Only Murders Season 2 Doesn’t Fix What Isn’t Broken

ItIn the second season Only Murders are allowed in the BuildingThe investigators are the ones being investigated. After cracking the Tim Kono case the unlikely trio Charles-Haden Savage, Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), a financially struggling theater director and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), have all become true-crime podcast heroes. But just as they’re celebrating their success, Charles and Oliver walk into Mabel’s apartment to find her kneeling over the dead body of building board president Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell), white sweater soaked in blood.

After an initial round of questioning yields insufficient evidence to make an arrest, Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) releases the trio under orders to stop podcasting. “Get a new hobby—now,” she tells them. “I do not give a damn what it is, just as long as it doesn’t land you in jail.” Do they obey? They don’t. Because Only MurderersHulu’s wildly popular series, titled “The Arconia,” returns to Hulu June 28. The show is about three weird, amateur detectives who solve murders in their Upper West Side home, the Arconia. Their progress is documented in the podcast, which happens to be a mistakenly hugely successful. Martin, his co-creator John Hoffman didn’t intend to destroy a winning formula. A new season would require a new podcast. It’s mostly for the best that they’ve decided not to fix what wasn’t broken.

So, aside from the fact they’re now trying to clear their own names—and Mabel’s in particular—fans can expect more of the same charming, intergenerational citizen-detective stuff they fell hard for last summer. The emergence or dismissal of suspects is the main theme in most episodes. Each podcaster has their own story. Fatherhood becomes a theme, as Charles is reunited with his sort-of-stepdaughter, Lucy (Zoe Colletti), and Oliver’s relationship with his son, Will (Ryan Broussard), is tested. Peppered with flashbacks that explore her childhood bond with her own dad, Mabel’s story line flirts with violence and dissociation, occasionally going darker than Only murders’ droll tone can support. She’s saddled with the nickname “Bloody Mabel” when paparazzi photos of her from the night of Bunny’s murder land on the covers of every tabloid in town, and her art and mythos attract the attention of a glamorous English gallerist, Alice (played by Cara Delevingne).

Amy Schumer, Steve Martin in “Only Murders in the Building”

Barbara Nitke/Hulu

It’s the addition of new characters, along with the development of peripheral ones (Adina Verson’s Poppy, as the loyal assistant to Tina Fey’s imperious murder-pod queen, gets a fun arc) and a deepening of the show’s immersion in the history of the Arconia, that keeps the new episodes from merely repeating season 1. We meet Bunny’s equally fearsome successor as board president, Nina (Christine Ko), who is extremely pregnant and has her own ideas about the building’s future. (Yes, of course These are the ones. Rosemary’s Baby jokes. Was it even necessary to ask? Shirley MacLaine makes a splashy appearance, though I’ve been asked not to describe her character. Amy Schumer is this season’s Sting—the good-sport celebrity appearing as herself—who moves into the Arconia with hopes of adapting the podcast for TV. This meta side plot is low-hanging fruit, but at least it doesn’t detract too much from the main story.

If you are a fan of New York City in the 20th century, I can help you find me. Only murders fan who isn’t, I dare you), Martin and Hoffman’s forays into that era will surely be the highlight of the season. Charles gets a ’50s-set origin story; we learn about His father, too. A look back at Oliver in his ’70s glory, leading parlor games at house parties, is pure delight. Deep dive into Bunny’s and Arconia’s intertwined lives. It’s true. And it is a strong affirmation of all that self-aware Gotham kitsch of a season reveling in Son of Sam lore and diners.

This is not going to change your mind or set you back in your ways. Maybe some of you will be able to see the beauty in it. Only Murderers’ modest ambitions as a flaw, in an era when many expect TV to take the same creative risks as any other art form. But narrative formulas can be deeply satisfying when executed well—and none more so than that of the cozy mystery. Take an ensemble of eccentric suspects, a victim with lots of enemies, and a trail of distinctive clues, and you get Agatha Christie’s classic whodunits. The endless combinations that Clue can be played with are yours. And you get Only murdersThis will keep you entertained for many seasons.

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