Home » ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 3 Review – The Show Must Go On

‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 3 Review – The Show Must Go On

by Beatrine Shahzad
Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez star in ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING Season 3 on Hulu.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the show being covered here wouldn’t exist.

In the flighty age of streaming renewals, audiences have been blessed with Only Murders in the Building season 3. Created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, each season follows a trio of true crime enthusiasts as they podcast their way through solving a murder that takes place in the building they all live in, The Arconia. Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) become unlikely friends as they navigate the twists and turns of the investigation, but they always manage to solve it in the end.

The critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated season 2 of Only Murders in the Building revolved around themes of fatherhood. All of the main characters, and a few supporting roles, grappled with their individual relationships with their fathers in some way. In Oliver’s case, he grappled with his reality as a father. The season ends on a hopeful note, and then fast forwards a couple of months to preview the next season. It’s the opening night of theater director Oliver’s new play. All seems to be going well, until the star of the show, Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd), drops dead on stage. Chaos ensues, and the stage is set for a new murder mystery. 

Only Murders in the Building season 3 is about the cost of being a creative. Not in a narrow sense, as in mere sacrifice, but the choices creatives make and how they persevere through rejection. What sets this perspective apart from numerous other stabs at the subject is the angle the show approaches, further at a distance. Rather than young characters with a naive fire and impatient drive, the characters in Only Murders in the Building are older, past their prime, yet still imbued with the desire to create. They have regrets tied to their careers as well as hopes for a new project. Even Mabel, younger than her co-leads, is nearing her 30s and is struggling to find the project to finally define who she is. These ideas around creation are summed up nicely in the monologue opening the season, before launching into the context around the murder. 

If there’s ever been a Broadway-themed season of television, it’s this one. Pasek and Paul, lyricists of La La Land and composers of Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman, are credited as consulting producers as well as composers for the songs (and are accompanied by multiple recognizable co-writers). Steve Martin also has experience with Broadway, having written the musical Bright Star. Not only does the setting revolve around Broadway, but there are also numerous inside jokes and tongue-in-cheek references. Any theater fan will feel seen here. It’s accessible even if you aren’t familiar with Broadway. Being a fan will definitely enrichen your experience though. It will also help you identify the multiple celebrity guest appearances and cameos, some specific to theater and others also toeing into tv and film. 

This latest season of Only Murders in the Building is perfectly cast. Beloved comedic actor Paul Rudd plays an egotistical, outlandish actor known for the fictional IPs of Cobro (a superhero franchise about… a cobra man?) and Girl Cop (a teen police procedural tv comedy). Meryl Streep joins the cast as a talented actress finally reaching her big break late in life. An actress as legendary as Meryl Streep couldn’t be placed on the silver screen as an actress without some sort of meta-reflection on who she is, and the writers choose a great deal of irony. She slips effortlessly into her role as the down-to-earth and charming undiscovered thespian, nothing short of the performances the world has come to expect from her. Both Rudd and Meryl are fantastic in their roles, seamlessly blending in with an already established and enjoyable cast.

Of course, Charles, Oliver, and Mabel are bound to have their rocky moments throughout the season. However, in Only Murders in the Building season 3, their subplots feel divorced from one another. Oliver is wholly focused on his play, Mabel fully sinks into solving the murder, and Charles deals with both while also wrapped up in his own crises. As always, Martin Short’s performance as the eccentric Oliver Putnam is simultaneously absurd and empathetic, perfectly riding that delicate line, and he is the standout of the season as he neurotically helms a massive creative undertaking. Steve Martin and Selena Gomez’s performances are more reserved but no less compelling. Mabel struggles with feeling directionless and shoulders her scenes of genuine insight well. Meanwhile, Charles grapples with insecurity, yet he does it in a very classically Steve Martin way, playing with some comedic bits very true to his history as a performer. 

While the central murder mystery ties all the plotlines and characters together, it does not feel like the heart of Only Murders in the Building season 3. If anything, it hardly feels pressing. The characters are not in any immediate danger, and most seem to have bigger issues in their life. New faces are introduced as suspects, like Ashley Park as a Broadway ingenue and TikTok influencer named Kimber and Jesse Williams as a documentarian named Tobert, but it’s difficult to believe they deserve to be caught or pose a danger to others. It would be nice to learn who killed Ben Glenroy, however, this is not what drives the audience to click play on the next episode.

At a certain point during the last two seasons, you could make all these theories on the methods and motives of the murder. You could follow the clues one by one along with the characters. This season, not so much. There is still clever detective work done on screen, but it isn’t as gripping as it once was. The drama lies elsewhere. And perhaps that’s for the better, considering that the murderer reveals in the previous season, though very funny to watch, was not as satisfactory as anticipated.

As far as its murder mystery goes, Only Murders in the Building season 3 doesn’t boast the show’s best. Nonetheless, the heart of the Hulu original series has never beat louder. The episodes are as enjoyable as they always have been, plus this time there are catchy musical pieces. And something that resonates with me, and the audience, about the desire to create. The show has always been delightfully sincere and readily hilarious, and this season embodies those qualities to a degree surpassing its predecessors. Even if the last two episodes of the season reveal a lackluster conclusion to the murder, it doesn’t matter because the ride itself was wonderful in every sense.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 premieres on Hulu August 8!

Follow writer Beatrine Shahzad on Twitter: @beyabean

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