Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez can proudly take a bow as the trio makes its third curtain call.
The Season 3 finale of the hit comedy “Only Murders in the Building” drops Tuesday on Hulu, and after binge-watching 30 episodes over three seasons, it’s safe to say that this has been the most enjoyable season yet.
Created by Steve Martin (“The Jerk”) and John Hoffman (“Grace & Frankie”) with executive producer Dan Fogelman (“This is Us”), the first two seasons followed an unlikely trio of neighbors producing true-crime podcasts about unsolved murders at The Arconia, an affluent residential building on the Upper West Side of New York City.
While Season 1 was an amusingly fresh concept with beloved comedic actors, I’ll admit that my interest in the series started to fade as Season 2 felt like a rehash. After all, how many murders can you investigate in the same building once you’ve already discovered every secret elevator and every hidden passageway behind the walls?
Well, folks, Season 3 just won me back bigtime with the funniest writing yet, unfolding with a welcome change of scenery in a New York City theater, as the gang investigates a murder during the rehearsals of a world premiere.
Martin Short has earned two Emmy nominations hamming it up as struggling Broadway director Oliver Putnam, eager to make a comeback with his stage play “Death Rattle.” Just as Gene Kelly turned “The Dueling Cavalier” into a musical in “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), Oliver turns his show into the ridiculous musical “Death Rattle Dazzle” with macabre baby carriages, haunting lighthouses and absurd songs, such as “Creatures of the Night.”
Meanwhile, Selena Gomez gives perhaps her best version of Mabel Mora, a jaded young woman who has lived at The Arconia from a young age. In the first two seasons, she spit dry dialogue as the smartass straight-woman to the antics of Martin & Martin. In Season 3, Gomez adds welcome warmth to her character without sacrificing her signature sarcasm, still making plenty of snarky millennial zingers but opening up more to her podcast pals.
Still, my personal favorite is Steve Martin, who earned an Emmy nomination as Charles-Haden Savage, a washed-up TV actor from the cop show “Brazzos.” He is laugh-out-loud funny in Season 3, suffering mental blackouts to enter “the white room” for fever dreams before returning to reality in uncompromising positions. “I have never heard filth like what just came out of your mouth,” Oliver says in shock. “Well, my pants are still on,” Charles says.
These creative cabaret dream sequences seem to be triggered by Charles singing the wonderfully silly, rapid-fire rhyme, “Which of the Pickwick triplets did it? Who of the crew would commit this crime?” The catchy ditty is penned by Tony- and Oscar-winning composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who gave us Broadway hits, such as “Dear Evan Hansen” (2015) and Hollywood gems like “La La Land” (2016) and “The Greatest Showman” (2017).
Best of all, we get the addition of two beloved actors: Meryl Streep, who plays aging theater veteran Loretta Durkin, who finally gets her big break to sing the lullaby “Look for the Light,” and Paul Rudd, who shines in flashbacks as murdered star Ben Glenroy saying dimwitted dialogue: “How do I call 911? Do I just Google ‘911?'”
Other newcomers are Jeremy Shamos as Ben’s brother Dickie, Linda Emond as Broadway producer Donna DeMeo, Wesley Taylor as Donna’s son Cliff, Ashley Park as actress Kimber Min and Jesse Williams as Mabel’s love interest Tobert. They join returning players like Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Det. Donna Williams, Jane Lynch as Charles’ stunt double Sazz Pataki and Michael Cyril Creighton as cat-loving Arconia resident Howard Morris.
Not only does Season 3 feature the deepest cast, it’s also the most clever writing yet, filled with twists and turns, red herrings and reveals. It ultimately builds to a finale where it’s nearly impossible to guess the killer as the A-story murder mystery synthesizes perfectly with the family subplots. There’s even a bonus cliffhanger that is simultaneously shocking and relieving in its bittersweet trickiness, all while brilliantly teeing up another season.
Just like that, the writers did the impossible, capturing a viewer who entered Season 3 thinking I was almost done with the series and making it so that I now can’t wait for Season 4. Take a bow, “Only Murders in the Building.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sing those silly Steve Martin lyrics that have been stuck in my head for months with a goofy grin on my face as I walk around the house going, “Which of the Pickwick triplets did it?”