Only Murders In The Building Season 2 Review: A Bigger, Funnier, More Ambitious Sophomore Season

Sophomore seasons are tricky things. If a show (be it in TV or podcast form) was lucky and good enough to hook you with its first season, there's always the risk of diminishing returns to consider. What was fresh can seem stale. It's a fact of life that applies to things beyond entertainment. After all, sooner or later, that new car smell fades. So I'll confess that up until the cliffhanger finale, I thought "Only Murders in the Building" was going to be a one-and-done series, and I was perfectly fine with that. It wasn't that I didn't want the show to return; it was because everything felt so perfectly wrapped up, and to extend things into a second season would be courting disaster. The central mystery was solved, and solved well. On top of that, it felt kind of silly to have yet another murder mystery happen in the same location. 

But silliness is baked into "Only Murders in the Building," and a second season is here, taking us back inside the Arconia, a sprawling apartment building on the Upper West Side. And as it turns out, I need not have worried — "Only Murders in the Building," created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, manages to avoid any trace of a sophomore slump (although there are plenty of meta jokes about how second seasons can often disappoint). For season 2, the show has become bigger, funnier, even stranger. This is a more ambitious season, jumping around in time and introducing new mysteries, new characters, and new revelations about our leads: washed-up actor Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), over-the-top Broadway director Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), and the sardonic, secretive Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez), who pals around with the two men old enough to be her grandfathers. The three of them have been joined together by their love of true crime podcasts — a love that inspired them to launch a podcast of their own. As clumsy as that podcast may have been, it became popular enough to earn Charles, Oliver, and Mabel a devoted fan base — which includes a local detective (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), who is sympathetic to the three amateur sleuths (while also growing occasionally annoyed at their tomfoolery). 

After the successful conclusion to season 1's mystery, Charles, Oliver, and Mabel were presented with a brand new case — one that ended up landing them in jail. Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), the cantankerous board president of the Arconia, was murdered — and Mabel was found over the dead woman's body, drenched in blood. Did Mabel kill Bunny? She doesn't think so (her memories are conveniently fuzzy to make the mystery extra ... mysterious). 

But if Mabel is innocent, that means there's a murderer lurking around the Arconia (again). Can our three hero podcasters crack the case and clear their names? Will Charles' self-loathing resurface in new ways? Will Oliver eat lots and lots of dip? Will Mabel overcome her haunted past? Will you laugh your ass off watching all of this? I can't answer all of these questions without giving away spoilers, but I can confirm the "laugh your ass off" part is accurate. Simply put, I love this show. 

More characters, more mysteries, more comedy

Memory and perception are a big theme of the season, and that requires the storyline to frequently shift perspective — and place. We not only learn more about our characters and their youths (or in Mabel's case, childhood), we also learn more about the imposing Arconia building itself, which seems to be literally overflowing with mysteries, like an apartment-sized replica of the murder mansion from "Clue." 

The secret to the success of "Only Murders in the Building," beyond its likable three leads and the zany chemistry they have together, is in how the series juggles tone. It's both consistently funny and compellingly mysterious. Yes, the show satirizes true crime obsessions — but the writers are also skilled at crafting the type of mysteries that get us hooked. The best parodies are those created from a place of love; it's only when we truly love something that we are free to mock it (good-naturedly). For its second season, "Only Murders" cranks up the comedy and the mystery. The jokes come fast and furious, while the characters stumble into one shocking twist after another. Nearly every episode ends on a cliffhanger, and while that's manipulative and kind of cheap, it works. We can't help but get caught up in it all. 

This season adds new players — who are, by default, new suspects — to the growing cast. Cara Delevingne is likable as an artist who grows close to Mabel. Amy Schumer pops up as a delightfully unhinged version of herself. And living legend Shirley MacLaine even stops by, and while her role is small, she's downright hilarious; MacLaine may be 88 now, but she hasn't lost her touch.

But it's the three leads that keep us hooked; that have us on the edge of our seats with concern (until we fall back, laughing at some absurdity that suddenly crops up). While I continue to think Gomez's character is the least interesting member of the trio (only slightly, mind you), she still works wonderfully with her co-leads. And Martin and Short, who have been doing this for a long time, remain seasoned, skilled pros. The two of them play off each other amazingly, and there are a wealth of scenes involving the two of them that had me trying to catch my breath from laughing so hard (Short is particularly great this season, really leaning into Oliver's inherent ridiculousness). As long as Martin, Short, and Gomez want to play these parts, I'll keep coming back to the Arconia, and I know I'm not alone. The first season of "Only Murders in the Building" felt like a nice surprise, coming from seemingly nowhere and giving us great characters, great mysteries, and great coats (yes, the fashionable outerwear is back for season 2). Season 2 shows us that the first season wasn't all a fluke. 

"Only Murders in the Building" season 2 premieres on Hulu on June 28, 2022.