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  • Writer's picturecasey

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 and the Power of a Musical Number

This should’ve been a two season show. Every new murder in this building makes the show less plausible. As far as I’m concerned, foreshadowing Bunny’s murder in the pilot episode is the only reason they even got away with a second one. Plus, you never see any deliberate two season shows, wouldn’t that be cool?

Now, after three, it’s gotten silly- but I don’t entirely mean that in a bad way. Even from its compelling start, I don’t think it was ever a show to be taken too seriously. It’s cozy. It’s comfort food. It’s the perfect hangover show. And it might embrace cutesy self-awareness more successfully than anything else I’ve ever seen.

Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building. Image courtesy of IMDb.

Season three delivered another pretty solid mystery, but it recognized that at this point, we’re here for the antics just as much as we’re here for the plot. Death Rattle Dazzle is a hilarious device that carried this season on its back. Martin Short directing Steve Martin, Paul Rudd, and Meryl Streep in a dramatic musical mystery about which infant triplet killed their mother in a premeditated homicide is a swing that doesn’t miss. They got like three whole episodes worth of plot out of the patter song, “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?”, and I’m here to say that I have no problem with that. The stars are having fun, but they aren’t selling out.

I love a musical number in a tv show. Jessica Lange’s “Life on Mars” and “The Name Game” (American Horror Story), Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein’s “Get Happy” (House), Sam Claflin and Riley Keough’s “Look at Us Now” (Daisy Jones and the Six), and Justin Theroux’s “Homeward Bound” (The Leftovers) cross my mind often as reminders that a little song and dance can have a significant place in any genre.

Charles being at first incapable of singing “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?” without sacrificing his sanity, followed by Matthew Broderick dropping in to rattle it off under his breath, finally resolving with Charles redeeming himself with a pitch-perfect performance that parallels their own murder investigation puts this song on the map for me.

Steve Martin in Only Murders in the Building. Image courtesy of Exclaim!

And when we finally get to hear the song in its entirety, with full fanfare, the lyrics are laugh out loud funny. “Time for you or you or you to admit it!” is probably my favorite, but lines like “Which crib, which sib will be doing hard time?” really convey the humor in the entire premise of the musical without us having to watch the whole production. The song is on Spotify, I’ve been listening to it at the gym.

I don’t have many thoughts about the actual murder this season, although I will say that a good mystery is one of the most delicate things to pull off- and I think they do. I’m 0 for 3 guessing these killers, and I like it that way. If I see it coming from a mile away, I’m bored- and a little insulted. If the answer is out of left field, delivered at the eleventh hour by a crucial clue that I as an audience member had no way of knowing, I feel like I didn’t get a fair crack at it. The audience should be close enough on a story’s tail that they don’t beat it to the finish line, but they’re kicking themselves for it.

All that to say: the mystery holds up, but it’s the song that still has me bringing up Only Murders in conversation. I don’t hold this show to the same critical standard as some others because even though it’s not reinventing the wheel, I think it’s achieving its intention.

Still from Only Murders in the Building. Image courtesy of IMDb.

And I’m optimistic about season four! I find this trio endearing, and the obligatory season finale cliffhanger murder feels much less random than season two’s hail Mary with a brand-new cast member. I’ll really miss Sazz; Jane Lynch looking just like Steve Martin is a bit that’s funny every time. But I think we’ll get a good amount of flashbacks, and probably a deeper dive into Charles’s Brazzos era, which sounds like a great time to me.

Do you still watch this show? What are your speculations about next season? How many murders can there be in this building? Does asking that question within the show make it any less implausible? Have you noticed the print Charles has in his kitchen that just says “nice hot vegetables”?

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