‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 1: Review – What Makes it Work?


Murder mysteries are no stranger to us, but they prove to be a genre that is irresistible to revisit. With Only Murders in the Building, we once again have a fresh take on the genre, played with a perfect mix of murder, quirk, and humor. There are specific elements that the show uses to create this individuality. 

The Unlikely Trio

The crime-solving protagonists of our show are familiar character types. However, on putting them together, we have a delightfully quirky collision. Comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short come together with a face of a younger than younger generation- Selena Gomez. 

The characters of Oliver, Mabel, and Charles, manage to identify amongst themselves their lightning in a bottle chemistry. It is wildly entertaining to follow these residents of the Arconia, a prestigious and highly decorated building that serves as the center of the show. The chemistry of these unlikely teammates united by their place of residence is what makes the show tick. 

The murder is quick, and we are not left waiting with too long a setup. We are thrust into a twisted and funny world but with an undercurrent of high stakes that we cannot ignore. As each character holds onto secrets, the show is clever with how much they reveal to us as the episodes pass. 

The Podcast 

Only Murders in the Building finds a defining premise that sets them apart with the device of a true-crime podcast. As the characters embark on a journey of their own podcast, they create a reason and rhythm for their investigation. It serves as a central line to the show, leading to an easy structure for the audience and characters to rely on. 

The true-crime addiction is real, and the show does a fantastic job of using it to unite our trio of protagonists. It plays into a very real human instinct that is fascinated by murder mysteries. By depicting characters who are obsessed with the world, they draw in an audience who mirrors the same obsession. There is a nod to the nature of fans in the show when fans of the podcast point out more clues than the protagonists themselves notice.

It also leaves room for more comedy and stakes other than the murder itself. It is a subplot done right, never overshadowing but constantly supporting the core story that we are following. 

The Building 

As the name of the show and the podcast indicates, the murders are confined to the building. The characters make the decision early on, and we are given a specific and familiar crime scene to delve into. 

Only Murders in the Building makes this work well because the building in question is the Arconia, big enough and decorated enough by people and apartments to keep us busy. It provides ample suspects for our protagonists without having to stray from the scene of the crime. It also makes for visual comedy and intrigue, with the elevators, in particular, becoming a significant character in the show. After all, buildings like the Arconia do see plenty of activity in their elevators, the space where unlikely trios can meet. 

As we move from suspect to suspect and floor to floor, we become familiar with the building, just like the characters. We begin to draw our own connections and links, as the show gives us plenty of visual parallels. And we see as the building evolves into a metaphor for each character, as the place means something different and something profound to each of them. 

Only Murders in the Building manages to do what murder mysteries absolutely have to create a compelling argument. The show keeps us engaged and entertained, providing us with emotional context and clever intrigue. It is certainly an ode to how delectable the genre can be.

Read More – ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Ending, Explained

Only Murders in the Building is a 2021 Comedy Drama Television Series created by John Hoffman and Steve Martin. Season 1 is streaming on Hulu and Hotstar.

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Mareena Francis
Mareena Francis
Mareena Francis Parakkal is a 25-year-old writer and poet. She has written about film, people, places, and poetry across multiple platforms and hopes to continue doing so.

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