meIt makes sense that Only Murders in the Building (Disney+) would have had the decency to end its first season with a good old-fashioned cliffhanger. The meta-murder mystery was a stylish charm that combined a meaty crime plot, New York curmudgeon appeal, good physical comedy (watching Steve Martin roll around in an elevator for half an hour is a total delight), and cunning self-awareness, all from who made a classy debut. Sure, Charles, Oliver, and Mabel solved the key mysteries of the first season and landed a successful podcast, but, as Mabel noted, “there were still a couple of loose ends” to tie up.
Not as finely balanced as the first but still a lot of fun, this second season tugs at those loose ends until they come undone, and then undoes them more. We now know who killed Tim Kono, but as the trio celebrated saving Arconia, Mabel was found holding a knitting needle and covered in blood, floating over the body of the poor “grouchy old bitch” and outgoing president of the building. Arconia, Bunny Folger. Naturally, the police are strict about the fact that, as “persons of interest” in the Bunny murder, they shouldn’t do a podcast about it. But murder is their hobby, not like that, obviously, and they like real crime, so it’s not long before they come in as the Hardy Boys, round two.
There’s a lot more going on here than in the first season, which is saying something. Only Murders is a cake of many layers, a sensational finale to Bake Off, and this second season adds level after level. Now Charles, Oliver and Mabel are investigating a murder in which one of them is involved. Mabel becomes famous on the internet and is given the nickname Bloody Mabel, which leads to some interesting riffs on notoriety (and reminded me of the much-missed Search Party).
At the same time, Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) is back, doing a podcast about podcasters called Only Murderers in the Building. Amy Schumer then takes over Sting’s old apartment and brings up the possibility of a small-screen dramatization of the original podcast. “I want to have all the prestige,” she tells Oliver. His launch isn’t the only TV show within a TV show. There are flashbacks and period episodes, and still, there’s room for antics involving a knife. As I said, many things are happening.
Outside of all the clever moments and arc meta-ness of it all, the plot thickens in other ways. Our central trio have lives and relationships far apart from each other and outside of Arconia. Charles returns to his acting career and we discover more about his family, past and present. Martin Short continues to strut his stuff as the fabulously narcissistic Oliver, but we also get more of his family. And Mabel (who knew Selena Gomez was so deadpan and so hot?) finds herself embroiled in the Bushwick art scene and a possible relationship with a posh English phony, played with aplomb by Cara Delevingne.
His guest stars are still as impressive as ever. Fey is brilliant as Cinda Canning, as is Schumer as Schumer. There’s also room for the legendary Shirley MacLaine, who shows up with a very specific cocktail order and sporting Iris Apfel-style glasses, and plenty of other A-list actors whose appearances are so often a surprise that saying who they’re playing would spoil the conversation. fun.
The best episode out of the six I’ve seen focuses on Bunny Folger’s last day, and it’s also the simplest plot-wise, requiring the fewest runs. Putting the art world into the story makes it an easy target when it comes to satire, and as with Only Murders’ generational comedy, it can be slightly self-explanatory.
Sometimes, though, the obvious is all you need: Charles’s attempts to dictate a text from his own phone made me laugh out loud, as did his attempts to decipher two under-30s talking to each other. . “It’s like he’s watching Squid Games without subtitles,” he complains. What’s brilliant about this show is that you want to solve the mystery like it’s a thriller, but you get all the pleasure out of it being a comedy as well. “Seasons two are tough,” says Oliver, early in the run, talking about the podcast. If he’s offering a preemptive apology, he doesn’t need to. He’d bet a case of Gut Milk that Only Murders will keep viewers at bay until the very end.