Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez return for a winning second season of Hulu’s delightful murder mystery show.
By Valérie Ettenhofer Published 28 Jun 2022
Welcome to Previously On, a column that gives you a sneak peek at the latest TV. In this edition, Valerie Ettenhofer looks back on Season 2 of Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building.
A while ago at the start of Hulu’s new season Only murders in the building when guest star Amy Schumer explains exactly why she loves the podcast of the same name around which the mystery comedy is built. “I’ve never been so passionate about murder before,” she says, before clarifying that she meant true crime podcasts, “but you guys just made it feel so comfortable. Comfortable murder!”
Indeed, with an even better second season than the first, Steve Martin and John Hoffman’s series is the epitome of a cozy murder show. The series is a perfect mystery for the faint-hearted or the weary serious true criminals. Warm and gentle despite its characters’ obsessions with murder weapons and MOs, Only murders in the building is a sweet oasis of comedy in a world of fast and mean television.
The series’ second season picks up where the first left off, with washed-up actor Charles (Steve Martin), self-aggrandizing theater manager Oliver (Martin Short), and their sardonic and reserved young neighbor Mabel (Selena Gomez) getting arrested for questioning in another murder. This time it’s the stabbing death of their apartment’s board chairman, Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell, terrific in flashback), whom Mabel was found standing on covered in blood in the first season finale.
Only murders in the building invites a whole host of stars aboard for its second ride, starting with Michael Rapaport as bad cop through to Da’Vine’s good cop Joy Randolph. The pair interrogate the Upper West Side’s goofiest investigators who prey on amateur podcasters, but quickly let them go after deeming them to be persons of interest. From there, the trio of disorganized and easily distracted crime fighters are on the case, aiming to clear their names even as an unseen party seems intent on trapping them.
Oliver, Charles, and Mabel also want to make a good sequel season to their podcast, despite Charles’ insistence that most long-running true crime pods never make a direct sequel. Despite his worries, Only murders in the building — the show — is thriving in its second season, in part by downplaying the previously intrusive podcast framing device. The podcast, while less central to season two, serves as a source of great meta-comedy on the show, as a chorus of fans serve as armchair critics, giving commentary that might as well be for the show itself.
The fame the podcast has brought to the trio also puts them front and center, like Schumer (playing a character with her own name that bears no resemblance to her real public persona), a hip artist named Alice (Cara DeLevigne) and Tina Fey podcast star Cindy Canning are all into amateur sleuths. Shirley MacLaine is also invited. Every supporting actor is perfectly employed, and the series deftly balances its newfound mystery with the characters’ personal dramas, so it’s not particularly easy to guess the killer in advance.
Only murder in the buildingThe much-vaunted first season was good but only sporadically funny. When he made decent jokes, they were always in the vein of Martin and Short’s softer material. The show never quite gave its comedy legends a chance to get going. This season’s biggest improvement over the first is that its humor has heightened, with laugh-out-loud moments in each of the eight episodes available for review. Whether Martin jokes about a nude painting or Short makes a wacky, unpredictable comment about one of his ’70s relationships, the pair are more capable than ever of inducing wheezing punchlines.
The purpose of the show has also become clearer over time. The first season of Only murders in the building sometimes felt too light on the comic to be the genre’s best sitcom, but too light on the true crime to be a truly searing satire of cultural obsession. This season, it’s more apparent than ever that the show’s potential flaw is also its greatest asset: light. Despite Mabel’s sense of doom and gloom and the murders at the center of the show, it’s actually a show that’s perfectly content to entertain for half an hour each week without asking much more of its audience than that. The series is a diversion in the best sense, an unpretentious comedy that seems to exist only to bring a touch of joy to viewers’ lives.
That doesn’t mean that Only murders in the building also doesn’t serve as a big mystery in its second season. The case of Bunny’s death is an intriguing handful of clues and suspects, like a big board game about murder mystery. That’s not the only mystery this season, either, as the three members of the podcasting team dig into murky aspects of their own pasts. These storylines woven together make for a great season that’s also another win for the weekly episode format.
A sweet comedy and a thoroughly entertaining mystery, Only murders in the building season two is so good i hope people keep getting knocked down in that old apartment forever.
Related Topics: Only Murders in the Building, Previously Aired
Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, television enthusiast, and macaroni and cheese enthusiast. As a senior contributor to Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the television and documentary branches of the Critics Choice Association. Twitter: @aandeandval (She she)