Only Murders in the Building understands the possibilities that can emerge when fandoms breach the real world, and the joy behind connecting over a love for a particular thing. The collective power of a fandom to get shows back on air, organize protests, or donate to charities is quite frankly amazing. Here, a mutual love for a true crime podcast leads to three lonely neighbors investigating a murder in their apartment building.
There’s nothing better than discovering that someone else loves something just as much as you do. I met one of my best friends sophomore year of college because we were both sitting on a couch outside a classroom, waiting for our non-fiction workshop to begin. She caught me scrolling through the Supernatural tag on Tumblr. Now, we call each other Dean and Sam respectively, for no other reason than as an acknowledgement for how our friendship began. Only Murders in the Building knows how special those bonds are, and how that first moment of connection can lead to great things.
One night, Mabel (Selena Gomez,) Oliver (Martin Short,) and Charles (Steve Martin), living on three different floors, listen to a new episode of their favorite podcast, “All Is Not OK in Oklahoma.” They’ve met only briefly, unaware they share the same love for true crime. Fire alarms interrupt the podcast, and the three soon find themselves at a restaurant across the street, where they meet again over exclamations of “what does Bo have in his mouth?!,” a critical point in the murder investigation in Oklahoma. Caught up in the excitement of trading theories and mapping out what they know from the podcast, they jump at the chance to uncover the truth about the dead body in their apartment building.
All three are at an impasse in their lives—Charles is a washed up TV actor, barely remembered for his once famous detective role; Oliver has delusions that his next big idea will end up on Broadway despite numerous past shows he’s directed flopping; and Mabel lives in a huge apartment by herself, only alluding to an aunt she’s renovating the apartment for, but keeps everything else close to her chest. It’s because of this mutual impasse, three lonely people at different stages in their lives but brought together by their love for true crime, that allows their strange journey to begin.
Created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, the first three episodes, which dropped on Hulu last week, takes us through the halls of the Arconia, in and out of the lives of the residents of this old and vast apartment building in Manhattan. It’s a perfect landscape for a murder investigation, with plenty of suspects to meet and sifle through. At times, it’s as if we’re in the middle of a game of Clue, the neighbors just as archetypal and camp as you’d expect. There’s a gothic resonance ringing through the walls, creating an atmosphere both welcoming and unsettling.
As with any good murder mystery, the more we learn about our murder victim and the possible suspects, the more we peel back the layers of our primary investigators. The second episode is titled “Who is Tim Kono?” which dives deep into the background of our murder victim, but also the secrets Charles, Oliver, and especially Mable are keeping. It’s not long before they become suspicious of each other, and I wish the show allowed them to bask in their fandom a bit longer before this new mystery begins. However, the seeds of friendship are there, and their secrets are soon to unravel.
Steve Martin and Martin Short are no strangers to working together, appearing alongside each other in Three Amigos! (1986,) Father of the Bride (1991,) and Father of the Bride Part II (1995). They also did a Netflix special together in 2018, An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, which was nominated for four Emmys. They’re old hats at this and their frenemy beginning in Only Murders in the Building makes for a great comedic duo. Selena Gomez plays the straight man to their antics, but is just as funny as these comedy legends.
Gomez’s best moments come when the ridiculousness of her neighbors and her investigative partners become too much, dropping pointed and satisfying “what the fucks” at the end of scenes. But there are complexities to Mabel and Gomez holds those mysteries near the surface, only shining through in small moments when she’s with Martin and Short, and bursting through when she’s alone on screen. As the one seemingly directly tied to the murder investigation, Mabel is mysterious, but there’s a motivation for the truth beyond just making a podcast that also makes her the most dynamic character.
This fandom Mabel, Oliver, and Charles created together seeps further into their lives, beyond theories, into avenues that lead to deeper connections and growth previously not obtained by them.
Only Murders in the Building is not just a show about the fandom behind true crime, but a comedy rich with mystery about the people we share our lives with, either by choice or circumstance, and how our love for one thing can lead to adventures we never see coming.
Only Murders in the Building airs news episodes every Tuesday on Hulu.