Another Murder in the Building

‘Only Murders’ only improves for season 2

Few shows, if any, have had an approval rating quite like Only Murders in the Building. Critics love it, audiences praise it, and more people have watched it than any other show in Hulu’s history. Everyone embraces its mix of suspense and comedy.

Starring the unlikely but magnetic combination of veteran comedy movie stars Steve Martin and Martin Short alongside former teen idol Selena Gomez, this show rose from a low-budget indie to a full-blown hit, so much so that Hulu gave it another season. This time, the show couldn’t surprise. Fans had expectations. Given all the hype, what’s remarkable about season 2 is how good it is. You can quibble with aspects of it. Amateur Twitter detectives will find plenty of nitpicks. But the bottom line is this: the show has you firmly, brilliantly, enthusiastically on a string from episode one to episode ten.

It picks up where season 1 left off, with police investigating actor Charles (Martin), producer Oliver (Short) and artist Mabel (Gomez) for the murder of their New York building’s president, who was found dead in Mabel’s apartment with a needle in her throat. Looking to clear Mabel’s name, they bring back their true-crime podcast to set the record straight. The investigation takes some turns, however, when secrets from their past start to surface, like Mabel’s history of violence and Charles’ history of dalliance, making them suspects in their own case. The other tenants from season 1 also return, along with a Greek Chorus of fans who comment on the action, a grab-bag of celebrity cameos, and a puzzle box of subplots that don’t make any sense until you get to episode seven.

Hoffman’s plotting is like a bath-water toy, a dense mass of nothing that takes shape once it’s plunged into hot water. Mabel’s podcast isn’t all that interesting until there’s actual danger involved, which happens when someone thrusts our three detectives into literal hot water. Along the way, the snoops unfold part of the mystery, and reveal the motives before completely rearranging everything in a different order, a comment on the absurdity of these stories. At the heart of Only Murders in the Building is a satire about the silly, inherently wacky nature of murder mystery tropes and how we’ve accepted them for centuries. Why do these murders always happen in apartments? Why is there always a suspect who looks like they’re on crack? It’s a fun little joke that the show tucks into this star-studded ensemble, one that makes it much more intriguing and worth watching.

That’s not to say the other elements pale in comparison. Nothing could be more delightful than watching Martin tip-toe through a tiny, secret wooden hallway. Add to that Short hurtling catchphrases, Gomez’s super sassy eye-rolls, Shirley MacLaine trying to navigate a cheese board, and Amy Schumer dropping lines like, “would you sell me the rights to your podcast so I can make a TV show?” and you’ve got a second season that lives up to the first.

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Asher Luberto

Asher Luberto is a film critic for L.A. Weekly, The Playlist, The Progressive and The Village Voice.

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