Last August, the team-up between two comedy legends (Steve Martin and Martin Short) and one of the world’s biggest pop stars/actresses (Selena Gomez) sucked the world into a true-crime comedy spectacle. Yes, Only Murders in the Building Season 1 both captivated audiences and reeled in the stellar reviews. Season 2 wasn’t just an option but a certainty, and nine months later, we are jumping right back into the New York apartment building, the Arconia. If a nine-month time jump feels a bit rushed, and there was any suspicion that a short gap between seasons would result in a sloppy, unrefined follow-up, I’m disappointed to report that that is exactly the case with Only Murders Season 2.

Before launching into what makes this season an unsteady sequel, let’s reminisce on just where we left off our crime-fighting trio. Season 1 follows three residents of the Arconia: Charles (Martin), an actor whose glory days of a cable cop show are behind him, Oliver (Short), a theater director who’s lost more money than he can count due to repeated flops in his career and is living hand to mouth every day, and Mabel (Gomez), a mysterious young woman who seems to attract trouble and chaos wherever she goes. The trio bond over their love for true crime and set out to find the truth when murder comes to the Arconia.

The murder of Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) sets the events of Season 1 in motion. A lot happens: Charles, Oliver, and Mabel start a podcast, Mabel is forced to face her traumatic past, Charles gets a girlfriend (Amy Ryan), and then said girlfriend turns out to be Tim Kono’s murderer, but hey, at least they solved the case! In the final moments of Season 1’s finale, we see Charles and Oliver rush to Mabel’s apartment where they find her, covered in blood, kneeling over the dead body of Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), the cranky board president of the Arconia who had a mutual hatred for our three leads. Next, we see the trio arrested and led out of the Arconia by the police. Have they been framed? Did Mabel commit this crime? What does podcaster extraordinaire Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) have in store for her next show, “Only Murderers in the Building?”

RELATED: ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 2 Trailer Shows a Glimpse at New Suspects

Season 2 picks up right where we left off. Charles, Oliver, and Mabel are being questioned by the police (Da’Vine Joy Randolph bringing her perfectly grounded skepticism, Michael Rapaport being as insufferable as the videos he posts online) and they’re not quite buying Mabel’s story. She pushes her innocence but is unable to remember the finer details, her memory blurred by all the celebratory champagne. The season revolves around their search for Bunny’s killer, which brings in new characters (Amy Schumer as herself, Cara Delevigne as Mabel’s love interest with ulterior motives), but we also get to dive deeper into characters that weren’t given much time in the first season, like Bunny and others residents of the Arconia. There’s a valuable erotic painting that’s been stolen that ties into Charles’ family, Jan even makes a comeback, and evidence relating to Bunny’s murder keeps popping up in Charles’ apartment. How? The Arconia building seems to be storing more secrets than any of its occupants.

The best way to describe Season 2 is if Woody Allen wrote a draft of Desperate Housewives. The first season went on many tangents, but you always knew that it would come back to the central mystery of finding out who killed Tim Kono. In this season, we get flashbacks, Schumer playing herself for no discernible reason (or no reason that can be determined from the first eight episodes), and Charles and Oliver’s parental challenges. The relentless sideplots are so distracting that you forget what you came here for: a whodunnit.

It’s hard to pinpoint what type of tone Only Murders strives for. Sure, it’s a comedy, but it can also be painfully sad, addressing themes of loneliness, self-depreciation, and feeling as though your prime is behind you. Every scene, plot, and piece of dialogue is imbued with emotion that can be quite striking. This is done to great effect in the first season, but Season 2 just doesn’t stick the landing, which comes down to the issue of the script. The dialogue feels out of place, the jokes fall flat, and the switch from comedy to drama or vice versa is not timed right. It produces an abstract mess, and the detailed plot fails to push through.

In terms of acting, Martin and Short are at their best, but Gomez’s line deliveries feel weirdly off-hand at times. Sure, Mabel is meant to be the stoic, mysterious foil to Charles’ naivety and Oliver’s chaos, but you’re yearning for more from her than you were last season. Mabel is so multi-layered, and it sometimes feels that Gomez is struggling to carry the weight of such an intriguing character. Short is undoubtedly the standout, with moments that include an uproariously funny impression of Bunny. He’s sometimes on the brink of being too annoying or too outrageous, but he always dials it back just in time, and quite frankly, runs circles around his co-stars. Schumer is an awkward, needless character, jammed in as a total gimmick. Delevigne is not that bad, but that’s because she’s essentially playing a version of herself.

This season’s most affecting performance is Houdyshell’s, who takes on the role of this season’s murder victim. Bunny was your run-of-the-mill crabby rich woman who loved to take her frustration out on select victims. She loved to complain, rule, and reprimand, and we thought there wasn’t much more to her than that. However, there’s an episode devoted to her last living day, and Only Murders does an excellent job at retrospectively breathing life into a dead character. That’s where the script really steps up, giving you one impression of a character and then a few episodes later, completely flipping it.

Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building has no shortage of surprises, but it lacks a centralized throughline that ties it all together, preventing the audience from getting lost. There are so many B-plots vying for your attention that it will give you whiplash, and the show fails to see that when it’s at its most simple, it’s at its best. Season 2 will not fail to excite or tantalize, but it just doesn’t deliver everything that was so beloved about the first season. It does a great job of expanding the world it built in Season 1, allowing side characters their moments to shine and tying in gimmicks and jokes that remind you that, after all, this is a comedy. But so much to wade through in terms of story can dilute the sole purpose of the narrative: Uncovering the truth behind a shocking murder. There are twists and turns at every corner that will no doubt keep viewers coming back for more, but Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building ultimately loses itself in its overreaching and overly tangled web of plotlines.

Rating: C

Only Murders in the Building Season 2 premieres with its first two episodes on June 28, with subsequent episodes streaming every Tuesday thereafter, exclusively on Hulu.

Leave a Reply