Tuesday, September 7, 2021

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Charles Must Confront His Past to Move On to a More Hopeful Future in 'The Sting'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 1.04 "The Sting"

Believing the murderer might be a famous resident whom is difficult to access, the group seeks advice from a renowned podcasting host.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Hulu's Only Murders in the Building.

"The Sting" was written by Kristin Newman and directed by Gillian Robespierre

Are there still enough original ideas in the podcast format? Or is everyone just copying the structure of a prior product that was deemed successful? In simply trying to copy what is known to work, it is then not allowing the original story to follow its own flow. Instead, it's a product trying to fit itself into a fixed narrative that may not necessary apply to the actual situation. Charles, Oliver and Mabel are such fans of the podcast genre. That doesn't mean they can produce a captivating and successful one. They have a solid mystery on their hands. They are obsessed with solving who killed Tim Kono. But the overall narrative becomes obsessed with an idea that could be entertaining instead of delving into whether it seems rational. It's such a tangential adventure for the trio to believe that Sting killed Tim. It comes across as the show landing a high-profile cameo from a musician of whom everyone is a huge fan. They had the time to actually write him into the ongoing mystery of this world. That's an exciting premise. It can't build off of everything that has already been done and that will ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things though. Yes, Sting is a pivotal neighbor. He is also leaving. He won't be part of this ongoing story. He gets ruled out as a suspect even though the central podcasters believe a celebrity inclusion will make their product even more scandalous. They see the value in that. They know it can appeal to an entirely new demographic. As such, they contort the narrative to make it easy to understand why Sting could have possibly committed this crime. They seek advice on how to best approach him. That too highlights the obsessive culture that comes from complete idolization. Charles, Oliver and Mabel came together as friends listening to Cinda's podcast about a murder mystery. They were obsessed about that until they got distracted by Tim's murder. And now, Cinda is easily accessible to them. They can schedule a meeting right away to get her advice. She has had success in the industry. Her company is acquired. She is rewarded with accolades and millions of dollars. And yet, she too can be informed by where the genre goes next and what the marketplace requires. That means she ends up copying from Charles, Oliver and Mabel. That's a surreal twist of fate. It's not even all that original either. She simply suggests that they are the murderers in the building. That's an ominous tease for the future. It once again suggests that this trio are capable of killing. That means the audience should be much more skeptical about every single thing they do. Of course, the sentimentality of the narrative is still apparent as well. Charles and Jan go out on their first date. It's Charles opening himself up to the world once more. He is no longer shut in and refusing to deal with his issues. He makes his bold declaration here about what happened in his last relationship. That has weighed him down. It's now lifted from his shoulders simply by talking about that pain. That's freeing. It also comes at a time when Mabel is conducting her own independent investigation. Charles and Oliver are blindsided by the scope of what all of this means to her. She has a much deeper history at the Arconia and with Tim Kono than they previously knew. That history was available to them. Oliver's son could warn them about her. Meanwhile, she's off pursuing a new lead. One that she can analyze and make quick deductions about because of the intimate nature of her quest. That secret has yet to be exposed fully. It's coming though. These three have so much in common. They have pushed each other to become fuller and more enriching versions of themselves. The investigation also pulls them into some dark places where they can't cope with all the shocking twists and turns that come their way. They are seduced by the podcast. But they also have to deal with the reality of their lives. They can't escape from that despite the joy they get from a fanciful story that's also all about death. That's at the heart of this show. The people conducting this investigation are captivated by a murder mystery because they've been guided along that path by storytellers in an engaging way. They hope they can offer that same journey to others. They are fundamentally living it though. It's no longer happening from afar. It's personal. It runs deep. Consequences will extend from that. Sometimes, joy can be found along the way. Betrayal is also just as quick to happen. That's the uncertainty of this all. Meanwhile, it's just easier to copy showing up with a turkey than coming up with an original solution. That's an amusing gag that also highlights the formula that has already taken root both in this show and in the medium at large.