[Editor’s note: The following roundtable contains spoilers from OMITB’s season-two finale.]
That’s all for Only Murders In The Building, folks. For now, at least. There’s still another murder to solve in season three. And it’s a big one.
Hulu’s Emmy-nominated comedy wrapped up its second season with an off-kilter party, bringing together most of the cast to reveal who killed Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell). The culprit is not Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) but her loyal assistant Poppy White a.k.a. Becky Butler (Adina Verson), whose ambition got the better of her. The episode, titled “I Know Who Did It,” also sets up a campy third season, featuring a time jump, a Paul Rudd cameo, and a death on Broadway. OMITB has clearly mapped out its next steps, but here at The A.V. Club, we’re breaking down how season two went and what the follow-up might look like.
1. Does the OMITB finale successfully pull off the reveal of who killed Bunny? Is it a satisfying answer?
Gabrielle Sanchez: I love a murder mystery party, and this season we got two! The finale did an excellent job pulling the rug out from underneath us, as we go into the episode thinking Tina Fey’s Cinda Canning is the “criminal mastermind” behind it all and Poppy (Adina Verson) is only a terrified victim of her malice. We were sufficiently duped! More than once! The only hang-up centers around why Poppy chose Bunny as the murder victim, which may have only been because of her proximity to Charles, Oliver, and Mabel. Poor Bunny.
Mary Kate Carr: Did they pull off the killer reveal or did they pull off the killer reveal party? (I loved the many meta elements of this finale, by the way.) The scene itself, with its multiple red-herring twists, was really well done—funny and intriguing. But as for the actual reveal…I’m definitely satisfied with Becky/Poppy (Boppy!) as the killer. But when you step back, there are some major plot holes, as Saloni pointed out in her recap. I wish some more time had gone into tightening up the story, so my feelings towards it are ultimately lukewarm.
Jack Smart: So on paper, the notion of psyching us out with multiple false reveals—Cinda! No, Alice! Okay, actually, Poppy/Becky—works just fine. This show is committing to a “one murder per season” format, meaning each season finale should up the reveal ante. But watching it, I felt a sense of anti-climax. Alice as the killer was so out of the left field that by the time we were reining things back to the more plausible Poppy (her motive is a little dubious, but satisfying enough, as I too have overcommitted to podcasting), it felt like the show was neatly tucking the rug back under me.
Emma Keates: God, I wish I was as passionate about anything as these characters are about climbing the thorny slope of podcast popularity. I actually liked that the crime was essentially solved in the penultimate episode, just with the wrong fame-hungry, bespectacled brunette at its center. It was a clever way to keep the reveal fresh but still in line with established character motivations–something not every whodunnit can effectively pull off (looking at you, season one). Although, to be honest, I would have been happy with pretty much any answer after that Cara Delevingne fake-out, so maybe take this with a grain of salt.
Saloni Gajjar: As I wrote in my finale recap, I find the answer satisfying only if I suspend some amount of logic and not be nitpicky. I get why Poppy is desperate for the promotion and a podcast, and how it drove her to commit an unhinged murder. But OMITB didn’t really explain why she wanted the painting or why Poppy and Kreps were determined to frame Mabel. I would’ve loved spending some time on that instead of just the “killer reveal party.” Overall, I still had a fun time during the episode though.
GS: Selena Gomez’s Mabel Mora says it best when she caps the season off with: “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” The show has plenty of charms and offers great roles for Gomez, Martin, and Short, but it’s not always the most compelling show. By the time a third season comes around, you see what legs the actors and writers stand on. With season three, we’ll either see the series hit its stride, or we’ll all wish it had seized a tidy ending when it presented itself. As the story extends beyond Arconia, a new cast of characters becomes available. Hopefully, these new roles will not further clog up a series that already saw a lot of faces this season.
MC: Whether or not the second season lived up to the first, I think, at the very least, it earned the audience’s trust that the OMITB crew will make something funny, empathetic, and engaging. Something rare about the show is that it keeps finding ways to be surprising, whether it’s in the touching character studies or the actual mystery. I do believe they’ll be able to continue that next season.
JS: I have no apprehension about a series as delightful as this one expanding. Even the most meh episode of OMITB offers me a hilarious, heartfelt distraction from real-life horrors. But regardless of how long it runs, season two will likely be remembered as a transitional one. That’s the nature of long-form TV: The world-building season one must present a self-contained story and hope for a green light, while seasons two and beyond will become routine, toying with the by-now-established formula. I agree with Gabrielle about the number of faces—OMITB loves its ensemble, but murder mysteries need to calibrate the right amount of suspects.
EK: At some point, they must reveal that at least one trio member is a secret criminal mastermind, right? I mean, Mabel has witnessed four murders now. Four! I’m certainly not complaining about any chance to revisit the world of the Arconia, but perhaps the show already said it best in all those little quips from this season about the inherent weirdness of doing a true-crime sequel. Eventually, coincidence is just bad writing.
SG: I do mainly because I adore OMITB and would hate for it to keep dragging without meaningful stories to tell like an endless CW drama. As Gabrielle said, I hope that expanding beyond Arconia will also expand the world of the show, so as long as the creators find a way to make it make sense and try to wrap up their journey, I’m down and excited for season three.
3. Let’s discuss the setup for season three. Thoughts on the time jump, a new murder, and Paul Rudd’s big cameo?
GS: It will be interesting to see all that’s changed for the characters over the last year, as we see each of them turn a new page following solving Bunny’s murder. Obviously, Charles-Haden Savage (Martin) will have some explaining to do concerning the nature of his strained relationship with the next victim, played by none other than Paul Rudd. Oh man, Paul Rudd. What a great choice. The man can really do anything.
MC: As far as the time jump goes, I’m glad our main trio appears to be as close as ever. So many shows do the “main characters have gone their separate ways” thing, and it’s just nice to know that the core friendship of the series remains intact even during a year where they didn’t have murders to talk about. The time jump also gives the series a little distance from the deaths of Tim and Bunny; another murder in the building would have really stretched plausibility. Regarding the cliffhanger, Paul Rudd is a welcome sight in any context, but it’s always fun to see him playing a not-so-nice guy. Killing his character on stage mere moments after meeting him is a smart move, and his argument with Charles gives us just enough to keep us hooked on the mystery going into the third season.
JS: If you had Paul Rudd as season three’s victim on your OMITB bingo card, you probably work on the show and violated your NDA because no way in hell was anyone going to guess that. That epilogue was a trip, and as a theater nerd, I’m excited about the endless possibilities of centering a murder around Charles, and Paul Rudd, in an Oliver-directed Broadway play.
EK: Well, it looks like dear old Charles is being framed again. Or is the show gearing up for a juicy “he was a murderer the whole time” twist after all? (I hope so. He was kind of dating one!) Also, there’s just something about Paul Rudd playing a dope (like in Parks And Recreation) that really does it for me, so despite my misgivings, I will obviously be back. Also, pour one out for Oliver’s theater career. Fatal (or near-fatal) injuries at two separate premieres? These characters really are cursed.
SG: I cheered at the time jump, which rarely happens, but it was the right thing to do. I cheered even more at the Paul Rudd appearance because, after season two’s poor cameos, we finally get an actor worth rooting for, even though Rudd’s character is the murder victim. I think he’ll be the fresh blood OMITB needs to keep pushing forward, and I’m now curious how Mabel, Charles, and Oliver will solve the case. Does it involve podcast No. 3? I hope so.
GS: How are Teddy and Theo doing?
MC: Honestly, I’m looking forward to the third season starting fresh and stepping outside of the Arconia (at least a little). But here’s an ongoing question: Where is Mabel’s aunt who owns the apartment? Will we finally see her after the time jump?
JS: This one does not need further explanation, and I seem to be the only one stuck on it since they breezed over it again in the finale, but: Bunny was stabbed in her own apartment, then brought all the way to Mabel’s? Did she flee to Mabel’s (why?) through the hallways, and Poppy chased her through the trap door? Did Poppy convince Bunny to break into Mabel’s with her (huh?), then stabbed her? Did I miss something?
EK: Is Nina Lin going to succeed in putting her weird UFO-like structure on the roof of the Arconia? And why isn’t the Arconia a protected historic landmark in the first place? That feels like a crime worthy of its own investigative podcast. Also, did Oliver find a part in his show for sweet off-Broadway-veteran-turned-doorman Lester? I hope so!
SG: I’m with Emma. What’s that ugly, gigantic eyesore of a dome Nina and her partner want to create on top of Arconia? And who allowed it?
More seriously, if they bring Poppy back for a Jan-like cameo, I’ll need them to explain why absolutely no one recognized her as Becky when she went back with Cinda to her hometown (with a hairstyle change and glasses). Come on, OMITB, you’re not trying to pull off a Superman or Supergirl situation here, right?
GS: As a character, I choose Cinda Canning. As an actor, I was once again stunned by James Caverly’s empathetic delivery of Theo Dimas.
MC: Mabel had my favorite arc this season, but my acting MVP has to go to Martin Short, who is consistently perfect and always fun to watch.
JS: The MVP character is Oliver, the funniest character currently on television. I’ll give MVP actor to the luminous Shirley MacLaine.
EK: I’m giving the acting award to Zoe Colletti as Lucy for taking a character that initially felt like a random addition and making her feel so nuanced and charming. My favorite character will always be Oliver.
SG: I’m going to go with Mabel for the character (she did a lot of the case-solving this season) and a combo of Jayne Houdyshell and Adina Verson for the actor. Both of them crushed it in their supporting but pivotal roles.
GS: I just love anytime Jaboukie Young-White makes an appearance as the earnest OMITB stan. Worst: Amy Schumer. Yeesh.
MC: Are we all on the same page about Amy Schumer? There was no payoff to it, and it didn’t have the randomness that made Sting’s similar cameo so funny in the first season. The best goes to Shirley MacLaine. Of course, she’s great, but it left me wanting more of her character’s story.
JS: Jane Lynch’s Sazz Pataki standing in for Charles to break up with Amy Ryan’s Jan in jail was perfectly hilarious, so I’ll cheat and give that pair the collective best cameo. The worst would have to go to poor Amy Schumer, tasked with recapturing the cameo-as-themselves magic of Sting’s appearance.
EK: Andrea Martin is a welcome addition to any show. I can’t say the same about Amy Schumer. So yes, we are all on the same page as Mary Kate.
SG: Yeah, I agree about Amy, but while he had more than a cameo, Michael Rapaport was the worst, even though he suited the character. I did love watching Shirley MacLaine as Rose Cooper, though. (P.S.: For Emma and other Andrea Martin fans, I highly recommend checking out her amazing turn in Paramount+’s entertaining horror drama Evil).
GS: Episode seven, “Flipping The Pieces.”
MC: Episode three, “The Last Day of Bunny Folger.” It perfectly encapsulates how this show can transform a character who feels one note. Bunny getting the door closed on her face just before her death was so gut-wrenching!
JS: Episode five, “The Tell,” thanks to Selena Gomez and Cara Delevingne in fabulous ’70s garb!
EK: Episode eight, “Hello, Darkness.” That Simon & Garfunkel yodel sing-along! Howard’s romance! Mabel taking out a would-be attacker with Oliver’s beloved bag of dips! So good.
SG: I echo Mary Kate’s sentiments about “The Last Day of Bunny Folger.” It was an early standout, and Jayne Houdyshell was enchanting.
GS: “Cara Delevingne’s Alice will not be returning.”
MC: Here’s hoping Andrea Martin gets a great storyline.
JS: More of Selena Gomez and Cara Delevingne in fabulous ’80s garb.
EK: I really, really hope Oliver’s show is a musical with a (fingers crossed) show-stopping Paul Rudd number.
SG: The following headline: “Only Murders In The Building ends with the third and final season.” I say this out of love.
GS: B. The show nearly lost me halfway through this season, but managed to really make everything come together in the finale.
MC: B+. It wasn’t perfect, but I always had a good time.
SG: B+. It was a mostly solid season with maybe a couple of mediocre episodes.