Only Murders in the Building—True Crime Satire

Renee Lucas ‘23 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

On the surface, the new hit Hulu original Only Murders in the Building is a lighthearted comedy about three eccentric characters trying to solve a murder. However, there is a copious amount of evidence found in the later episodes that suggest there is a much deeper meaning behind this show’s premise. 

Spoilers ahead.

Despite the show maintaining its overall lighthearted tone throughout the season, there are definitely moments of high emotion, specifically from Selena Gomez’s character Mabel. At the end of episode one, the audience learns the victim, Tim Kono, was a friend of Mabel’s. After that is established, it starts to become more and more clear that this show is meant to be a satire of the recent obsession with true crime. 

The first instance that screams this true intent for the show comes towards the end of episode two. The three main characters, Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short), and Mabel, are in Tim’s apartment looking for clues to solve his murder, and to paint a picture of who Tim Kono was for their true crime podcast, despite there still being blood on the floor. At the end of their investigation into Tim’s home, Oliver decides they have enough insight into his life, stating that he was asthmatic and no one liked him. Mabel, getting defensive, points out that he did not deserve to die just because no one liked him, that he was alone, and he is now dead, which should be enough for everyone to care about him. The other two try to make excuses for their behavior saying they were just trying to make a good podcast and they didn’t mean to offend anyone. That is when Mabel delivers her most intense line, “his blood is still on your shoes.” This line makes it clear to the audience that this show is meant to point out the absurdity of true crime fanatics. Charles and Oliver care more about their podcast, so they are treating Tim as if he was a character in a show and not a human being. 

After this line is delivered, it’s easier to see all of the smaller lines leading up to that burst of emotion from Mabel. For example, the entire episode was about Oliver trying to find a way to make the audience care that Tim was dead. However, as Mabel points out, empathy for this murdered man should be the default. No one should have to make anyone care about Tim Kono because he already deserved to be cared about. 

Later on in the season, the trio have dinner at Mabel’s mom’s house, and while there, her mother begs her to stop investigating Tim’s death because it will only bring her pain. She also begs Charles and Oliver to leave her daughter out of this podcast, and eventually Mabel agrees to leave the podcast. Unfortunately, this happens around the same time that Oliver gets a huge check to keep the podcast going, and once again, Oliver and Charles lack any and all empathy for the loved ones of a murdered man, and have trouble deciding if they should take the check or not. 

These scenes outlined above are meant to show how people treat true crime as if they are watching an episode of “Criminal Minds.” True crime fans can get so wrapped up in the mystery, and the entertainment factor brought to the story by these types of podcasts and TV shows indicate they forget these tragic stories happened to real people. This idea is driven home in the last couple of episodes when the trio is met with some of their craziest fans waiting outside of their apartment for them. These fans excitedly waiting for them in a cold, New York City winter seemed to hold up a mirror, which showed them how truly weird it is to be this excited over the entertainment factor of someone else’s murder.

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