Episodes watched: 8 out of 10
Give ’em the old (Death Rattle) razzle dazzle.
Following THAT shock cliffhanger at the end of season two, everyone’s favourite true crime podcasting trio are back – and with even bigger names to boot! The hit Hulu/Disney+ Star show adds not only Paul Rudd to the ensemble but Mamma Mia extraordinaire, Meryl Streep, for an even more ambitious and entertaining outing rooted in the theatre. With the Broadway musical “Death Rattle” (yes, you read that right) becoming the core focus of the season, the third outing proves a charming ode to the arts. And yes, there’s technically still a murder in the building for our amateur sleuths to solve amidst navigating new relationships, hilarious patter songs and twists and turns aplenty.
Following the mystery death of superstar leading man Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd) on the opening night of Oliver’s (Martin Short) new Broadway play, it’s primarily up to Mabel (Selena Gomez) to help solve the crime and inadvertently – save Oliver’s career. With his friend and former podcast co-host, Charles (Steve Martin) also starring in the play, the two become embroiled in keeping the disastrous production afloat while Mabel investigates the core cast. But as with all true crimes, not all is as it seems, as the central trio uncover plenty of cobwebs from the cast’s past along the way.
With events picking up immediately after the season two finale, we finally see the aftermath of Ben’s untimely fate unravel in a brand new murder mystery. However, as this is Only Murders in the Building, things are not quite as they seem – with an intriguing rug pull leading the trio to reignite their sleuthing hijinks. The newly introduced play-turned-musical element adds a fun extra dimension to the delightful yet somewhat familiar format of the first two seasons, with plenty of whimsy, absurdity and comedic moments to enjoy – especially when it comes to the ridiculous notion of the play itself (the only witness to the murder is…a baby) and the calamitous rehearsals. There’s also plenty of new suspects to investigate, motives to unpack and fun flashbacks to explore this season, particularly with Paul Rudd’s douchey “CoBro” star and Meryl Streep’s wonderful Loretta Durkin, an aspiring actor who (ironically!) never quite got her big break.
The two new additions are a real delight, each charming in their respective ways. Rudd is hilarious as Hollywood movie star Ben Glenroy, who’s clearly having a blast fully leaning into the stereotypical terrible diva behaviour. However, there is more to the actor than meets the eye, with Rudd bringing surprising glimmers of nuance. Unsurprisingly, the character is often relegated to flashbacks, sometimes disappointingly few and far between episodes. Meanwhile, Streep excels as the wonderful Loretta, shining with a beautiful rendition of the lullaby “Look for the Light”, whilst sharing a real warmth and bond with Oliver. While it takes a while to get to the Loretta-centric episode 8, it’s certainly well worth the wait. The duo do also cross paths in one of the season’s more outstanding sequences, a brilliantly staged table read with some inspired accents.
Despite the brilliant new additions and fun musical theatre setting, these elements do sometimes tend to detract from the central core of the true crime podcast, often splitting up the wonderful central dynamic of Oliver, Charles and Mabel. Their friendship – and subsequent bickering – really is the heart of the show, so it is a shame when they’re not sharing the proverbial podcast microphone. However, they are all afforded their own brilliant moments, including Steve Martin’s hilariously weird breakdown while trying to nail the patter song “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?” and Short’s surprisingly poignant sequences.
Speaking of musical numbers, there’s plenty for theatre fans to enjoy, especially with a collection of brand new show tunes from La La Land‘s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The third outing is packed to the rafters with excellent jazz hand moments, Fosse-inspired dance numbers and bonkers dream sequences. Moving part of the action from the Arconia to the theatre is also an inspired move, further bringing the slapstick and showbizz humour to life – along with the wonderful costumes and production design. Plus there’s even more Broadway legends making their cameos.
With wonderful new additions in Rudd and Streep and a fun, whimsical theatre-centric focus, Only Murders in the Building season 3 proves a brilliant love letter to Broadway, whilst also revitalising the tried and tested formula. Once again the main trio are such a delight to spend time with amongst the true crime centric twists and turns.