Only Murders In The Building Reveals All In Its Big Finale

Well, folks, we've arrived at the season 2 finale of Hulu's "Only Murders in the Building." The second season's final episode has a perfectly fitting title for one in which the mystery of the death of Bunny Folger will finally be revealed: "I Know Who Did It." Now, as we enter the finale, just keep in mind where we left off: though we know that Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport) is Glitter Guy, the black-clad person who was lured into an NYC park to grab some so-called evidence connected to Bunny's death, he's not the sole person involved and the previous episode implied heavily that he was in cahoots with A-list podcaster Cinda Canning (Tina Fey). Why's that? Well, because Becky Butler, the presumed-dead woman at the heart of Cinda's biggest podcast hit, "All is Not OK in Oklahoma," is not only alive and well but is apparently Cinda's assistant Poppy (Adina Verson), in disguise. Last week's episode seemed to mostly put to rest anything connected to the rare painting in Bunny's apartment, created by the reclusive painter Rose Cooper (Shirley MacLaine), who had an affair with the father of Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) ... even though Bunny's final words were apparently "14" and "Savage," the latter seems especially notable seeing as it's the name of said painting. 

But let's see.

The first season of "Only Murders" asked the question "Who is Tim Kono?" (That, of course, was the man who was killed in the pilot, setting off the adventures of Charles and his fellow podcasters.) The second-season finale starts by answering a question that some of us may have asked after last week's surprising cliffhanger: who is, or was, Becky Butler? Becky Butler, we all thought, was the dead woman whose disappearance served as the linchpin for the podcast that brought Charles together with Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), as dedicated true-crime fans thrown into a world of true crime in their apartment building. But now ... well, Becky Butler is alive and well, and now known as Poppy White, so it is perhaps fitting that the episode gives the setting-stage narration to the real Becky Butler, who's reminiscent of Poppy while having a different hairstyle, no glasses, and a pronounced Southern accent. "Before I became one of the most talked-about people in the country, I had a pretty ordinary life ... if you assume most ordinary people are miserable," Becky intones, looking pretty miserable in a fairly squalid living situation in Oklahoma, living with a nasty father and working as an assistant to the mayor of Chickasha. Said mayor seems like a creep, especially after she politely turns down his offer of a late-night drink in the office and he jovially says, "You're not always going to be able to say no to me!" Yuck.

Becky does get some semblance of joy in life courtesy of podcasts hosted by, you guessed it, Cinda Canning. Though Cinda's not yet a big deal, we hear her on what appears to be an earlier true-crime podcast, one about a woman looking to escape the drudgery of life. That show inspires Becky to do some desperate Googling about how she can escape her drudgery of a life. Though you could call it an impulsive decision, Becky takes a look at her father — thanks to a solid split-diopter shot between her laptop and her snoozing dad, courtesy of director Jamie Babbit — and starts chopping off her own hair, beginning with the bangs. A week later, Becky's disappearance has confounded local authorities, and in a smash cut to New York, Cinda is visited by a young bespectacled woman named Poppy White. 

Poppy essentially pitches Cinda on the entire concept of "All is Not OK in Oklahoma," down to the show's title (a spin on the mayor's campaign slogan), without mentioning that she is the woman gone missing. Cinda wishes aloud that the missing Becky Butler is actually dead at the hands of the mayor, but takes on Poppy as her assistant ... and also the credit for the podcast's eventual success in an arrogant interview. (She does seem about to give Poppy the credit, but she's actually just asking for a sandwich, one that she forcefully demands has "no tomato," which ... let's put a pin in that.)

The big plan

"Are people really listening to this insipid sh*t?" Cinda asks angrily, as we move forward in time to the first-season finale, as she and Poppy listen to the finale of the in-show podcast that bears the TV show's name. "I will not be podcast Nickelback," she says to Poppy, desperate for a new big hit and to avoid being a one-hit-wonder. And she's not interested in Poppy's latest idea ... about a long-missing artist named Rose Cooper. Well then! No, instead, Cinda says that she will make her next big podcast "happen all on my f**king own!" Another well then!

Back in the present, Mabel explains to Charles and Oliver that Cinda sent a man to prison for Becky's death despite Becky not being dead, as Charles notes that Cinda's trying to do the same to them. Oliver, of course, mostly applauds Cinda on her style: "What commitment, huh?" The trio is a bit lost for what their next step should be, as Charles struggles to materialize a plan after decidedly saying, "I have a plan!" Eventually, he does note that with Detective Williams (DaVine Joy Randolph) doing forensics on the bloody knife, they could find an answer if Cinda's DNA is present. Failing that, they need a confession, though Mabel points out that such a confession coming from Cinda is hard to imagine. "Can we torture her?" Oliver asks before suggesting Charles should grab his concertina and "your ten most amusing stories." (Charles' response of a middle finger is particularly funny.) Upon Charles' flailing suggestion that they need to figure out what unravels Cinda, Mabel suggests that Poppy would be the answer.

After the opening credits, our podcasting trio meets with Poppy at the Pickle Diner. "How can we get Cinda to crumble and cave ... like a crumbling cave?" Charles asks. Poppy says that a confession is basically impossible, though in terms of things that disturb Cinda, "she does not like the inside of a tomato." (I told you to put a pin in that!) Poppy also notes that Cinda is also "very afraid of slow motion." "So she's a true psychopath?" Oliver asks, and ... I mean, those are very weird things to be vexed by. Poppy, after noting that the finale of "Only Murderers in the Building" drops the next day, orders a liverwurst-and-marmalade sandwich to go before heading off to take a call from Cinda. ...Yuck. Mabel, meanwhile, has to take a call from Detective Williams offscreen, as Charles and Oliver note that they have to take Cinda down before that finale is released. When Mabel returns from the call, she's horrified: "I think I know what '14 Savage' means." Uh-oh.

A killer reveal party

That night in the Arconia, everyone has reconvened in Bunny's apartment, and I do mean everyone, from the grumpy Uma (Jackie Hoffman) to Howard (Michael Cyril Creighton) and his new boyfriend Jonathan (Jason Veasey) to doorman Lester (Teddy Coluca) and so on. "Why is that damn bird back?" Uma asks at the sight of Mrs. Gambolini, back in her old haunt. Building manager Ursula (Vanessa Aspillaga) notes that a shady email told everyone in the room to be there if they "love good theater and/or want to be a part of history." After Howard and Jonathan debate if the "killer reveal party" is a party in which a killer is revealed or a reveal party with a killer vibe, Charles, Oliver, and Mabel enter and explain that they know who killed Bunny, but they want to make it more dramatic as opposed to just telling everyone directly. "Why else am I here?" asks superfan Marv (Daniel Oreskes), still sporting his OMITB hoodie. "Can't we have a little dramatic tension?" Oliver asks.

He then asks if anyone in the room has theatrical experience or training. Though he's less impressed by Jonathan's role as a hyena in "The Lion King" and Howard's failed audition for "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat," Oliver and the others are shocked to learn that Lester was rivals with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor Tracy Letts ... for a while, before becoming a homeless drug addict who eventually grabbed the first job he could, as the Arconia doorman. Poor Lester. Though the others are dubious about the party, Mabel gives an impassioned plea to convince their fellow Arconians to stay and help out for a live-stream podcast reveal.

An hour later, Cinda and Poppy arrive to get a confession of their own, presumably from Mabel. Cinda is perplexed at how the apartment is set up like a big birthday party, replete with a "We cracked it!" banner, as Charles explains that the podcasting trio figured out who killed Bunny Folger. "It gives me no pleasure to inform you that the killer is here," Charles says theatrically, just as Mabel's old flame Alice (Cara Delevingne) arrives, fashionably late. Charles recaps that we know Bunny's last day involved her planning to move to Florida, and ended with her being ignored by Charles, Oliver, and Mabel, inadvertently sending the board president to her death in her apartment, before being forced into Mabel's after having been stabbed with Oliver's knife and Mabel's knitting needles. When Mabel finishes the whole spiel, also including the secret passageways and the painting of Charles' dad, she says "Jesus, is this what we're really telling people?" It is a bit convoluted, fair enough.

Charles then points the finger, literally, at Cinda as the person who would want to frame the three of them. Oliver states that it was with Detective Kreps' help that Cinda was able to pull off the frame job, up to this point. "How did you know about Kreps?" Cinda says, shocked. But then she collects herself and asks an obvious question: "Why would I want to kill an old woman I never met?" Lester jumps up and points out that Cinda had visited the building often before Bunny's death, ostensibly in doing an investigation on the Tim Kono murder. "She was my only friend! And you took her!" Lester says fiercely, before breaking down in tears. You can see an alternate universe where Lester was the Tracy Letts of his generation, right?

"There is literally no motive here. Why would I have done any of this?" Cinda asks forcefully, leading into the trio's next gambit: ...slow motion. Yes, really: the entire group of Arconians — first just Charles and Oliver ± start moving and talking in exaggerated slow motion to set Cinda off, and ... I mean, what can I tell you? Watching Steve Martin and Martin Short use their bodies like slow-moving elastic is just really funny. It's a goofy, dumb visual gag, but it made me laugh. When a disgusted Cinda threatens to leave, Charles reveals their next gambit: a tomato. He points out that after Cinda got her big multi-million-dollar podcasting deal — referenced in season one, for those who may have forgotten — she needed a big story and decided to make one up, and framed other famous podcasters to make it even juicier (like the tomato he's squeezing in front of her). Just as Cinda pushes back, Mabel cuts in with a reason why Cinda refuses to confess: "Because she didn't do it."

Pure luck

So who was it? Well, now Mabel points the finger, literally ... at Alice. Mabel says that because Alice was making art out of our heroine's tragedy, she would have wanted to up the value for her fledgling art gallery and raise the stakes in bloody fashion. Plus, Mabel reveals that she's known Alice was a killer for a while, courtesy of the trashed Son of Sam card that Alice tried to keep hidden. And Mabel says it was Alice hounding Bunny for the painting, but Bunny asked for $14 million, hence "14" and "Savage" being Bunny's final words. "You talentless, smug b**tch," Alice hisses at Mabel. (At this point, it should be noted, the other Arconia residents seem particularly baffled at what's going on, so this accusation is off-script.) 

Alice then turns around, grabs a large butcher knife that was going to be used to cut the celebratory cake, and then lunges. The good news is, Charles is quick enough to push Mabel out of the way. The bad news is ... Alice stabs Charles in the stomach. Though the others are quick to hold Alice down, it is apparently too late for Charles, who is definitely dead. (This is a good cut-to-commercial shock, but ... y'know. I'd say put a pin in this, but I think we both know Charles is going to be fine.)

As the others wait for the cops, Alice has now been taped to a chair in the living room, and Cinda apologizes for her role in this whole mishegas. And she's so impressed by Mabel and her courage that she offers her a job on the podcast team. "I think you could have your own podcast," she says in a sentence that ends up triggering Poppy, as you might guess. "This was pure luck!" Poppy shouts, pointing out how little connects Alice to the murder before she sneezes. "I do everything for you," Poppy snaps, pointing out how much terribly dull and tedious work she does, and that she told Cinda all about Rose Cooper and her art, despite being ignored.

"Why'd you tell Cinda about Rose Cooper?" Mabel asks pointedly, before noting that Poppy was interested in Bunny's painting. And Oliver notes that Poppy keeps sneezing, apparently being allergic to Mrs. Gambolini. You may recall that Lucy (Zoe Colletti) heard the killer sneeze right after killing Bunny, and if you didn't, Poppy, fortunately, reminds us all by mentioning the girl hiding in the walls ... a fact that only the killer would know. Cinda then reveals that she now knows Poppy is actually Becky Butler. "Who told you that?" Poppy says before Charles sits up and reveals that he, Mabel, and Oliver did.

Yes, obviously, Charles is not dead. (Though the other Arconia residents are shocked at his non-death.) "It was all theater," he says, holding up a blood pack connected to his stomach, as Oliver explains that they've been onto Poppy since earlier that day. Poppy, now slipping back into her natural Southern accent, says that things began to go wrong immediately, starting at the end of the season-one finale, when she texted our heroes and Mabel instead headed to her apartment. So what clued our heroes in about Poppy's machinations? In a brief cut back to the Pickle Diner, we see Mabel on the phone with Detective Williams, who's shocked that the DNA results point to a dead girl from the Midwest ... from Oklahoma, in fact. And then Mabel notices that there's an offbeat special on the menu: a liverwurst-and-marmalade sandwich, the #14 special. So Bunny was actually referring to the sandwich (not "Savage") ordered by the person who bothered her about Rose's painting.

Talking to each other as people

Poppy recounts her opening narration here, saying that her life was ordinary based on the assumption that most ordinary people are miserable. As she does, we watch the cops (in slow motion, fittingly) take her away ... and her lover, Detective Kreps. In separate podcasts, Charles and Cinda wrap up the details, as we see that Poppy/Becky met Kreps during the Becky Butler investigation, they fell for each other and convinced themselves that they "deserved" the rewards of killing Bunny and becoming rich off the rare painting. But of course, now they're both in jail.

"Now we can just talk to each other as people, and not about murders!" Charles says to Oliver and Mabel after they finish recording, though the prospect seems ... oddly uninteresting. Later, Charles and Lucy are on the set of the "Brazzos" reboot and find to their pleasure that — because of his focus-group test scores and not being guilty of murder — Brazzos no longer is in a wheelchair and his "dementia is in remish." This show sounds great. Meanwhile, in celebration, Charles tries to stumble his way through asking makeup artist Joy (Andrea Martin) on a date, which she, fortunately, agrees to in spite of him basically being unable to speak to her.

At her apartment, Mabel shows Alice that she's beginning to remodel, first by painting over the big mural she made throughout the first season. At Oliver's, his son Will (Ryan Broussard) visits after the big "Wizard of Oz" show is wrapped, in part to take a look at the newly renamed bird Mama G. "Winnie's grown awfully attached," Oliver says before he bucks himself up to come clean about the truth of the DNA results and the fact that Oliver isn't Will's biological father. "...Dad, if you're not my father, then I don't know what a father is," Will says bluntly before they embrace. The "Veronica Mars" route! Just as I guessed a couple weeks back. The embrace is broken up by a phone call to Oliver, with a true miracle: a job offer to direct a big Broadway show going live in a year. "Who's the star?"

Well, cut to a year later, as we see Oliver backstage knocking on the door of said star, Ben Glenroy, played by none other than the biggest fan of "Mac and Me" there ever was, Paul Rudd. (Google Rudd and "Mac and Me," and you can thank me later.) Ben, dressed as if he walked out of a film noir as a private eye with a long trenchcoat and fedora, says he's good but looks awfully annoyed. "I'm gonna rock this place. It's the other guy you need to talk to. F**kbag." Though Oliver encourages Ben to use his rage towards "the other guy," that might be a problem. See, the other guy, who joins Ben onstage behind the curtain, is our very own Charles (dressed similarly to Ben). And boy, do these two really seem to hate each other. "Be smart. Stay away from her," Charles says before hinting: "I know what you did."

On the other side of the curtain, Mabel and Oliver sit next to Lucy and Joy, ready for the show to begin. But that will be a problem. While the curtain rises on Ben, asking, "What turned me into a creature of the night?", he stumbles ... literally. Because he's just been killed, seemingly from the inside out. "You've got to be f**king kidding me," Mabel says as the show cuts to its end credits, with a "Yodel Shop" version of the show theme. (Nice touch.)

Who did it

So on the whole, what to make of the second season of "Only Murders in the Building"? In the end, I would say that while I very much enjoyed this season, I think it was — almost by design — a slight step down from the first. Part of it, perhaps, is that the first season had the benefit of feeling like a genuine surprise in many ways. Part of it, perhaps, is the seemingly built-in knowledge by the writers that rare is the true-crime podcast, or TV show, whose sophomore effort outclasses its predecessor. I think many pieces of this season worked very well — the core trio was excellent as always (and maybe this year, Selena Gomez can get an Emmy nomination, which was deserved for last season too), and the expansion of the supporting players at the Arconia was a welcome treat.

But I would be lying if I said I wasn't slightly intrigued by the tease for the third season (which has already been announced by Hulu). Presumably, or maybe I should say "hopefully," we'll get a bit more of Paul Rudd in the third season, to fill in some of the gaps we're deliberately missing in the year between the arrest of Poppy White and the death of Ben Glenroy. More than anything else, I think it will be nice for the show's murders to, ironically, expand outside the building. While the reveal of Bunny's murderer plays fair — one of the reasons why Detective Kreps being a big part of the crime initially vexed me was that, logically, it felt sound only for the murderer to have been involved in some capacity with last season's case, and Poppy fit the bill there — it also highlights the limits for a show like this. If "Only Murders in the Building" stays cooped up like Mrs. Gambolini in the Arconia, then either a cast member will be the killer or the killed. And I'm not sure I want that to happen.

Season 1 was more fluidly solid, but now that "Only Murders" has embraced its core love of Broadway (think of the even larger supporting cast they can pull from now), I am doubly excited to see how the series expands for its third season.


  • I continue to think that one of the subtextual aspects of this show is that Cinda Canning seems particularly terrible at her job, and no one notices or cares, because Becky Butler Googling "how to disappear" seems like the kind of thing that would be ... notable evidence, no?
  • "Don't hate the playa, hate the game, bruh." Every time you think Oliver is as embarrassing as possible, he goes lower.
  • "Have both of you had strokes, or have I?"
  • Charles managed to thread the needle of the whole "killer reveal party" confusion quite nicely.
  • Good to know that Gut Milk Light, per Cinda's ad read, has "none of the unexplained crunch."
  • I interviewed John Hoffman, co-creator of the show, about this season, and I think you ought to read it. Now!