Review: Only Murders in the Building – a dark tale of secrets, intrigue and murder

Selena Gomez has fully immersed herself into the role of ‘reclusive resident with dark traumatic past’ in her new murder mystery series, Only Murders in the Building. The new series is sustained by the complex murder at the heart of the show.

It begins with a young male tenant, Tim Kono, who has died under mysterious circumstances in the Upper West Side of New York in the Aconia apartment complex.

The evacuation of the building on the night of his death leads the residents to head to a local restaurant. This is where three of its residents meet for the first time. The residents include the reserved interior designer Mabel (Gomez), financially struggling theatre director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) and semi-retired actor Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin).

The neighbours soon start to bond over their love for true crime podcasts, and decide to start one of their own – Only Murders in the Building – to investigate what really happened in the death of Kono.

Only Murders in the Building is a Hulu original series, streaming on Disney+, consisting of ten 25 to 40 minute episodes. The series is original in the way it uses aspects of thrillers and dark comedies in its approach to murder mysteries. When the viewer thinks they have got closer to solving the mystery, the series throws an unexpected plot twist.

A lot of modern murder mystery films and series are much too easy to solve, which can ruin the experience. This series allows viewers to solve the mystery alongside the characters. Each episode reveals vital clues and characters that will help in solving the murder.

The opening episode dives straight in with a blood pumping and gory scene. Viewers are immediately shown a flash forward to where Oliver and Charles are racing through the building as alarms go off, saying that they can’t leave without finding Mabel. They find her hunched over a body with blood on her sweater as she desperately tells them “it’s not what you think”.

This already leaves viewers in a state of shock as the narrative turns back to two months beforehand, back to when Mabel, Oliver and Charles first met and started their podcast to investigate the murder. It’s a fast paced and visually immersive way to start the show, the actors are entirely convincing as a cross-generational group of true crime podcasters.

One of the standout performances of the show is Gomez. This series is definitively a great deal darker and more morbid than Gomez’s previous appearances but she handles the transition into the role of a complex character well.

The last episode sees the murder finally solved by Mabel, Oliver and Charles, on their podcast. All’s well that ends well – or so it seems. The jaw dropping cliff-hanger tells viewers that the characters’ troubles are not yet over, as they’re hurt and betrayed once again by an unknown rival, yet again leaving them to ask, who did it?

Only Murders in the Building is an outstanding example of the potential that the crime genre has. Crime fans will be left in a constant state of shock, wonder and confusion throughout each episode. That is not to say the series is without some breakout sentimental moments and its dark comedy is carried throughout the interactions between Mabel, Oliver and Charles as they learn more about each other.

All ten episodes of season one of Only Murders in the Building is available to stream on Disney+ now. The show has a second series commissioned.

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