Disney+ UK review: Only Murders in the Building Season 2
James R | On 29, Jun 2022
New episodes of Season 2 arrive weekly on Tuesdays.
“Do I deliver or do I deliver? That was a line from The Deliver.” That’s Charles Haden-Savage, the washed-up actor best known for playing TV detective Brazzos – at least, among the few people who remember him at all. Played by Steve Martin, he’s a beautifully observed send-up of a failed performer, a lonely and faintly tragic figure who speaks in quotes from his past TV characters and is thrilled when he gets a chance to find fame, recognition and friendship by starting a true crime podcast with self-centred theatre director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), a young woman renovating her aunt’s apartment in their building. The result? Only Murders in the Building and their first season, exploring the death of fellow resident Tim Kono, was hugely popular. The fact that the show and the podcast within it are both hits is, much like Charles Haden-Savage’s perfectly struck balance of heart and self-aware humour, the secret to the show’s success – it manages to be wry and sincere in equal measure. The fact that it’s also a witty whodunnit to boot made it the surprising TV show of 2021. Repeating the same trick might seem an impossible task, but Season 2 (based on the first six episodes) pulls it off with aplomb.
Season 2 of the podcast, of course, is facing the same challenge, with the trio now having to deal with a newfound level of fame due to Only Murders in the Building. Charles gets an offer for a TV reboot he’s always dreamed of. Oliver is approached to sell the rights for a prestige drama based on their Tim Kono investigation. And Mabel has become a social media sensation. But the real source of their notoriety is the ending of Season 1, which found Mabel in a room with the dead body of building president Bunny Folger, apparently stabbed to death with her knitting needle. The result is not only a strong of police interviews, but also a rival podcast investigating the three of them and their connection to Bunny’s murder: Only Murderers in the Building.
Needless to say, the trio all react in exactly the way you’d expect and part of the joy of the series is just well the writers know each character. For Charles, the possibility of him being found guilty is an obstacle to his career renaissance. For Mabel, it sparks a “Bloody Mabel” meme that leaves her even more uncertain over who she is. For Oliver, to whom self-esteem has always come in abundance, it’s a chance to get the celebrity star status. he’s always deserved. “You’re all persons of interest now,” he’s told by the police detective. “Thank you!” he immediately replies.
What inevitably follows is more podcasting, as they try to work out how, why and by whom they’ve been framed. The narrative kicks into gear as we eventually get to find out more about Bunny, with a day in the life of the antisocial and not widely liked building president – a standing not helped by the fact that, as she’s about to retire, she decides she’s not ready to let go of power just yet. But where the show truly shines is in the warmth and enjoyment that the central trio get from being with each other again, and Season 2 is at its best when kicking back slightly to explore them all in more detail. Steve Martin continues to plumb unexpected emotional depths as Charles reconnects with his daughter, while Oliver is an overbearing delight as we spend time with him and his son. Selena Gomez, meanwhile, is the deceptive iceberg of the group, giving Mabel a guarded and cautious front that only makes her inner turmoil more intriguing.
If all that sounds serious, you’re never more than a minute away from another quotable one-liner, whether that’s from our threesome or the scene-stealing Tina Fey as their podcasting rival, who also steals ideas from her colleagues.
There’s an equally hilarious turn from Amy Schumer as Amy Schumer (now living in Sting’s former apartment) and a wonderful appearance by Shirley MacLaine playing someone with a penchant for coconut cocktails. Michael Cyril Creighton’s amusingly eccentric neighbour, Howard, also returns – along with his cats. What might be an overstuffed ensemble is far too well written for that, with the link between character and concept burnt into the twisting script. There’s room here for every resident to have their moment or three, while also finding space for weapons dangling in ceilings and high school productions of The Wizard of Oz.
And yet the show never loses sight of the human tensions at play, from neighbourly suspicion and generational divides – “It’s like I’m watching Squid Games without subtitles,” says Charles, as he tries to decipher his daughter talking about TikTok – to old faces returning from the past. The nimble editing and playful framing lets the suspense simmer through each slickly choreographed exchange and set piece, while the production design of the building still opens up new avenues to explore. The result doesn’t just deliver – it keeps on delivering more with each episode. What a treat it is to have it back on our screens.
Only Murders in the Building is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.