This article contains spoilers for the first season of Only Murders in the Building.Like all phenomenal mysteries, Only murders in the building (created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman) leads our suspicions in many directions. It’s an eccentric and unpredictable series with its own unique atmosphere, a satisfying concoction of dark humor and dark subject matter mostly set within the confines of grand architecture. This mix is enhanced by the show’s three stars, a trio of very different characters, all with their own authentic flaws but similar interest.
Only murders in the building follows the story of three apartment building residents, played by Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, who share a passion for true-crime podcasts and decide to create their own after the suspicious death of one of their neighbors . Through their investigation, their personal lives and stories are explored with humor, intriguing mystery and sadness, while maintaining an optimistic and charming tone. In a conversation with Collider, Steve Martin attributed the balance of comedic and melancholy scenes to the writing. The stars confirmed in the same interview that everyone who worked on the project made sure to make the gaming atmosphere “seductively positive”.
These strategies are ultimately what contributed to the success of the show. The series was both critically acclaimed and wildly popular, Ricardo De Querol describes the show for El Pais as “[smelling] like a classic, an aroma of those sweet detective films of old Hollywood, with a few drops of Agatha Christie and a lot of Woody Allen. The writing certainly balances contemporary themes with old true-crime tropes that never lose their appeal. According to Screen Rant, Steve Martin also insisted on avoiding an ambiguous ending and giving audiences the finale they’ve been waiting for. That being said, the journey to that conclusion is a complex mystery with lots of twists and turns, and is critically important to understand in order to appreciate the new second season, so MovieWeb has constructed a concise and comprehensive explanation of Only murders in the building.
What is the murder in the building?
As mentioned above, Only murders in the building follows three characters entangled in a suspicious death in their building, the Arconia. There’s Charles Haden Savage, a former television star played by Steve Martin, Oliver Putman, an indebted post-heavy Broadway director played by Martin Short, and Mabel Mora, a mysterious young woman renovating her apartment played by Selena Gomez. They are evacuated from their apartment building by an alarm and, while waiting to return, bond over a true-crime podcast. The trio sneak inside the building when they learn that a murder has taken place and find the body of their neighbor, Tim Kono. The police conclude that the incident is a suicide while the three detectives conclude that Tim Kono was murdered and start their own podcast (also called Only murders in the building), on the event.
Over time, the group attends Tim’s funeral and snoops around his apartment. They learn that Tim Kono had few friends and more enemies, and secretly the audience learns that Mabel was childhood friends with the deceased. Mabel and Tim were in a friend group with two other youngsters, Oscar and Zoe, before the group fell out. Several years prior, the group was at a party where Zoe mysteriously died, and the blame was pinned on Oscar. Tim Kono saw someone else murder Zoe, but never talked about who he saw, causing friction in his relationship with Mabel.
The only murder suspects in the building
Although there was the vague hint that Mabel might be involved in the murder, this is quickly extinguished by the Arconia’s other suspicious neighbors. The first suspect the group is brought to is a resident of the building, Howard. The paw prints of Howard’s cat were discovered in Kono’s blood, but when they go to question him, they learn that Howard is suffering from vasovagal syncope (so he couldn’t have murdered Kono) and also that her cat is dead. Meanwhile, the group also finds some grim notes along the way, including one that explains that Oliver’s dog was poisoned. After seeing Sting in the elevator (yes, the lead singer of The Police), Oliver comes to suspect the lead singer (a surprisingly funny actor) of the murder, and the sleuths hunt down that lead.
It turns out that Tim Kono was working as Sting’s stockbroker, but was fired after Kono lost a substantial amount of money. Oliver and Mabel resolve their suspicions about Sting while Charles goes on a date with another building resident, Jan (a tall Amy Ryan). Shortly after, Mabel pursues another track, “Montrose Gems”, the initials of which were found on one of the menacing notes. Oscar, one of the boys from Mabel’s old group of friends, finds her after she is released from prison and the two discover that Kono was trying to shoot a black market jewelry dealer named Angel. Meanwhile, the band’s podcast takes off, and Oliver’s former Broadway associate, Teddy (another building resident), writes them a substantial check to do more episodes.
However, verification leads the group to discover that Teddy’s account is also the black market jewelry dealer’s account. Charles, Mabel and Oliver quickly focus on Teddy and her deaf son, Theo. After investigating, the group deduce that Theo is the jewelry dealer, and he admits that at that party long ago he confronted Mabel’s friend Zoe about stealing one of Mabel’s rings. her father and accidentally pushed her off the roof. Teddy tries to convince the detectives to end the podcast in order to protect him and his son, but Mabel and Oliver release the evidence anyway.
Meanwhile, Charles is distracted by his relationship with Jan, and lead detective on the case Tim reveals that the podcast’s findings are bogus as the man was actually poisoned before he was shot. Also, Theo and Teddy were not in the building at the time of Tim’s death. After Jan is mysteriously stabbed and survives, the group begins to believe that Kono has a secret girlfriend. Charles is still distracted by Jan, a professional bassoonist, and attends her concert to find that she lied about being the first chair. At the same time, Oliver and Mabel are sifting through Tim’s apartment another time. They discover a bassoon cleaner in his secret collection of sex toys, leading them to their latest suspect.
The murderer in the building
The group concludes that Tim Kono’s murderer is Jan. Reluctantly, Charles agrees to try to get Jan to confess and lures her into his apartment. She explains, saying that she and Tim had a romantic relationship, but she killed him one day after they broke up. Jan used slow-acting poison on Tim, then proceeded to shoot him to stage his death as a suicide. Jan also poisons an unconscious Charles with a handkerchief and plans to gasse the entire building through the chimneys. Although Charles is inconsistent, Oliver and Mabel save him, and together they try to stop the gas from spreading and confront Jan as well.
After Jan is arrested, the trio briefly celebrate the conclusion of their rooftop podcast and Mabel leaves to get more champagne. Charles and Oliver receive a mysterious text that tells them to leave the building, and so they frantically search for Mabel, whom they find on the body of Arconia board chairman Bunny Folger. The three are quickly arrested and the series finale comes to an end.
Hopefully this explanation brings together the pieces that set up the excellent season, which has its own mystery that we’ll explore later. two seasons of Only murders in the building are available to stream on Hulu and Disney+.