The comedic duo of Steve Martin and Martin Short team up with Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building, a quirky murder mystery about an unlikely trio who bond over their shared obsession with true crime. When someone is murdered in their building, they start a true-crime podcast to document their investigation in solving the murder mystery.
One cannot begin discussing the success of this series without highlighting the thing that makes it all work so damn well – the delightfully charming, hilarious and perfect combination of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. Having these distinct personalities interact creates many avenues for smart, witty comedy to fill each episode. There’s never a dull moment when these three are butting heads on screen, with their back and forth dialogue producing some hilarious results throughout. While they do work really well as a trio with spectacular chemistry, they also all bring something unique to the series. Steve Martin plays Charles, the subtle, more out-of-touch character – Martin Short is Oliver, the louder, more energetic personality who gets excited about plot twists and tasty dips – then Selena Gomez plays Mabel, the young tech-savvy member with a bit of a take-no-shit attitude to her. There really is something to love about all three of them, and it’s the way they clash and play off each other that makes this unlikely trio so infectiously fun and entertaining to watch.
In terms of additional characters and performances, there’s some really neat and surprising personalities that pop in and out, each one with their own little quirks. Nathan Lane gets to have some fun playing Theo Dimas, an old friend of Oliver, who has to put up with his requests for help. Nathan is always a great entertainer, and whenever he’s on screen there’s something about his performance that commands all the attention. Amy Ryan gets some time to shine as Jan, the resident bassoonist in the building, who adds a nice touch to the series as she becomes more and more involved throughout. To avoid mentioning an infinite number of names, I’ll just say that this series – and this building – is filled with an array of intriguing personalities and characters who may only have a handful of scenes, but make such an impact. As great as the main trio are, it’s the little fun moments involving different residents of the building that flesh out the series, create memorable funny moments, and make it feel a bit more real.
The main draw of the series, beyond the central trio, is the murder mystery aspect. It’s what brings the characters together and is at the forefront of the narrative in every episode. This is a great original take on the murder mystery genre – definitely taking advantage of some familiar tropes, while also subverting some of those cliche expectations. It takes itself seriously enough, while also being a little self-aware to have fun with the genre – working to make the whole series feel consistently fresh. It also never feels like it’s losing sight of its goal, drifting off course or meandering to increase the episode count – constantly moving forward at a rapid pace.
The overall mystery, character backstories and looming questions all gradually unravel and peel away like the layers of an onion. It gives you just enough to speculate, with surprises and reveals that make you eager to dive right into the next episode. Even the way the series handles the idea of this being a true crime podcast is done pretty creatively – to where there’s a few realistic plot details that would potentially happen in real life, that I hadn’t though about. It just goes to show how inventive the writing is, with great attention to detail from beginning to end.
Speaking of being inventive, I want to highlight the work done on episode 7, which is told through the perspective of a single character and not a single word is uttered for the entire episode. It’s certainly a ballsy move to have a whole episode that only features subtitles and sign language, but it leads to some quite amusing results and is all the more impressive that they managed to pull it off.
In the end, the magnificent Only Murders in the Building locks you in early with an intriguing mystery, then keeps you engaged with a twisty narrative, well-timed comedy, interesting characters and a delightfully fun tone. The core trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez are magical, dishing out magnetic chemistry and great one-liners that bring the laughs in every episode. It’s smart, inventive, funny and barely puts a foot wrong in the way the mystery unfolds. Moving along at a quick pace, with only 10 episodes to digest, Only Murders in the Building is essential viewing for any fans of the genre or of the core trio of actors.