By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Hulu struck gold in 2021 with Only Murders in the Building, the quirky murder mystery comedy known for the fantastic chemistry among its leading trio. In 2022, series creators Steve Martin and John Hoffman proved that their initial success with season one wasn’t a fluke as they delivered another season filled with charm and heart. This summer, Only Murders in the Building will see its third season debut on Hulu and, with it, expectations are high given the heights of humor and sleuthing reached in the previous seasons. Thankfully, the series continues its incredible winning streak with a third season featuring its hallmark sense of humor and some of the show’s best mystery elements to date, all bound together by television’s most likable and magnetic leading trio.
Only Murders in the Building Season 3 picks up where Season 2 tantalizingly left off, although, like its preceding season, this season wipes the slate clean with a new mystery. Recall the Season 2 finale in which Martin Short’s Oliver Putnam made his Broadway comeback directing a play on the world’s grandest stage. This great comeback is cut short, however, when the play’s leading man Ben Glenroy (played by Paul Rudd) drops dead on stage. Now, the trio of Steve Martin’s Charles-Haden Savage, Selena Gomez’s Mabel Mora, and Oliver Putnam find themselves in the center of another intriguing mystery to solve.
The final moments of Season 2 did something unique in mystery television shows by presenting the central murder that the subsequent season will focus on. In doing so, however, the series moved forward a number of months and, in turn, skipped over much of the background and context for the mystery. Intelligently, series co-creator John Hoffman and company open Season 3 with plenty of flashbacks to flesh out the murder victim and the events leading up to its death. This non-linear storytelling approach that characterizes the early episodes of Season 3 proves extremely engaging, as the audience fluctuates between being side-by-side the trio on their investigation and being behind the scenes as Putnam’s play comes together.
With unexpected twists and turns arriving seemingly every few minutes, the Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery that serves as the driving narrative force in Season 3 compels more than that of Season 2. Although the investigation into Bunny Folger’s murder in Season 2 was captivating, Season 3’s mystery is anchored by a more dynamic victim in Paul Rudd’s Ben Glenroy character. Rudd is brilliant in the series, featuring heavily in a number of flashbacks that add context to the faithful night of the premiere of Putnam’s play and Glenroy’s shocking murder. Rudd is delightfully over-the-top in a manner that fits perfectly with the heightened performances of Steve Martin, Martin Short, and others in the series. He’s likably dislikable, or just dislikable, and plays the role of an arrogant, self-obsessed actor to perfection.
A more solid foundation for the series’ murder investigation makes Season 3 extremely enjoyable to follow, although it doesn’t flow quite as well as previous seasons. After a brilliant premiere episode, Season 3 stumbles a bit with its pacing, especially as the charming trio at the heart of the show feel more separated than ever before. This issue is overcome several episodes in as the season settles into a structure and the murder investigation plows ahead full steam. In true Agatha Christie fashion, the series excellently establishes all sorts of different suspects, plants so many clues and red herrings, and takes the audience along for an immersive television watching experience. Even the most seasoned whodunit lovers will find that the writers of Only Murders in the Building Season 3 have a firm grasp on what makes an engrossing and unpredictable murder mystery. Each episode concludes on a tantalizing cliffhanger that makes you desperate to figure out what’s going to happen next.
Although excelling with its murder mystery elements, Only Murders in the Building’s greatest triumph continues to be the magnetism of its core trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. The three have such mesmerizing chemistry and possess a natural conversation flow and banter that rivals any seen in contemporary television. Each actor brings a unique flavor of humor to the mix that collectively complement one another so well. It’s still hilarious to see Steve Martin’s Charles-Haden Savage desperately clinging onto the fame of his Brazzos days, a gag that has somehow continued to prove effective for three straight seasons now. Selena Gomez, meanwhile, deadpans like no other and brings a loving granddaughter energy to the mix, all while delightfully playing off the age gap between her and her two older friends. Martin and Gomez don’t have as strong character arcs as previous seasons, but their likability and senses of humor wholeheartedly remain.
But, amidst this trio, it’s really Martin Short that shines the brightest. Short steals almost every scene he is in and has endless numbers of namedrops and references that never grow tired. Short is also given the most substantive character arc in Season 3, primarily through his relationship with Meryl Streep’s Loretta character.
Yes, it’s still incredible to think the one and only Meryl Streep is now in Only Murders in the Building. And, much to our surprise, Streep plays a significant role in the show. Far more than The Sting or Amy Schumer cameos from earlier seasons, Streep’s Loretta character is fully fleshed out and fits right in with the quirky, cozy tone of the series. In a not-so-subtle wink to the audience, Streep plays an actress who has struggled her entire career to secure acting gigs and is finally given her big break in Oliver Putnam’s Broadway return. Although Rudd’s addition to the series is fantastic, it’s with Meryl Streep’s inclusion that the third season really founds out as something different and special.
With its third season premiering later this summer, Only Murders in the Building continues to impress as television’s coziest and quirkiest series. Improving upon the previous season with a more unpredictable central mystery, Season 3 retains the series’ captivating whodunit sensibilities, although its pacing stumbles in the middle of the season. The core trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez are just as likable and entertaining as ever, with Martin Short standing out as the season’s continual scene-stealer. In supporting roles, Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep add great humor and depth to the series, fitting right in with the series’ unique and over-the-top tone. For an incredible three years in a row now, Only Murders in the Building has firmly positioned itself as one of the most easily watchable and entertaining television shows out there. Fans will undoubtedly love the premiere when it streams next month on Hulu, and the week-long wait for each episode will be difficult to endure.
Only Murders in the Building Season 3 premieres August 8, 2023 on Hulu. Eight episodes of Season 3 were screened for this review.