As comfortable as an old arm-chair, and yet bracingly modern with its social media angle and the presence of ingénue Selena Gomez, Only Murders in the Building returns with a welcome third season for high-falutin’ who-dunnits set in and around the Arconia building in Upper West Side Manhattan. Gomez returns alongside Steve Martin and Martin Short for another all-star romp through the darker side of high society, with the new season taking its cue from Broadway, and the vicious back-stabbing motivations of actors; if Cara Delevinge seemed like a infusion of glamour in series two, adding Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep to the cast for season three ups the must-see ante even further.
The final scenes of season two are ret-conned swiftly here; Rudd’s character Ben Glenroy appeared to be murdered on-stage in the final moments, and because Ben was such a jerk (Rudd playing against type for sport), not many mourn him. His death, however, puts a major spoke in the career of Oliver (Short), who as director of the new show, sees his plans thrown into confusion. Teaming up once again with Charles (Martin) and Mabel (Gomez), Oliver and his army of sleuths have to figure out which of the many parties who feel wronged by Ben’s success, namely a slighted performer played by Meryl Streep.
If Rudd gives a terrific, self-effecting turn as an ego-maniac actor, Streep pushes things even further with her character, a walking encyclopaedia of acting neurosis that must have been a joy to create. Hearing her questionable gift of accents, or her nervousness at a read-through offers something of a comic tour-de-force, and allows Streep to make plentiful fun of herself and her profession. That Steep’s show-stopping performance blends right in with the world of Only Murders indicates just how well the whole show works; as before, clues are strewn around in a way that seems random, but the whole enterprise plays engagingly with our expectation of who might the culprit be.
Only Murders in the Building shows no signs of running out of ideas here; they make, break and bend their own rules, while still finding time for character work from Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, Jesse Williams and more. As often with screeners for whodunnits, there’s no access for us critics to the climactic episode, so your guess is as good as mine in terms of who the killer, or killers, are. But there’s no doubt that Only Murders in the Building is something of a welcome respite in today’s troubled times; like the complex novelty song that Martin performs at several points, it’s a carefully constructed amusement designed to look effortless, and certainly doesn’t require much effort for us armchair sleuths to enjoy.
Only Murders in the Building returns on Hulu in the US and Disney+ in the UK from Aug 8th 2023. Thanks to Hulu for advance access to this show.