But this season is also the most serious one yet: when it’s not teasing out some musical comedy, or packing in some fun surprises to its murder mystery, “Only Murders in the Building” faces the growing loneliness of our three favorite Arconia residents, Charles (Steve Martin), Mabel (Selena Gomez), and Oliver (Martin Short). Yes, they have podcast fame, and Oliver and Charles have minor celebrity days they can look back to. But after all this business with death, they want to feel seen, and loved, too. And as Oliver’s story deepens, “Only Murders in the Building” makes overtures about legacy and what people will remember you by long after you’ve moved out. Will you even make it to their off-hand anecdotes?
The first two episodes are a strong start, kicking off with its star power of new additions Rudd and Streep. As Arnoniacs may remember from last season, Rudd was seen at the end of episode ten sharing bitter words with co-star Charles-Haden Savage before a curtain goes up on “Death Rattle,” the Broadway production directed by Oliver Putnam. (The play is about a baby accused of murder, naturally.) And then Rudd’s character Ben Glenroy collapses on stage without a pulse.
“Only Murders in the Building” does get a juicy murder for its season, but that isn’t it—it’s quickly revealed at the play’s Opening Night party (what, you thought Oliver would cancel it?) that Ben is alive. He storms back into the party and addresses his fellow cast members, including social media influencer Kimber (Ashley Park), the handsome co-lead Ty (Gerald Caesar), his understudy Jonathan (Jason Veasey), the play’s nanny Loretta (Meryl Streep), and Charles. Ben really doesn’t like Charles.
Ben is truly (finally?) murdered not long after, in the Arconia, with a laugh-out-loud reaction from one of the apartment’s most expressive residents, Uma (Jackie Hoffman). But while the trio starts their investigation, this season is most of all about the heart—and heart rate—of Oliver. After getting a pan in-person from a critic (who tells him his mystery “just doesn’t sing”), the scarf-wearing theatrical titan has a heart attack. He then gets a heart-monitoring device, and advice that he needs to not stress. But the show must go on, so he reimagines “Death Rattle” as a tried-and-true musical, now with triplets. He falls for Loretta in the process, and “Only Murders in the Building” gets its true show-stopping moments when Short and Streep are flirting. Short successfully breaks Oliver’s character from his known sassiness in these moments and reveals a deep sensitivity.