Martin Short Is At His Absolute Best On ‘Only Murders in the Building’

Only Murders in the Building used to be a show about an apartment building, and now it’s all about theater. In the season two finale, Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) directs a killer reveal. Putnam was a successful Broadway director, but became most known for his biggest failure: a disastrous, dangerous, and campy adaptation of the 1984 film Splash! For the reveal, Putnam enlists the most colorful residents of the Arconia as supporting characters in the production. Given what we know about Oliver – chaos is as attached to him as he is to dips – the killer reveal is ridden with tension. Something could go wrong at any moment. But the elaborate production goes all according to plan, save for a few try-hard performances from Arconia’s quirkiest.

Throughout the series, we’ve watched the Only Murders in the Building podcast within the show better each host: Charles (Steve Martin), Mabel (Selena Gomez) and Oliver. For Oliver, the podcast has reactivated his talent, ambition, and love for the theater. By the end of the season finale, Oliver is directing a real Broadway show that does not involve any life-threatening sets (that we know of right now). But Oliver’s journey has also been quite dark: in the first season, his relationship with his son is strained due to his financial needs, and in season two, just as his relationship with the son is on the mend, Oliver learns that he is not his son’s biological father. The contrast between the camp and the drama is hard to pull off: not many actors can do both, and not many that can do it as well as Martin Short. Oliver, always the elephant in the room thanks to his uniform of a waistcoat, matching trousers and a colorful scarf, is Only Murders in the Building’s most valuable character, and Short’s performance is one of the best on television.

Following the season two finale, Hulu announced that Only Murders in the Building has been renewed for a third season, which we know, thanks to the finale, will focus even more on theater. The first season of the murder mystery series was charming, cozy, and intimate. It focused on a small, narrowly focused world, and was mostly set inside the Arconia, with a few carefully selected guest stars including Sting, Amy Ryan and Nathan Lane. In season one, the murders were truly in the building. Season two, which unraveled the mystery behind the death of Arconia co-op president Bunny Folger, in contrast, was sprawling. It expanded the world far outside the Arconia and had a seemingly endless roster of guest stars: you can now find Only Murders in the Building on the IMDB pages of Cara Delevingne and Michael Rappaport, for example. There were so many guest stars in season two, in fact, that I hardly remember why Amy Schumer was there, and Shirley Maclaine’s (absolutely perfect) scenes feel like they happened years ago. In the end, Bunny’s murder, which happened inside Mabel’s apartment, had nothing to do with the Arconia besides the fact that it happened there.

Every time the second season felt dry or meandering, Short saved the day with a simple, unexpected Adam Driver-inspired pronunciation of a word (the way Short says “theater” is a work out of art on its own). From fighting Nathan Lane in an elevator in a way only a musical theater professional would to lovingly talking about and carrying dips, Short is the heart and soul of Only Murders in the Building, so much so that it has shifted its focus to theater both in season two, and season three: the season two finale introduces Paul Rudd as an actor in Oliver’s Broadway show, and ends with his puzzling on-stage death. It has since been announced that Rudd will be in season three. No matter how clunky Only in Murders in the Building gets, and no matter how famous the guest stars, as long as it has Martin Short, it will remain one of the most comforting shows on television.