Lightning doesn’t often strike twice, and that can definitely be true when it comes to TV series that begin new arcs each season. Covering a murder within the walls of their apartment building in season one of Only Murders in the Building brought a refreshing comedic adventure for its unlikely trio, and the series managed to do it again with a new crime in season two. Now, the show is on to season three and, having previewed its central case at the end of its second season, demonstrates with its opening installments that there’s still plenty of magic to the way its signature trajectory unfolds.
Joining the cast and key to season three are two notable names: Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep. They portray the leads in the play that could bring Oliver (Martin Short) back to prominence. Rudd is cocky showboat Ben Glenroy, whose onstage death is the catalyst for season three’s focus, while Streep is his far more reserved and down-to-earth costar Loretta Durkin, who is delighted at the opportunity for her first big role. Both performers poke fun at their own reputations, since Rudd typically plays nice guys like the titular character Marvel’s Ant-Man franchise and occasionally takes on more serious parts like in The Shrink Next Door, and Streep has certainly not been spared any acclaim given that she holds the record for most Oscar nominations for an actor, having received twenty-one bids over the past four and a half decades, hardly a hidden talent still waiting to be discovered.
The presence of these two very recognizable faces is an asset to a show that likes to amp up the drama and particularly the misdirects so frequently offered as its typically hapless trio struggles to connect the dots. The story is told in multiple timelines at the same time, with Oliver reeling from the potential blow to his resurgent career and working hard to revive it while Charles (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) start to put the pieces together. The earlier rehearsal scenes are very enlightening and entertaining, painting an increasingly intriguing picture of what exactly happened that once again puts these three at the center of a high-profile murder.
The podcast format continues to be replicated in the framing of the show, even if it isn’t nearly as central to the plot itself at the start of the season. That’s a productive step for the show, since it’s meant mostly to mirror the way in which podcasting traces crimes and often gets more invested in false leads and irrelevant drama than actually solving the case. It’s all part of the fun, though there’s a good deal of worthwhile serious content to be found as well as these characters consider what they really want from their lives and if they’re headed in the ideal directions or not.
While Rudd and Streep are noteworthy additions, this show’s best assets continue to be its core three stars. Oliver and Charles acknowledging their age and un-hipness is always amusing, and Mabel gets to have her own antics as her childhood obsession with Ben gives her an unexpected connection to the case – and conjures up the dead man to help her process her investigation out loud. Their onscreen chemistry is a delight, and seeing each try to argue for their own self-importance remains alternately enjoyable and cringeworthy.
Throughout its first two seasons, this show has tapped a dependable ensemble of recurring players and created a vast universe that exists both within the building and outside its walls. Season three continues to utilize both very well while still remaining tightly focused on its main characters and their mission, which of course evolves as they have more suspects and witnesses to consider given the more public nature of the latest case. The show’s title is still applicable, but it is very well aware of how important its physical boundaries are and aren’t to deliver the best possible product once again.
Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building premieres August 8th with two episodes, with one new episode dropping each Tuesday after that on Hulu.