'Only Murders in the Building' S2 review: Steve Martin, Selena Gomez, and Martin Short return for killer second season

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Oliver (Martin Short), Charles (Steve Martin) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) in Only Murders in the Building Season 2 (Disney+/Hulu)
Oliver (Martin Short), Charles (Steve Martin) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) in Only Murders in the Building Season 2 (Disney+/Hulu)

Only Murders in the Building, which returns for a second season on Disney+ from 28 June, is a murder mystery which capitalises on our need to consume entertainment.

People used to pick up a book before Kindle, listen to a radio play before Audible, and enjoyed their music on vinyl before Spotify, taking pleasure from reading the written word, or engaging their imaginations to conjure characters, as actors performed plays from a studio far away.

Something creators John Hoffman (Grace and Frankie) and Steve Martin (Saturday Night Live) knew all too well, when Only Murders in the Building season 1 premiered on Disney+ in August 2021.

Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in June

By bringing together entertainment veterans Steve Martin and Martin Short with Selena Gomez, this character-based comedy drama perfectly blended traditional tropes with a contemporary twist.

Only Murders In The Building -- Following the shocking death of Arconia Board President Bunny Folger, Charles, Oliver & Mabel race to unmask her killer. However, three (unfortunate) complications ensue - the trio is publicly implicated in Bunny's homicide, they are now the subjects of a competing podcast, and they have to deal with a bunch of New York neighbors who all think they committed murder. Mabel (Selena Gomez), shown. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
Following the shocking death of Arconia Board President Bunny Folger, Charles, Oliver & Mabel race to unmask her killer. (Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

It saw fading television actor Charles (Steve Martin), theatrical impresario Oliver (Martin Short) and aspiring artist Mabel (Selena Gomez) bonding over true crime podcasts, and what continues to sell this series is the effortless on-screen chemistry between our three leads.

Having solved the murder of Tim Cono (Julian Cihi) in a convoluted cliff hanger, these intrepid amateur sleuths were then marched off in cuffs accused of killing building manager Bunny as the credits rolled, as our trio of wannabe detectives found themselves under suspicion.

Read more: Steve Martin's greatest performances

In an opening episode, which finds them being interrogated by the inept Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport), all three slip right back into character without missing a beat, delivering subtle comedic barbs, disarming amounts of incompetence and lashings of sass.

Only Murders In The Building -- “Persons of Interest” - Episode 201 -- Welcome home, Arconiacs!  Minutes after Season 1’s finale, Charles, Oliver and Mabel are now implicated in the murder of Board President, Bunny Folger.  They must choose whether to lay low or risk their safety by catching the killer themselves.  As they grapple with that choice, fireworks ensue. Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport) and Detective Williams (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), shown. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport) and Detective Williams (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) are on the case in S2 of Only Murders In The Building. (Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

On the steps in front of waiting reporters Oliver mistakes fame for infamy, while Charles and Mabel head back to the Arconia. Each looking to take a break from crime busting podcasts, even as they become suspects at the centre of a murder investigation that has gone viral.

Throughout this second run real efforts have been made to keep the premise fresh, whether that might be bringing in heavy hitting cameos like Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment), or slipping in the occasional meta-moment. Referencing the difficulties of repeating a first season success, but doing it with so much charm and panache, that it simply fits right in.

Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin) in Only Murders in the Building Season 2 (Disney+/Hulu)
Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin) in Only Murders in the Building Season 2 (Disney+/Hulu)

This time round the writers have also chosen to delve more deeply into back story, giving audiences a better understanding of the core characters. Importantly, this is not only limited to our three principal players, but expands out to include the murder victim Bunny.

What that does is move away from relying too much on Gomez, Short and Martin to keep audiences entertained, whilst adding depth to a premise which needs to evolve.

Read more: Everything new on Netflix in June

Between the three main actors Martin Short wins out, tapping right back into Oliver’s vulnerability, as his need for an audience outweighs any sense of self-preservation.

Only Murders In The Building -- “Persons of Interest” - Episode 201 -- Welcome home, Arconiacs!  Minutes after Season 1’s finale, Charles, Oliver and Mabel are now implicated in the murder of Board President, Bunny Folger.  They must choose whether to lay low or risk their safety by catching the killer themselves.  As they grapple with that choice, fireworks ensue. Oliver (Martin Short), shown. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
Martin Short's Oliver enjoying his time in the limelight. (Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Charles has a more emotional arc this season, as the show chooses to employ flashbacks to explore his formative years. Which in turn offers an insight into the relationship between a father and son. It also touches on the connection Charles has with his current home, as well as shining a light into the seedier side of their current predicament.

There is only one story thread which fails to rung true in those opening three episodes, as Mabel connects with sculptor Alice (Cara Delevingne).

The artist reaches out to her following the media storm which blows up after all three of them become suspects, so just as Charles and Oliver each benefit from their new found celebrity, Mabel also finds herself experiencing some very positive scrutiny.

Only Murders In The Building -- “Framed” - Episode 202 -- A memorial for Bunny Folger provides an opportunity for our trio to question their neighbors, while they also try to get rid of a very implicating piece of evidence.  One of Bunny’s relatives makes a surprising appearance and if you thought Bunny was a force, get ready… Alice (Cara Delevingne), shown. (Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)
Alice (Cara Delevingne) takes a shine to Mabel. (Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Once she has met with Alice there is a tonally awkward scene which could be tenuously linked to identity, in which Mabel intentionally destroys something. That this visceral act ends in a brazen moment of intimacy sits at odds with everything else.

Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in June

On the face it there is nothing wrong with this scene, except that it undermines the narrative consistency elsewhere. If the intention was to make an artist statement, challenge perceptions, or potentially take Mabel in a different direction then someone dropped the ball.

Beyond that minor tonal digression, which continues to feel odd long after the episode is finished, Only Murders in the Building carries right on going.

Only Murders In The Building -- “Framed” - Episode 202 -- A memorial for Bunny Folger provides an opportunity for our trio to question their neighbors, while they also try to get rid of a very implicating piece of evidence.  One of Bunny’s relatives makes a surprising appearance and if you thought Bunny was a force, get ready… Mabel (Selena Gomez), Charles (Steve Martin), Amy Schumer (as herself), Barbara (Shirley MacLaine) and Oliver (Martin Short), shown. (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Hulu)
Only Murders In The Building: Mabel (Selena Gomez), Charles (Steve Martin), Amy Schumer (as herself), Barbara (Shirley MacLaine) and Oliver (Martin Short), shown. (Barbara Nitke/Hulu)

There are clever visual touches which incorporate a trippy Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) cameo, as well as some subtle fourth wall work from our principal players.

Each delivers such a consistently strong second season, that the only thing stopping a third murder in this building, would be a lack of available victims.

Something which is unlikely to be a problem any time soon.

Only Murders In The Building S2 launches on Disney+ on 28 June, with new episodes every Tuesday. Watch a trailer below.

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