Tuesday, September 28, 2021

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - All the Noise Is Stripped Away as the Mystery Receives More Clarity in 'The Boy From 6B'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 1.07 "The Boy From 6B"

With the investigation scratching at a web of old crimes originating inside the building, a mysterious young man turns the tables to spy on Charles, Oliver and Mabel.

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 Boy From 6B" was written by Stephen Markley & Ben Philippe and directed by Cherien Dabis

The most consistent criticism of this series is its constant need to overstate its storytelling through different contexts. That's an inherent part of its meta structure. The show is named Only Murders in the Building. That's the same title for the podcast Charles, Oliver and Mabel are creating that depicts their investigation into Tim Kono's murder. And so, the central trio are frequently framing every detail around how to play it for that specific format. They came together for this podcast. It's the channel through which they are choosing to tell this story. That's entertaining and purposeful for each of them. They have each made the commitment to continue with this process. They are playing to that audience. They engage with it. It's a symbiotic relationship as well. They release this story. People listen to it and potentially have clues to help advance the mystery. Of course, the audience watching the series is examining the story through a different lens. One that presents as a comedic television show. We can't help them solve this mystery or avoid the mistakes along the way. It depicts the vulnerabilities of these characters along with the absurd nature of their lives. And so, we see a different insight and get a unique understanding of how all these twists and turns play to them personally. The story has to be malleable in order to play in different outlets. That's the power of the different mediums. Some have booms in the overall entertainment industry. But it can also be difficult in trying to understand the nuances of the situation because it often feels more indebted to the satire instead of trying to be internally consistent. It's a structure that isn't inherently destructive or cumbersome. It's certainly noticeable. The show mocks the conventions of the format in these various genres. But it also wants to be an entertaining addition to their ranks. That's a tricky balance. And so, it's even more noticeable when the show changes up its format for a week. This episode embraces a very unique stylization as well. It's almost entirely silent. It's a decision that comes from the sudden relevance of Theo, Teddy's deaf son. Charles, Oliver and Mabel are suddenly convinced that their sponsor should actually be their prime suspect. That absolutely could have been nothing but a red herring. It could have been them reading into things with no proof to actually suggest any criminality whatsoever. In reality though, Teddy and Theo are criminals. They are robbing from the recently deceased. They are apparently the black market jewel dealers that Tim was investigating. The protagonists have these various pieces. They are trying to make them fit. But this episode stripes away so much of that. It's still fantastical in a lot of ways. The show certainly depicts Theo as a master lip reader who can go unnoticed throughout the Arconia while seeing things others cannot. And yet, his presence can't be denied any longer. He is responsible for Zoe's death. He can't be seen as an innocent bystander to that event either. He demanded one of his father's rings back from her after she stole it. He approached her in a moment of vulnerability. He did so believing he could offer perspective and hope. In reality, he was simply yet another man trying to tell a woman what to do. She paid for that with her life when she rejected that premise. And then, Teddy condemned and intimidated men of color to protect his son. It's vicious and despicable. It highlights the true scope of power and intimidation that resides within Teddy. Oliver has always seen him as a friend. He has supported him financially when others would not. Teddy has the capacity to take such risks while allowing others to believe it's a difficult struggle. He has always been comfortable and in control. He's a dominant personality in absolutely everything. Theo freaks out about what the podcast may uncover. And yes, the central trio can easily be distracted. The show has fun in that as well. It's hilarious to watch Charles and Jan flirt while playing Scrabble. It's mostly driven by the need to keep the central conceit alive for the episode. But it also speaks so much while saying so little. Again, this is a show that loves to talk. It indulges in the flourishes often found in these characters' lives. This episode serves to refocus that energy. Theo is scared. However, he is responsible for so much of what has disrupted the lives at the Arconia for years. Tim was bullied into silence out of fear for Mabel. Theo contributed to that. And now, Mabel and Oliver are tied up in the back of a truck. People are getting sloppy which may ensure that the truth is exposed sooner than later to the public at large. But it's also necessary to examine these stories of power. Who gets to wield it? Is it done so responsibly? People at the Arconia are certainly comfortable in their lives. They operate from a place of privilege. And yet, so much despair can exist in this place as well. Hope and love can be found too. It's a complex display of emotion that allows all of this to come together seamlessly in this episode. Hopefully, that trend can continue.