Only Murders in the Building is back, and after a sophomore season that upped the cozy vibes but meandered a little through a looser, less tightly plotted murder caper, season three finds the balance between all the things Murders wants to be—a New York show, an intergenerational hangout sitcom, a dark comedy, a true crime satire, a love letter to Broadway—to deliver a season that is both a cracking good murder mystery and a sweetly melancholic meditation on friendship and growing up. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez are back as Charles-Haden Savage, Oliver Putnam, and Mabel Mora, respectively, and though this trio has always been one of the principal charms of Murders, they have simply never been better than they are this season.


But it’s not just them—this is the strongest ensemble Murders has fielded yet, and the balance of the storytelling is very well managed between the central Arconia trio and the eccentric cast of Oliver’s new Broadway Show, a murder mystery called, appropriately, Death Rattle. Meryl Streep steps in as Loretta, an actor who never got her big break and has toiled for decades in anonymity until cast as The Nanny in Oliver’s show. Paul Rudd stars as Ben Glenroy, an asshole movie star making his Broadway debut. We know from the end of season two that Ben is this season’s “dead body”, but the writers have some fun with the circumstances that not only provides an intriguing layer for the mystery, but also allows them to poke a little fun at themselves on a meta level for how thin the show’s central premise is getting. (How many people can die in The Arconia before its property value plummets?)

Rudd and Streep are obviously having a ball, and the show itself has a lot of fun with them. Ben Glenroy is the star of a superhero franchise called CoBro, in which he turns into a giant snake that fights crime—an obvious riff on Ant-Man (there are also LOTS of Rudd-centric Easter eggs scattered around the sets and the closing credits). Ben also shares a goofy yet tender scene with Mabel that benefits from Rudd and Gomez’s real-life friendship while also showing how impactful entertainers can be in our lives, especially TV stars whom we invite into our homes every week. Mabel really cares about finding Ben’s killer, not because she knew him or even particularly liked him, but because of what he represents in her life. 


Streep, meanwhile, gets to play a perpetually down-on-her-luck actor whose tendency to go big with accents often misfires, another obvious riff, this time on Streep’s actual reputation for flawless accent work. But while the meta jokes are fun, Loretta is a compelling character and Streep is, as you’d expect, incredibly good as an actor getting a late in life break, and a woman with a late in life chance at love. Oliver, you see, is completely smitten with Loretta, so it’s all the more upsetting to him when she, along with everyone else involved in Death Rattle, comes under suspicion for Ben’s death.

The first two seasons of Murders deal with loneliness and connection, and season three asks the question of what happens when the lives of lonely people start to go well? Oliver finally has another shot at Broadway after the disastrous Splash! The Musical, and he has his budding romance with Loretta and an improved relationship with his son. Charles, meanwhile, is starring in Death Rattle, marking a career comeback, while also settling into a relationship with his longtime friend and makeup artist, Joy (Andrea Martin), or trying to, anyway. It’s not all sunshine and roses, Oliver and Charles both face setbacks, but generally, things are looking up and they’re really quite busy.


Too busy for Mabel, who is struggling with being left behind, ironically, by her septuagenarian friends. Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) still wants to produce a “Bloody Mabel” podcast, but Mabel’s not sold on that idea. She’s still lost, still floundering without a real direction to her life even as she pushes 30, and she’s lonelier than ever as Charles and Oliver spend most of their time at the theater. The chance to investigate Ben’s death isn’t just a personal issue for her, it’s also a chance to reconnect with her “guys”. And it might represent her future, as she teams up with Tobert (Jesse Williams), a handsome documentarian, to investigate Ben’s death.

Murders skillfully balances the tension between Oliver and Charles trying to restart their careers—maybe Oliver a little more than Charles—with Mabel’s struggle to find her path in life, and the murder that creates conflict between them. Oliver will do anything to protect his production, it’s his last chance to succeed on Broadway and he knows it. But Mabel equally as passionately believes in finding Ben’s killer, and Charles is sort of stuck in the middle, trying to placate both while dealing with his own personal crises. 


It sounds like a lot, yet it never feels like too much. In its third season, Murders has the same deft touch with characters and pacing as it did in season one, serving the interests of the ensemble and the show’s core appeal—murder mystery, real estate porn, Mabel’s outstanding sweater and coat collection—with aplomb (though Ashley Park is underutilized as grifting ingenue Kimber). Season three is delightful, a genuinely good mystery wrapped up in cozy vibes and enviable outerwear. I don’t know how many people can die at The Arconia before it becomes completely implausible, but it feels like the cast and crew of Only Murders in the Building could do this forever and I would happily watch it.

This review was published during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes of 2023. The work being reviewed would not exist without the labor of writers and actors. Only Murders in the Building season three streams new episodes on Hulu every Tuesday through October 3, 2023.


Attached - Selena Gomez leaving Nobu in Malibu on Monday.