Only Murders In The Building Season Two Review

Danette Chavez has shared her review of Only Murders in the Building's season two.

The season two premiere went out of its way to reassure viewers that this is the same show we fell in love with last year, piling on the in-world references like so much hummus on a chip. All of the callbacks and highlighting of callbacks made the series appear less confident in its return than it did in its debut, but those (second) opening-night jitters begin to fade in "Framed," just in time for the arrival of Shirley freaking MacLaine.

Tim Kono's backstory was gradually revealed last season: parts of his childhood, a life-altering decision he made as a young adult, his quest to make things right, and his death at the hands of his ex, Jan. The Arconia was the epicenter of it all, the location where he atoned for betraying his good friend Oscar. This structure is more than just a backdrop for tragicomedy; it's a world unto itself, and it'll play an even bigger role in season two. Bunny Folger's story, we're told, is linked to the Arconia's in a much more direct way than the other residents'.

The episode's flashbacks, however, are dominated by Charles, who, as a young boy, assisted his father in preparing for "auditions" at a building across from the Arconia. The older Savage (I don't think we know his first name yet) was using the boy to cover up multiple affairs, further complicating Charles's sad life. He was present when his father was arrested and dragged out of the same building near the Arconia in a blood-splattered shirt. Mr. Savage was a bad father and husband, according to a season-one monologue (written by Brazzos himself), but was he also a murderer? Also, what's the deal with this Upper West Side block?

Only Murders uses Charles as a mirror for the murder victim once more. He mirrored Tim Kono's isolation and loneliness in season one. He has even more in common with Bunny, whose family life may have been disrupted by his philandering father. Steve Martin also returns to do the heavy lifting in the first two episodes of the season, as Charles begins to consider what his father might have done and the possibility that Bunny is his half-sister.

But there is some good news for Charles: a reboot of The Brazzos has already been ordered to series, so he's back (as long as he doesn't go to jail). Charles doesn't seem to mind that he'll be playing second fiddle to a young woman, which isn't surprising given how well he gets along with Mabel. Because of this casting, there's a chance that this latest show within a show will recreate the dynamic between Mabel and Charles.

What was once lively meta-humor is now beginning to feel apologetic, especially now that the case is being followed by a whole new team of podcasters admittedly, Cinda Canning et al. are pros. And, with the new murder and all the new characters, it just doesn't seem efficient to draw attention to jokes that have already been made or to mention that a show is forming within this show especially since there are at least four by now, counting Cinda's podcasts.

The time is much better spent with the Arconia three as they do just about anything else. Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin are one of the best ensembles on TV right now, and it’s a joy to watch their characters alternately bicker and support one another. When Oliver goes off on one of his name-dropping binges, Mabel provides the perfect button for the moment: “Okay, you must ask permission to tell stories from now on.” And Charles’s typically crisp pronunciation makes “Is that a shadow or a tiny bit of his balls?” one of the funniest line readings so far.

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The core trio is as solid and dynamite as ever, as are returning secondary characters such as Howard (Michael Cyril Creighton) and Uma (Jackie Hoffman), who now seem to hold very different opinions of the building podcasters and Bunny. It’s the new additions that are more of a mixed bag. Amy Schumer wields a blithe arrogance here as part of her heightened persona, but that’s really all there is to it. (She should’ve asked her Trainwreck co-star LeBron James for tips.) That said, I would probably watch a show where she tries to play Amy Ryan while little Timothée Chalamet does his best Martin Short.

Bunny’s mother, Leonora, is the most immediately compelling so far; MacLaine makes her imperious yet earthy. She knows exactly what she wants out of life — a painting, a cocotini (made with coconut liqueur, not, as Howard thinks, chocolate), a lover — and she goes after it. And yet she may not have always been this way, or at least she knows that not all women move through the world this way. She recognizes the plight of women like Rose Cooper, without the means to get out of a possibly abusive relationship, who only rate posthumously: “That’s the lot of a woman — in order to be recognized, you have to disappear.” Leonora isn’t the type to disappear, though; she doesn’t even blink when she tells Charles she was sleeping with his dad, who was also sleeping with Rose Cooper.

That line offers some of the smartest and subtlest commentary on the true-crime genre in the season so far. The show is less subtle when it comes to Mabel, who, at Alice’s behest, destroys a sculpture of herself to tear down the past, I guess? The stuff about her aptitude for puzzles in the premiere felt like a part of what Mabel’s mom said about her desire to find out the ending of a story before she could finish reading it. And it made me realize we don’t know anything about Mabel’s dad, who might come back in a big way if Charles’s story line is any indication.

Alice is supposed to be an intriguing new romantic prospect for Mabel (and it's easy to see why), but she reminds me of Oscar in some ways (though she's much better dressed). We're not sure if she's good for Mabel, and she's clearly hiding something. But I believe the show made the right decision in moving on from Oscar; his relationship with Mabel was always more friendly than romantic. Otherwise, Oscar might have become too central to the show, throwing the balance off. Good luck, Tie-Dye Guy.

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