Just under a year after its critically acclaimed first season, “Only Murders in the Building” (2021–) returned with a new murder mystery this summer. With a superbly talented cast led by Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, the Hulu original continues to entertain audiences with an impressive blend of comedy and mystery.
In the first season, television actor Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), Broadway director Oliver Putnam (Short) and young artist Mabel Mora (Gomez) team up to create a true-crime podcast after a mysterious death in their Upper West Side apartment building. Despite their differences, the socially awkward Charles, self-absorbed Oliver and mysterious Mabel form an unlikely bond. The season 1 finale provides a setup for this year’s story, as the building’s board president, Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell), is murdered and the three amateur sleuths find themselves accused of the crime.
As with any show coming off a successful first season, “Only Murders” faces the challenge of living up to the success of its first season. Season 1 established the chemistry and comedic talents of the series’ leads, along with a well-constructed whodunnit set against a vibrant New York backdrop. Despite the story’s high stakes, the show never takes itself too seriously, with meta jokes about the difficulty of pulling off a highly anticipated sequel.
Co-created by Steve Martin, “Only Murders” pokes fun at the public’s obsession with true crime as the three leads attempt to solve the murders taking place in their building, reporting their findings as they go on their podcast, also called “Only Murders in the Building.” The building in question is the Arconia, a fictional Manhattan complex where most of the series’ events take place. The interior of the luxurious building is intricately designed, with stylish apartments that complement the characters’ personalities. The costumes, too, are colorful and eye-catching, allowing the characters to stand out amid the fast-paced world around them.
Of course, the show would be nothing without its cast. Comedy legends Martin and Short find moments of humor in every scene, and Gomez balances them out with impressive deadpan delivery. The show’s universe is populated by eccentric supporting characters, many of them played by talented comedic actors like Tina Fey, Jane Lynch and Nathan Lane (who recently earned his first Primetime Emmy for his guest performance in season 1). Several compelling new characters are introduced in season 2, including Alice Banks (Cara Delevingne), a love interest for Mabel, and Nina Lin (Christine Ko), the Arconia’s new board president.
The show’s dialogue is sharper than ever, especially in conversations between Charles and Oliver that allow the veteran actors to show off their physicality and comedic timing. The show’s cross-generational humor is improved from season 1, as the writers find new ways to highlight the cultural differences between Mabel and her elderly neighbors. Season 2 dives deeper into the lives of the show’s protagonists, too, and we learn more about their families, their histories and their relationships with each other. We even get a peek into the personal lives of some supporting characters, like murder victim Bunny Folger and cat lover Howard Morris, in moments that expand the world of the show. If anything, this season spends a little too much time on character studies, forcing viewers to recall where they left off in the ongoing murder mystery. Nevertheless, season 2 presents a whodunnit that allows viewers to speculate along with the characters as they come closer to identifying Bunny’s killer.
One of the highlights of “Only Murders” is its music, composed by Siddhartha Khosla. Khosla’s music matches the whimsical vibes of the series, while more dramatic moments are scored with suspense. The show has one of the catchiest theme songs on TV, and the intro is always fun to watch, with hidden clues that point to future reveals in the story.
Although season 2 at times strayed away from the mystery at the heart of its story, the last few episodes are full of twists and turns that will leave viewers waiting for the big reveal. The payoff comes in the season finale, culminating with an unexpected twist that’s truly worth the wait. And just like in season 1, the final episode provides a setup for next season, making opening night of Oliver’s new Broadway play the scene of the crime and his lead actor (Paul Rudd) the victim. The real crime of “Only Murders” is making us wait until next year to find out what happens next.