Only Murders in the Building Season 3 Series Review: Killing for a song

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 Series Review: Killing for a song

OMITB:3 marks yet another welcome return this season offering immense satisfaction and all-round joy when it comes to both the dead body and the investigation into it
Rating:(4 / 5)

In the very first episode of the third season of our dearly beloved web series, Only Murders in the Building (available in India from August 8 on Disney+Hotstar), the unthinkable happens. A man collapses but, for a change, not in Arconia, the apartment building in New York’s tony Upper West Side that has till date been the scene of crime and home to the celebrity sleuths and podcasters—Broadway director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), semi-retired actor Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) and young artiste Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez). However, just as they are grudgingly thanked by Uma (Jackie Hoffman), the grouchy Arconia resident, for having “the consideration to keep the body out of the building”, more havoc is unleashed, the complicated gets confounding even as the viewers, quite like Mabel and Uma, are left exclaiming: “You gotta be f****** kidding me!”

Cast: Martin Short, Steve Martin, Meryl Streep, Selena Gomez, Paul Rudd

Streaming on: Disney+Hotstar

OMITB:3 marks yet another welcome return this season offering immense satisfaction and all-round joy when it comes to both the dead body and the investigation into it. As always, it quickly draws the viewers in, making them participate, exercising their grey cells rather than remain distant observers.  The writing is just as sharp, narrative easy breezy, replete with characteristic humour. Why even the animated opening credits and the title music by Siddhartha Khosla have such a comforting familiarity.

But there’s lots that is also different this time. With Oliver trying to make a comeback on stage by directing a murder mystery about homicidal babies, called ‘Death Rattle’, most of the series is set in the world of theatre. The sudden, mysterious death of the leading man of his new production, Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd), leaves the entire cast and crew, including himself, under suspicion. Even as the cops charge a random stalker for Ben's murder and Oliver tries to revive the show as a musical in the middle of his growing affection for actor Loretta (Meryl Streep), the trio’s own probe and podcast, both take a backseat.

The investigations stretch longer than usual through the eight episodes that one has been given preview access to with twists and turns, secrets and lies and clues and red herrings leading us nowhere. What’s more, ghosts, hauntings and vitriolic critics make things even more chaotic.  

However, the slowing down is primarily because our favourite detectives are having a tough time dealing with each other, the personal camaraderie and professional equations, both going through a testing phase. The fun of entering Arconia again gets underlined with unease, as Oliver and Charles’s love life and professional ambitions collide with Mabel’s assertion: “Who are we without a homicide?” 

But even in this estrangement, Martin, Short and Gomez are perfectly in tune with each other, their chemistry as potent in discord as in their fellowship in the previous seasons. A special shoutout to Steve Martin for his rendition of patter song as well as the evocation of stage fright in episode 4, called The White Room.

Not just the trio, team spirit is a glue that binds the superb ensemble. Series regular Michael Cyril Creighton aces it this season, yet again playing the quirky Howard, the Arconia resident and aspiring actor-turned Oliver’s manager. Adding to the charm are a luminous Meryl Streep, striking a perfect note, be it singing the lovely lullaby “Hush little one” or expressing maternal instinct for real and on stage. Irony couldn’t have gotten more delicious than to have a thespian and multi-Oscar winner like her play an actor in a long wait for the right break. The usually good guy Paul Rudd is equally delightful and overboard as the dislikeable icon Ben and so is another surprise guest star we’d rather not name for now.

Despite the overwhelming chaos, when it comes to both the show within the series and interpersonal relationships of its primary characters, there’s a wholesomeness that holds OMITB:3 together.

And there's definitely more to it than a murder. Career struggles of actors, personal betrayals, pain of enforced separations, dark and disturbing past, the love of parents for progenies, mothers for their sons give the relevant emotional arc to the third season. Most of all it stands out for doffing the hat to the showmanship of Broadway.

Meanwhile, with two episodes still to go, and fingers getting pointed primarily at one suspect, I have a hunch about who the real killer could be and wondering if I’d be proven right or wrong. Well worth the wait. 

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