1 of 5 | Steve Martin (L) and Martin Short return in "Only Murders in the Building" Season 3. Photo courtesy of Hulu
LOS ANGELES, July 27 (UPI) -- Pretty much anything that happens in the plot or any new character who appears in Only Murders in the Building Season 3, premiering Aug. 8 on Hulu, is a spoiler.
But know that the new episodes continue the successful traditions the show has established.
The epilogue of Season 2 revealed the third murder mystery would involve Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd), an actor in a play that Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin) produce. Season 3 is very much about the production of the play via flashbacks and present-day troubles.
Season 3 focuses on theater and the craft of acting, as Charles was an actor and Oliver is a theater producer, as well as the kooky characters one might meet in that craft.
Their play, Death Rattle, is an appropriately pretentious show that gets wackier the more Oliver workshops it. He still finds it a challenge to wrangle actors and meet the deadline of opening night and must cope with mixed reviews amid the mystery.
Ben's death interrupts the production of Death Rattle, so that adds a new dynamic. Mabel (Selena Gomez) wants to solve it, but Oliver and Charles are preoccupied by the play.
A flashback to a table read for Death Rattle introduces all the wacky characters. Loretta (Meryl Streep) is sort of the anti-Meryl Streep, a wannabe who tries too hard at pretentious acting techniques.
Ben also is a celebrity from a fictional movie franchise and Rudd plays up the entitlement of a spoiled A-lister. Donna Demeo (Linda Emond) is one of the producers of Death Rattle and immediately displays an unusual relationship with her son, Cliff (Wesley Taylor).
Other characters get enough of an introduction in the first episode to be memorable enough when their roles become more significant later. Each episode introduces more suspects with motives and new clues.
In Season 3, Only Murders in the Building still knows how to surprise savvy viewers and misdirect them with red herrings. But the heart of the show remains the trio of Oliver, Charles and Mabel.
Whether they're talking about the play or the mystery, the trio have a strong dynamic. By now, Mabel expects Oliver and Charles to explain things she already knows or doesn't care about, and while she calls them out on it, she still finds them endearing.
Basic comedy still applies, like Short doing an epic spit take or Martin selling a joke by the expression on his face. Season 3 also addresses an aging Charles and Oliver, as stressful murder mysteries would take their toll on people in their 70s.
The rehearsals for Death Rattle provide more opportunities for slapstick as incompetent performers mess up their cues. There also is room to show some of those performers shine once they've derived enough comedy from their mistakes.
The new season maintains the high standards for mystery and comedy. After three seasons, fans also care about the characters, so the show also allows them to evolve amid the deadly and absurd scenarios.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.