuzzy energy for a more sedated, mature approach. The creatives rely a lot on callbacks and the already established repertoire of the show’s dazzling brand of dramedy to get through the dull stretches. I did not find myself laughing out too often as I did in the first season and a few occasions in the second. But the tradeoff for more poignant, profound storytelling is a fair deal.

Season 3 whips up an interesting lineup of suspects, all of whom are armed with sufficient motive to make us look twice. But given the format used – like The Afterparty – the potential for jaw-dropping surprises is greatly diminished. The show still manages to evade the chasms of predictability but barely enough…which brings us to the murder investigation. I know it hasn’t been nearly interesting enough since the first season but episode 9, which many reviewers did not see before writing their pieces, is the culmination of all our desires in grand fashion. It is arguably the best episode in this season and the one that firmly pulls you in.

A few characters return from the previous seasons, albeit not with multiplying returns. But the focus, like always, is on Charles, Oliver, and Mabel, as well as Loretta, who plays a significant part. I can’t find too many faults with the main cast for their portrayals, except perhaps for Steve Martin’s lack of interest. He did not seem to be on the top of his game in Season 3 and his arc is also somewhat sidelined to give way for newer introductions. Streep and Short struck up an unlikely romance that did not always work but had enough legs to last owing to the great performers. 

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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