by Vishnu Potharaju (’24) | November 19, 2021
Mystery. Betrayal. Selena Gomez. A man in a tie-dye sweatshirt. All are the puzzle pieces for a perfect mystery show. Hulu’s latest release, Only Murders in the Building, combines all of these elements. Created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, the show stars Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. Comprised of ten episodes, the show centers around the trio, who are all avid true crime podcast listeners. The group trys to solve the murder of a Tim Kono, a man who lived in their building. Filled with twists and turns, this show keeps you hooked until the very last second.
Tim Kono was a man of many mysteries. He lived in The Arconia, a towering building in New York home to countless bizarre personalities. The three main characters notice him when they share a brief elevator ride with him. Shortly after the interaction, Kono is brutally murdered in his own apartment. The murderer pulls the fire alarm and uses the evacuation as cover to leave the apartment. During the exodus, a man wearing a tie-dye sweatshirt is noticed walking up the stairs, instead of down. The three mystery enthusiasts eventually find their way to each other after Kono’s murder and make the brave (but slightly delusional) decision to investigate Kono’s death on their own, making a podcast as they go along.
Throughout the show, each character’s background and personal secrets are uncovered. Steve Martin plays Charles Hadan-Savage, a quippy, but tired, ex-actor, who is known for his single hit role in an action series. He uses this investigation as a way to relive his “glory days” and cover up his loneliness after a bitter breakup. Martin Short plays Oliver Putnam, a Broadway director who is trying to distract himself from the long run of theatrical failures he has faced in recent years.
Selena Gomez plays Mabel—a young, sarcastic woman with a mysterious past. Mabel has minimal interest in working with Charles or Oliver, but pushes herself to join because of her innate attraction to murder mysteries. As the show goes on, the viewers begin to understand that Mabel may have more of a connection to the case than previously expected.
One of the show’s most powerful episodes is Episode 7, “The Boy from 6B.” Told from the perspective of Theo Dimas, the deaf son of a suspect in Tim’s murder, the episode conveys a thrilling plot without any verbal dialogue. Instead, actions and occasional sign language work together to provide backstory and add to the current plot, in order to move the show forward.
This episode is unique due to the lack of a single line or sound effect. The camera focuses significantly more on the simple actions of the characters. The lack of talking also makes facial expressions all the more important in this episode: how the characters react and think about events can be portrayed very strongly with just their faces. This story also gives an insight into a deaf person’s perspective of normal conversations, like how they analyze and break down statements using more than just a person’s words.
Such representation of deaf characters and normalized use of ASL is always welcome in modern television, but the show uses this as a twist to give the viewers a unique experience in a relatively common genre. How often are you solving a murder with Selena Gomez without ever hearing a word? The lack of sound brings a unique level of tension and seriousness to an overall humorous show, keeping you hooked to the screen the whole time and leaving you begging for more.
Overall, Only Murders in the Building is a lighthearted, fun show that keeps you gripped until the last episode. The show builds suspense incredibly well by using unique characters that live in the building, as well as characters who are closely related to the main trio to keep you asking the question: “Who killed Tim Kono?” The final episode has an incredibly satisfying ending, and comes with a final scene that packs a twist so hard it might give you whiplash. Martin, Short, and Gomez knock it out of the park with the effortless chemistry that makes this show such a fun watch.
If you’re in the mood for an intense, hilarious, show to binge in one sitting, I would highly recommend checking out The Arconia and all of its fascinating tenants.