The truth is all in how you frame it: Thoughts on Only Murders in the Building (S2, E1 & 2)

(courtesy IMP Awards)

Can murder ever truly be cosy?

It appears so; the plethora of murder mysteries where resolution is a near certainty (think any of the Law and Order iterations, from a franchise which at last count had something like 403 different shows on air) or set at a cosy time of the year (apparently lots of people get done in at Christmas which kind of makes sense) or where the investigator is an amateur of likeable intent (Father Brown meets Murder She Wrote methodically investigating with Hart to Hart) would suggest with like our grisly ends served up with a fetching side order of whimsy, bubbly characters and twists and turns which are less red herring-flavoured and more time for maximum mid-streaming effect.

Something like Only Murders in the Building‘s second season which picks up pretty much where season 1 left off, with our three intrepidly bumbling true crime podcasters – Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) – at the police station being interrogated as persons of interest for the murder of — SPOILER ALERT!! – one Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell), the hated head of the Arconia building’s coop board.

At the end of season 1, they were being feted by a legion of podcast fans who loved their raw, messy investigation of murder in the Arconia and also backslapping themselves, the three suddenly-new friends toasting their success at achieving what the police could not.

And then? Well, then, Bunny and a set of bloodied knitting needles happened and the trio found themselves the talk of the town in a way they never expected, although as faded actor Charles, who never stops talking about his role as fictional detective Brazzos, notes there’s no such thing as bad notoriety in New York City which loves people being famous or infamous and is having to have them around either way.

Still as they’re being questioned by good cop Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and hilariously bad cop Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport) whose attempts at being edgy don’t quite work, they must have cause to wonder if becoming even more of the story that was previously the case is exactly what they had in mind.

Well for Charles and Mabel anyway; Oliver, in true spotlight hugging style is more than happy to be a person of interest, to make an entrance into the heart of the media scrum outside the police station and to be outraged when the newspaper crops him from the front page.

He is loving all the publicity, and the idea of a second season of their podcast, something Charles could get behind but which Mabel initially rejects since, as “Bloody Mabel”, the discoverer in her own apartment of Bunny’s body, she is the one who is most in the firing line when it comes to public opinion, and to the attention of celebrity podcaster Cinda Channing (Tina Fey) who’s hungry to make a further digital name for herself.

The only solution is, of course, to plunge right back into the true crime podcast business, which they end up doing, a course of action which naturally involves all kinds of sneaking around in the building, quizzing those playing memorable supporting roles such as Amy Schumer and Shirley MacLaine and doing their best to settle their own respective demons which, as season 1 demonstrates with both poignancy and hilarity, are rife and harrowingly numerous.

To go any further into the events of the first two episodes of Only Murders in the Building season 2 – like season 1, episodes will release weekly, a retro throwback approach that every platform bar Netflix seems to have embraced with gusto – would be to give to much away, but suffice to say, if you loved the goings-on of the first memorably funny season, you will be cosily sidling up for a second serve right up until 23 August 2022 when the final episode drops.

While the new season does lack the new car smell of televisual novelty, it makes up for in the building on, rather engagingly as you might expect, on the very real truth that these three once-lonely people who are now a found family of sorts in the Arconia belong together, and especially so when they are investigating what would drive people to commit murder most foul (or birdy; this will make sense when you watch the show and realise what a truly dire play on the words that actually is).

Much of the joy of the first two instalments of season 2 of Only Murders in the Building comes from, once again, watching three people relate to each other, captured as they are in the most unlikely of friendship threesomes, each of them given the chance this season to delve into the events of the past that got them to the point where, in life, they are completely and utterly consumed by death.

Not their own fortunately, but others, and while it’s early days yet so any sense of who the killer might be is but a twinkle in the writers team’s eyes, we’re already well on our way to the finish line, a gallivanting sleuthing romp that has as much to do with the venality of people generally, and Upper West Side New York society in particular, as it does who might have wielded the murder weapon.

While the show is a little more knowing in season 2, which can’t help but happen since we’ve already found ourselves neck deep in internecine building politics and Agatha Christie-esque shenanigans, it still has that cosy, impishness sense of people who’d really never taken a risk in their lives, or who hadn’t for a good long while anyway, and who, persons of interest status aside, are actually enjoying their new found sense of connection and purpose.

It’s that engaging sense of collective humanity that sits at the heart of this show, which knows its way with wit and verve around a juicy plot point, an amusingly toxic personality or a laugh-inducing piece of tart or self-referential dialogue, but also around the human condition which if you think about is the core of just about any murder mystery worth its red herring laden salt.

In Only Murders in the Building season 2, that humanity takes the form of three people who need each other, who want to keep doing the thing that has brought them together, and who, dumpsters and weird lift rides aside, aim to get to the bottom of the mystery if only because they have a lot to gain from doing so, not least having a reason to stay in each other’s company that doesn’t involve chess in Central Park or brunch (neither thing is bad but it’s not a true crime podcast, now is it?) and which might just lead to something completely compelling in the coming eight weeks.

New episodes of Only Murders in the Building season 2 drops each Tuesday.

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