Only Murders in the Building Season 3 keeps it cozy even as love interests threaten to derail the magic

Only Murders In The Building Season 3 (Hulu)

The series splits the leads too often early on, but when the trio sticks together, it is as good as ever.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

The surprise, sustained hit Only Murders in the Building brands itself as a comedy-mystery on Hulu. But, as season three hits the streaming service, with another murder for the Arconian trio of Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short), and Mabel (Selena Gomez) to solve, something becomes apparent. The series isn’t going for big laughs. Instead, it provides warmth, small chuckles, and genial goodness between the triumvirate. The show remains about found family, intergenerational friendships, and murder mysteries. It’s perhaps best described as a cozy mystery, a murder show with a heart of gold, an oxymoron of concepts.  

In season three, the podcast hosts find themselves in the midst of a stage production for Oliver’s newest Broadway attempt, Death Rattle. On the show’s opening night, his lead actor, former child star Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd, doing the most with limited screen time), dies. Actually, he dies not once but twice throughout the evening, a clever bit of storytelling. 

Only Murders In The Building Season 3 (Hulu)
As Paul Rudd’s power grows, so does his hair. (Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Once again, someone gets arrested quickly. Too quickly for Mabel’s tastes, stoking her desire to look deeper. And like that, another season of Only Murders in the Building sets off on a goose chase of half-leads, red herrings, and an actual cast, including Meryl Streep as first-time Broadway actress Loretta Durkin, of possible suspects.  

The difference in this season comes in the form of priorities. Charles has become consumed with a new relationship with makeup artist Joy (Andrea Martin), teased at the end of season two. Oliver only wants to get his production back on the stage. That includes turning the Christie-esque play into a musical titled Death Rattle Dazzle in an attempt to revitalize it. 

Mabel feels left out, left behind, and missing her olds, as she calls them. So she begins investigating without them, instead turning to Tobert (perfectly casted Jesse Williams), Robert with a T as he explains it. A documentarian hired to film the now-deceased Glenroy’s first role on Broadway, he too feels a bit listless.  

When the three of them are onscreen, the show sings…When they’re split up, even for good reason, the show tends to drag, despite the best efforts from an exceptional supporting cast.

Disconnection slips into this usually friendly show. While still warm and comforting, romance replaces friendships, at least in the first few episodes. Each of the three central characters has a love interest taking up more time than necessary. The dynamic between Martin, Short, and Gomez always outclasses any other intercast relationships. When the three of them are onscreen, the show sings, physically and metaphorically. When they’re split up, even for good reason, the show tends to drag, despite the best efforts from an exceptional supporting cast. 

Streep leads that supporting cast as Short’s love interest, Rudd’s enemy, and all-around friend to the other actors. She’s tremendous in limited minutes, constantly reminding the audience why she’s won three Oscars and three Emmys during her career. And she even gets to sing! Multiple times she graces the stage, being an actor playing an actor. Streep plays her character’s quirks and oddities without fuss, making her likable yet suspicious in the span of two minutes.  

Only Murders In The Building Season 3 (Hulu)
Martin Short shows off the latest in men’s leisure wear. (Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Rudd takes a more traditional comedic role as Glenroy, funny when he needs to be. Tina Fey pops up again as podcast host Cindy Canning, remaining one of the consistently witty bits that Only Murders has committed to over its three seasons. But the standout remains Michael Cyril Creighton as Howard, fellow resident of the Arconia and assistant to Oliver during this season. If the show does have a big laugh, it usually comes because of Creighton’s over-the-top (in the best way) melodramatic performance. He never disappoints, and season three is no exception.  

Once season three’s investigation gets going, the creators (Martin and John Hoffman) and writers spin a difficult web to untangle. The show continues to improve, or at least remain steady, because of the mysteries themselves. The murder is another corker to solve, the suspect list not shrinking even by episodes five, six, or seven. The trio of Martin, Short, and Gomez continue to be exceedingly lovely. Only Murders in The Building is still easy-watching. It’s enjoyable in its commitment to wrap the audience in a big blanket, even if yet another victim’s blood may have slightly stained that blanket. If I were a resident, I would’ve moved by the middle of season two. As a viewer, though, I’m happy to keep visiting.

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 is currently mixing homicide with hands of jazz on Hulu.

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 Trailer:


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