Review by James Lindorf
One of the most delightful surprises of 2021 was Hulu’s original comedic murder mystery, “Only Murders in the Building.” The series reunited old friends and collaborators Steve Martin and Martin Short and brought in new blood with Disney and Pop star Selena Gomez. Picking up minutes after the conclusion of season one, things have managed to get even more personal now that Mabel (Gomez) is the prime suspect in the murder of Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), the Arconia’s curmudgeonly building manager, while Charles (Martin) and Oliver (Short) are possible accomplices. The first two episodes of season two will be released on June 28th, with a new episode released every week.
The second season features ten episodes, but only eight were released to the press. I may not be able to tell you if they nailed the landing, but I hope to let you know if you should even buy a ticket for this ride. Season one may have had a joke or two about podcasts being a dime a dozen, but there is a slew of meta “second season” references this time. It feels like a mix of winking at the audience and begging us to take it easy on them after they got a new season to us so quickly. At one point, Charles points out that “it’s very rare for a true-crime podcast to do a sequel. They usually move on to a new case that never hits like the original.” Oddly enough, the tone of these jokes fits the show perfectly by blending humor tinged with darkness and a bit of sadness.
In the first season, the unlikely trio came together to solve a mystery that only had a personal connection to Mabel. Charles and Oliver were looking for a way to reclaim past glory and make the next rent payment. This time they are trying to solve the mystery while at its center. It makes for a more threatening story that allows the main cast to shine, but it doesn’t end there. Houdyshell’s Bunny gets to carry an episode. While it is low on humor, the new POV brings a lot of weight and teaches the audience that they will need to look deeper if they hope to solve the case first.
While Only Murders in the Building” offers a very entertaining sophomore season, it feels like once all the cooks got back in the kitchen, they missed a step in the recipe. And it wasn’t for lack of trying to recreate last year’s success. Popular residents of the Arconia are back from the first season for cameos or expanded storylines. They even redo the celebrity cameo bit. Sting has left the building, and Amy Schumer is doing her full schtick in his place. While she is very successful on stage and in films, her brand of comedy grates against the comedic stylings of the show. Then they introduce some unbelievable elements like secret tunnels and elevators that seem to exist whenever the writers penned themselves into a corner. That just not quite right feeling even extends to the wardrobe department. I’m unsure if they ran out of jealousy-inducing fashion-forward ideas for Mabel or were trying to hide a pregnancy.
“Only Murders in the Building” is funny, intelligent, charming, and a genuinely interesting whodunit. It is the kind of show you wouldn’t mind being married for many years. Sure it seems to have hit a bit of a sophomore slump but it is a hiccup, a seasonal allergy not the early stages of a painful death for the series. Still, with two episodes left, they still have time to pull everything together into a perfect little package and make you forget they had an off day. “Only Murders in the Building” season two earns a 4 out of 5 from me, and I can’t wait to see the final two episodes. .
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