TV Recap: “Only Murders in the Building” Episodes 1-3 (Hulu)

My most anticipated comedy of the season, Only Murders in the Building, is now streaming on Hulu. The first three episodes premiered today and the streaming platform will release new episodes on Tuesdays going forward. Starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, here’s a recap of the first three episodes of Only Murders in the Building.

Episode 1: “True Crime”

(Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

(Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Something bad has happened in The Arconia, a high end apartment building in New York City. Charles (Steve Martin) and Oliver (Martin Short) are out of breath as they race downstairs to find their friend Mabel (Selena Gomez), not wanting to leave her behind. Bursting into her apartment, they find Mabel on her knees leaning over a body. There’s blood all over her shirt as she looks up at them alarmed and says “It’s not what you think…”

…2 months earlier…

We are introduced to Charles – an actor famous for playing a TV detective in the ‘90’s named Brazzos, Oliver – an eccentric Broadway theater director, and Mabel – a mysterious and secluded fashionable young woman. The one thing they all have in common is that they live in The Arconia. Coincidentally riding in the same elevator together, the three witness a young man enter with a garbage bag in one hand, a cell phone to his ear with the other. He’s talking to someone about an important package that is delayed and it's not the first time this has happened. He’s upset with whoever he’s talking to on the other end of the call when he steps off the elevator on his floor.

In his apartment, Charles settles in for a new episode of his favorite true-crime podcast, “All is Not OK in Oklahoma” (the host is guest star Tina Fey). The juicy details of the episode are interrupted by an alarm, which causes Charles and the other residents  of The Arconia to evacuate. On his way down the stairs, Charles passes someone in a tie dye hoodie going up, but he doesn’t see their face.

At a nearby restaurant, Charles continues the podcast with his map with pinned-on clues. Since all the tables are full and Oliver recognizes Charles, he asks if he can share the table, seeing the map and confessing to being obsessed with “All is Not OK in Oklahoma.” When Oliver sees Mabel enter, he waves her over and she, too, can’t get enough of the show. Cut to the trio gossiping about the events of the podcast over their finished meals.

Charles, Oliver and Mabel return to The Arconia together, which is surrounded by police. They overhear that there’s been a murder on the 9th floor and even though they’re told they can’t go back inside yet, Charles says he has access to the service elevator. Mabel suggests that they take it up to the 8th floor since the 9th is likely to be crawling with cops. Sneaking up, they discover that the deceased resident is Tim Kono when they sneak up to his apartment and see him lifeless on the ground, blood leaking from the gunshot wound in his head. A detective catches them and gets annoyed, telling them it was a suicide, not a murder, and that he left a note. The detective accuses them of being true-crime podcast devotees when they try to share information about the conversation they overheard Tim having in the elevator.

When they’re allowed to go back to their apartments, Charles makes an omelette and throws half of it away, which causes him to remember that Tim Kono had a trash bag in his hand in the elevator. He heads down and his elevator stops on Mabel’s floor, who had the same thought. Oliver ends up with them and they head down to the dumpsters to do some digging. While sifting through the trash, Oliver suggests that they do a podcast since they’re at the start of an investigation, using his phone to start recording. But Mabel finds a bag with mail from Tim Kono that contains various drafts of what appear to be suicide notes. It looks like Oliver won’t be doing a podcast after all.

The next morning, Mabel is brushing her teeth in her bathroom, listening to her next door neighbor’s conversation through the air vent. We see that Mabel has a tattoo on her left shoulder of a whale. Hearing her neighbor leave, Mabel rushes to get Charles, telling him that she remembers that her neighbor, Bunny, ended up with one of Tim’s packages by mistake last week. Since he was talking about another package missing, she suggests that it could be in Bunny’s apartment. Mabel brings Charles to her apartment, which is under heavy construction (it actually belongs to her aunt) and Mabel suggests they open the air vent to sneak in, but Charles has another idea.

Using skills he learned on “Brazzos,” Charles picks the lock to Bunny’s apartment as he and Mabel get to know each other. She asks why he’s single and he shares an anecdote about how he’s a lot like his father in many ways and since his father was awful to his mother, he thinks he’s better alone. Mabel reveals information about her past, telling Charles that as a kid she had a pack that called themselves “Hardy Boys” after the classic mystery book series. They would play detectives in their apartment building. Once inside, Mabel sees Tim’s package and they take it to the roof to open it. It contains what appears to be an engagement ring and it doesn’t make sense why Tim was desperate to get it moments before an alleged suicide.

Meanwhile, Oliver wrapped gifts for his grandkids and left the city to visit his son Will. The grandkids aren’t there and it seems like Oliver should’ve known that since it’s Saturday, but it’s soon revealed that he has an ulterior motive. He asks his son for money and it’s not the first time this has happened. Will tells his father no.

Having filled in Oliver on what they found, the podcast is back on and Charles is recording an introduction. Oliver suggests that they maybe do several cases at once on the show, but Charles stops him and says “No, only murders in the building.” Thus gives the podcast (and show) its title.

At the close of the episode as each character goes back to their unit, we learn a little more about them. Charles has an ex named Lucy who used to live with him at The Arconia, Oliver is past due on bills and facing eviction, and Mabel’s screensaver has a picture of her with her “Hardy Boys.” One of them is Tim Kono.

Episode 2 – “Who Is Tim Kono?”

(Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

(Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Mabel is in her apartment, wearing the ring that was in Tim Kono’s package while she sketches a picture of him on her iPad while watching an old episode of “Brazzos” on her laptop. She pauses when Charles, as Brazzos, repeats the same story he told her while breaking into Bunny’s apartment, word-for-word.

Charles is in Oliver’s closet recording more content for the podcast when Mabel comes in. Charles asks how she got in and Oliver confesses to never locking his door, something Charles says he should do because there’s definitely a murderer living in The Arconia (he checked with the security guard and nobody came into the building who wasn’t a resident the day Tim died). Mabel is giving Charles the cold shoulder as she tells them that she couldn’t find out much about Tim Kono online, who she says led a private life. Charles asks her if he can hang onto the engagement ring and Mabel asks him why he doesn’t trust her, calling him by his TV detective name.

Charles says “Someone in the building must’ve known him,” which prompts a flashback for Mabel. She has just recently moved into her aunt’s apartment and approaches Tim to tell him that Oscar is getting out soon and Tim can finally make things right. Tim tells Mabel that he’s a different person now and wants nothing to do with her or Oscar. She gets upset and tells him she doesn’t need people like him in her life.

Out of the flashback, Mabel holds up a flyer announcing a memorial for Tim Kono in the lobby, which starts in 10 minutes. When they get downstairs, Oliver is excited about the food, commenting that it was provided by Dima’s Deli, the business of another resident of The Arconia. Bunny leads the meeting, announcing that Tim Kono’s remains have been sent to Japan to be with his family. She asks if anybody wants to say anything and there’s silence. Someone finally speaks, asking if they can use their fireplace again since a building-wide ban on them was put in place due to Tim’s allergies. Another woman, Tim’s neighbor, asks for his apartment so she can expand into it. One man starts crying, Howard, because his cat Evelyn also died. Several neighbors turn around, much more concerned with the death of a cat than that of Tim Kno.

After the memorial, Oliver stuffs his pocket with containers of dip and tells Charles that he wants to talk to Ursula, the building manager. Bunny pulls Oliver aside to talk privately and Mabel, still cold to Charles, tells him she has a migraine and goes back to her apartment. Bunny verbally warns Oliver that he’s 8 months past due on his building fees and the board is ready to take action.

Up in her apartment, Mabel opens her laptop and begins to record her own testimonial of everything she knows about Tim Kono. She holds up the iPad with the drawing she made and scrolls through a series of drawings in which Tim gets progressively younger. We flashback with her to the age of 10 when she first met Tim while staying with her aunt Selma Ramirez at The Arconia. She was reading a Hardy Boys mystery novel at the time and gave Tim some of her drawings. They ended up bonding over the mystery novels, playing mystery throughout the building and incorporating two other kids, Zoe and Oscar, the latter being the son of the superintendent. Among the books we see Mabel reading in this flashback is one titled “Mystery of the Whale Tattoo.”

As Charles and Oliver head to the manager’s office, Charles reveals that he doesn’t tip the building staff at the holidays but instead gifts them signed headshots. Oliver asks to take the lead on this, showing off how chummy he is with Ursula, who tells him she has a whole binder of complaints against Tim Kono and has some in her head that were too juicy to write down. When she sees Oliver, she closes the book. She makes Charles and Oliver sign up to buy cases of Gut Milk, her side business venture, in exchange for the information. From Ursula, they also learn that Tim Kono’s apartment is being cleaned out tomorrow. They rush to get Mabel.

The trio sneak into Tim’s apartment, immediately finding that a pool of blood is still on the floor where he lay. Mabel is drawn to the bookshelf, which is nothing but The Hardy Boys mysteries from top to bottom. Oliver notices a stack of mail, commenting that Tim was behind on his building fees, to which Charles complains only drives up the fees for other residents. Mabel goes to the foyer and looks at her reflection in the mirror, leading to another flashback…

… Mabel is dressed for a party, checking herself in the mirror when Zoe enters the frame and Oscar steps out, complimenting Mabel. It makes Zoe jealous, who is now Oscar’s girlfriend. Tim steps out and asks to take a picture, setting up his polaroid and getting in the frame (it ends up being the picture we saw on Mabel’s laptop). Cut to a rooftop New Years Eve party where Zoe confronts Oscar and accuses him of cheating on her. She runs off and he chases after her. A short while later, the rooftop occupants hear a woman scream. Zoe has been pushed off the building, falling to her death. In the chaos, Mabel finds Tim as he gets into an elevator, telling her that he saw someone else fighting with Zoe. She urges him to tell the cops but he disappears behind the closing elevator doors.

In Tim Kono’s apartment, Charles finds a bloody cat print, which means that Evelyn was in Tim’s apartment after he was killed. The fact that the cat also died that same night can’t be a coincidence. They return to Charle’s apartment with bags of items to further review and their bloody shoes in their hands. Mabel finally tells Charles that she doesn’t feel she can trust him because she heard Brazzos say the exact same things he told her about his father. He says that he wrote those lines and that it was all true to his life.

After leaving Charles’ apartment, Mabel goes back to Tim’s and sits on the floor. She imagines that he’s there with her, head wound and all, and asks him who the ring was for. She doesn’t get an answer from the figment, but she gets up and is once again drawn to his bookshelf. Pulling out one of the mysteries, she opens the cover to find the pages have been cut out and a bunch of rings fall out. Other books she opens contain jewelry. The last one she grabs has the drawings she gave Tim as a child.

The episode ends with Mabel finishing her video about Tim. She says that he never lied, except for once. When she finishes, she saves the file: “In Case I’m Next.”

Episode 3 – “How Well Do You Know Your Neighbors?”

(Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

(Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

The episode opens with an Oliver flashback to 2005. He’s at dinner in Teddy Dima’s apartment, the owner of Dima’s Deli (played by guest star Nathan Lane). Oliver uses the opportunity to pitch an ambitious stage production called “Splash!” to the potential financier, with plans to include a water tank in the stage for his mermaid musical. Teddy is reluctant, but Oliver turns up the charm and he can’t refuse his friend.

In the present, Charles is simultaneously recording audio for the podcast while playing a theme he wrote on a concertina. Ursula interrupts the session with a delivery of Gut Milk, also handing Oliver the notes about Tim Kono, plus a letter from Bunny that gives him just 24-hours to pay before his water and power get turned off.

Charles texts Mabel to join them for a meeting, revealing a marker board with photos he took of all The Arconia’s residents, all taken in the background of selfies. Among the neighbors is musical superstar Sting, with Charles saying he doesn’t believe he’s a suspect, but he’s always wanted to get a picture with him. Charles wants to go through them all by process of elimination to find the killer, but Oliver is intent on casting his podcast’s villain like a stage show.

In Oliver’s mind, he’s on a stage and all of The Arconia’s residents (except for Charles and Mabel) are in a chorus line. He goes down the line, eliminating them one by one until he gets to Howard, Evelyn’s cat daddy who also knew that Tim had a gun. Back to reality, Oliver shares his thoughts and hands Charles and Mabel body mics so they can record their meeting with Howard. Oliver tells them he has “Producer stuff” and won’t be able to join, adding that they must state at some point that Howard is being recorded for them to be able to use the audio.

Oliver has snuck away to Teddy’s apartment in the hopes of selling him on financing the podcast. Teddy brings up “Splash!” and signs to his deaf son behind Oliver’s back. Teddy tells Oliver that he would love to have drinks together sometime, but he doesn’t want to back any more of his projects.

On the elevator ride to Howard’s floor, Charles meets Jan (Amy Ryan), who has her bassoon case. She tells him she’s first chair bassoon at the city symphony and he tells her he’s heard her practicing and loves it.

Howard’s apartment is full of cat hair and cat toys, with a portrait of a cat above the mantel (revealed to not be Evelyn). Mabel naturally uses Evelyn to get Howard to trash talk Tim Kono, with Howard telling her that he heard Tim lost his job with an investment firm because he lost a big client a lot of money. He adds that his personal issues with Tim started when Evelyn got into his apartment through an open window and Tim freaked out because he’s allergic to cats. Charles stands up and tries to organically say “You’re being recorded,” but his nose starts bleeding and when Howard sees it, he passes out. Charles races to the freezer to get ice for Howard’s head, but the frozen corpse of Evelyn falls off and her leg breaks off. Charles brings the ice to Howard, who tells him he has vasovagal syncope, meaning he faints at the sight of blood. Mabel draws the conclusion that he couldn’t have killed Tim as a result. In the hallway, Charles tells Mabel that his nosebleeds are caused by anxiety.

Oliver dejectedly plays piano, drinking his Gut Milk and looking at the “Splash!” poster. He decides to sell it to get some cash and on his way down the elevator, he bumps into Charles, who takes him back up. Oliver confesses to Charles that not only was “Splash!” a flop, but it ruined him financially, with lawsuits and investigations into injuries sustained by the cast when the lowering stage malfunctioned. Worst of all, Oliver personally invested his son’s college fund in the show, which lost him his family in addition to his career. Charles cheers Oliver up by thanking him for getting him into the podcast and agreeing to contribute financially to the show.

Mabel pays a visit to the superintendent’s apartment to ask about Oscar. He isn’t there and his father doesn’t want Mabel talking to him. He asks her not to come back. Later, Mabel sits on the floor in her apartment looking at some items she took from Tim’s apartment. A note falls out of a magazine that says “G.M. 1/31 @ 4:30 Shore Road.” Mabel checks her phone, today is January 24th.

Charles has given Oliver an idea. He grabs a bottle of wine and two glasses and hurries back to Teddy’s, appealing to his old friend’s senses and getting him to give in and invest in the podcast. Later, Oliver takes his dog Winnie out for a walk and gets in the elevator with Sting. The dog sniffs Sting’s leg and the musician asks Oliver to control his dog. Oliver jokes to Winnie, saying “Don’t stand so close to Sting.” Oliver asks Sting if he knew Tim Kono and he gets defensive, asking “Are you suggesting that I had something to do with that?” Winnie can’t stop trying to sniff Sting’s legs and as the elevator stops, Sting tells him he doesn’t like dogs.

Later, Charles plays the theme he wrote for the podcast for Mabel, who doesn’t like it. Oliver enters and announces that the first episode of the podcast has been published. Charles is upset because he didn’t feel they were ready yet, that Oliver is rushing things. Mabel looks for it on her phone and finds it titled “Dima’s Chicken Wraps Presents Only Murders in the Building.” A total of five people have listened. Oscar tells them about the sponsorship, adding that they had to rush the first episode because of a promotional event with Dima’s Deli.

The episode ends with Oliver returning to his apartment and finding a note on the door. It says “End the podcast or I end you.” Entering his never locked apartment, he finds his dog Winnie on the ground wheezing, her chew bone covered in white powder. He jumps to the conclusion that Sting did this.

Only Murders in the Building returns on Tuesday, September 7th, with a new episode titled “The Sting.” I leave you with the episode description from Hulu:

Believing the murderer might be a famous resident who is difficult to access, the group seeks advice from a renowned podcasting host.

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