The true-crime genre has been the center of mass production and featured in overexploited means as it rises in unstoppable popularity. From documentaries that become uncomfortably close with killers to crime podcasts in abundance, it's easy to criticize that there's simply an oversaturation of murder, crime, and unsolved mysteries taking over entertainment. Only Murders in the Building (2021-) is an exception to the true-crime bandwagon and reinvigorates the spirit behind the "whodunnit" theme in television programming.
An earnest mystery-thriller effortlessly balances the three main protagonists' melancholic lives while keeping in stride with the case at hand: a death in their apartment building that sets everyone up to be a suspect. The trio is comprised of Steve Martin as a washed-up actor, Martin Short as a theater director whose shows never strike success, and Selena Gomez as the 20-something who refuses to settle down just yet. There's a quirky, off-beat charm about the trinity at hand who bond over their favorite true-crime podcast. Inspired by the stumbled-upon mystery in their building, they set out to create a podcast of their own.
Only Murder in the Building escapes many expectations that may be surface level for any crime show. There is depth given to this Hulu original series that gives each time to marinate in its tonal complexities while wrenching itself free of any cliches that may dare cling to it. Martin and Short are highly recognized for their comedic feats snd are asked to take on heavier, downcast characters that come with an outright sadness to them. Both are wistful in their own means while grappling with their own feelings of loneliness during their pursuit to catch the killer. Deflated egos shine as the two bound from physical gags to emotional self-defeats, all while dodging sharp, deadpan jokes jabbed their way by Gomez, who is a bit more muted at the moment.
The series finds its triumphs in embracing every detail that it can extract, and pile them on top of one another. Every single moment has a more important meaning behind it, and there is a purpose for every scene. Each juncture in the show is a clue that either points the pseudo-sleuths one step closer to catching their killer or unlocks a piece of backstory that drives each character's narrative forward. The show makes sure to not stray too far away from its crime-based core and is faithful to keep the case at the center of the story at bay, masterfully questioning everyone involved. It's an incredibly engaging piece of television that sincerely wants to spur on that insatiable wanting for more.
The show exudes an authenticity about it and intends on reinventing a genre that has been so trodden down in its formulaic three-part narrative that becomes stale as time goes on. It enlivens the excitement that comes along with solving a mystery step-by-step. Only Murders in the Building is a commentary on its crime-thriller predecessors without coming across as being the slightest bit gimmicky. It's silly and satirical while being comforting, alarming, and empathetic. It truly is an enthralling harmony of mystery and comedy with human interest at its heart.
Only Murders in the Building takes no time to slow down while revolving around a slow-burning plot, topping each episode off with a cliffhanger that needs to be satisfied by a binge of the entire season. 9/10.