The Only Murders in the Building Finale Gives Us a New Case to Crack
Spoilers below for Only Murders in the Building season 1.
With a name like Only Murders in the Building, you’d think a show could only last for so many episodes. (At some point, we simply must assume there won’t be anyone left in the building to murder.) But as the season 1 finale of Hulu’s hit crime comedy has demonstrated, three murders is still an acceptable number at the beleaguered Upper West Side’s Arconia. And the most recent victim maybe, just maybe, suffered at the hands of a young woman named Mabel Mora.
But let’s trace our way back to that salient point. If you’ve been enjoying the show, which follows fellow Arconians Oliver (Martin Short), Charles (Steve Martin), and Mabel (Selena Gomez) as they attempt to crack open the case of Tim Kono’s sudden demise in their apartment building, then you know episode 10, “Open and Shut,” is a misnomer. The episode opens with a revelation but closes with a tactful cliffhanger.
We start with narration from Tim Kono himself. He describes the seconds leading up to this death, during which he waltzed onto an elevator shared by Oliver, Charles, and Mabel, and carried a garbage bag to the trash chute. Next we get a quick recap of what we already know: Tim saw Theo Dimas push his friend Zoe off the roof of the Arconia, he was sworn to silence by Teddy Dimas in order to protect Mabel, and he sought to crush their corrupt jewelry business by doing a little undercover detective work. But we also learn a tidbit we’d merely suspected: Tim and Charles’s girlfriend, the bassoonist Jan (Amy Ryan), had a fiery fling.
“What a terrific goddamn finale this is going to be,” Oliver quips.
He and Mabel rush up to Charles’s apartment to tell him the news, but the former Brazzos actor has only just returned from watching Jan in concert. His nose is still bleeding—a sign of his anxiety—because he’s learned she lied to him; she wasn’t, in fact, the first chair bassoonist. If she lied about a little thing like that, what other secrets might she be keeping? Oliver and Mabel break the news of Jan’s murderous tendencies, uh, less than gracefully, and Charles seemingly chooses not to believe them. Concerned they’re on their own, Mabel and Oliver search Jan’s (currently unoccupied) apartment while Charles sorts through the little clues in his apartment, including Jan’s handwritten notes. When she knocks on his door, Charles answers. She attempts to explain everything with the help of some cocktails.
The trouble is, just as Charles turns on her and reveals his suspicions, she fires back with a real zinger: Not the drinks, but the handkerchief Charles used, is laced with poison. (Mabel discovers said poison in Jan’s bathroom cabinets, along with the murder weapon, stuffed behind a grate in her wall, and the Dimases’ emerald ring in a drawer.) As Charles stumbles and slurs his way to the floor, Jan monologues, in typical villain style, about how she got away with it: She poisoned Tim, put the gun in his hand and pulled the trigger, stabbed herself, etc., etc., and now she’s funneling gas into the building so she can set it all on fire.
In a feat of astounding strength, Charles caterpillar-crawls his way to the elevator and is eventually reunited with Mabel and Oliver, who cart him in a dolly down to the Arconia’s boiler room. They manage to remove “the duct from the thing,” as Oliver deftly puts it, so that the Arconia doesn’t burst into flames, but not before Jan arrives to address her unfinished business. In a dramatic flourish, she cocks a gun at Oliver’s head while Charles, still strapped to the dolly, can only watch. Out of sight thanks to some well-placed basement machinery, Mabel sneaks up on the merry murderess and punches her in the face—with the emerald ring, no less!
Thanks to Mabel’s powerful rear hook, Jan is in handcuffs within minutes, and Charles, Mabel and Oliver have their leases re-instated by Bunny, the Arconia’s lead board member. As a parting gift, Mabel calls her a “cranky old bitch,” an important insult we’ll revisit later. For now, our podcasting trio is in celebration mode, as Charles recovers from his poisoning, Oliver gets his bulldog, Winnie, back, and Mabel continues to date Oscar, happy with herself and her life for the first time in years. The friends finish the hit Only Murders podcast and enjoy a toast on the Arconia rooftop, where Mabel eventually stifles the peace with a leading question: “Does anyone else feel like there’s still a couple of loose ends?”
No one thinks much of her inquiry until a few minutes later, when she runs back downstairs for more champagne. Charles and Oliver hear approaching sirens, and they both receive a text from an unknown number, one that says, “Get out of the building now!!!” They sprint down the staircase to rescue their friend, only to discover her in her aunt’s apartment, huddled over the dead body of Bunny, who’s wearing a tie-dye hoodie and bleeding from the knitting needle sticking out of her chest. Mabel swears, “It’s not what you think.” But there’s not enough time for her to explain before all three amateur detectives are handcuffed and shuttled past their friends and fellow Arconians—including Oscar, wearing his own tie-dye hoodie—into the back of a police car. The final seconds show us Tina Fey’s Ira Glass-like Cinda Canning, eager to cover this wild story for her own podcast.
So what remains? A lot of questions, many of which are sure to be answered when season 2 debuts sometime next year. But this marks the third Arconian murder in which Mabel was even indirectly involved, and that means she has to be taken seriously as a suspect. She did, after all, seem to think poorly of Bunny—that “cranky old bitch” comment was a little nasty, even if it was deserved—and Bunny, supposedly, had no involvement with the deaths of Zoe or Tim. Mabel is the only common denominator in those homicides.
But it still seems unlikely that the fan-favorite character, played by someone as beloved as Gomez, would become the show’s deceptive villain. Oliver and Charles are even more unlikely culprits. So that leaves us with few notable subjects—other than, of course, Sting.
“Our trio is in the hot seat at the end of Season 1,” Only Murders co-creator John Hoffman told Deadline. “They have to reckon with their relationship with Bunny in the days prior to what happens at the end of the season and there’s a lot that went down. Mabel said some unkind things about her outside of the Arconia. Oliver had a long history of conflict with Bunny. And Charles was deeply offended at the idea of being evicted by her after 30 years. There’s all that plus their connection to true crime and their respective histories which we will learn more about. There’s a lot there we start peeling back that’s built around what happened at the end of Season 1 and leading into 2. It gets more complicated and more fun in weird ways. It also puts pressure on them to solve the case.”
That last sentence seems to imply Mabel, Oliver, and Charles will be back to their detective duties before too long, working to solve the case of Bunny’s murder rather than facing jail time for it. But if that’s the case, how do they get off the hook? Might Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) go to bat for them? Let’s hope we get photos (and answers) from set soon—before any more Arconians meet Bunny’s untimely end.
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