Tuesday, October 19, 2021

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Charles Jeopardizes His Own Life By Confronting Tim Kono's Killer in 'Open and Shut'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 1.10 "Open and Shut"

The trio races toward a resolution while their own lives are put in danger.

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 season finale of Hulu's Only Murders in the Building.

"Open and Shut" was written by John Hoffman & Rachel Burger and directed by Jamie Babbit

This season opened with a flash-forward of Charles and Oliver being warned to get out of the building only to discover Mabel over a dead body. It was meant to serve as a teaser for the story to come. It highlighted the friendship that formed between them as well as just how serious the nature of this story would become. They were drawn together by their love of podcasts. They have had fun putting this story together. They have made many mistakes along the way. And yet, they solve the case. They find out who killed Tim Kono. It was Jan. That invites so much juicy personal drama into the proceedings for this finale. That confrontation is epic. The trio celebrating this success is what was seen in that initial peek into the future. It feels disingenuous because it ultimately has nothing to do with the story of this season. The very first action of this season was setting up the premise for the second season. That's such a weird storytelling decision. It actually takes the power out of this final reveal. All season long the audience has known that this moment was coming. The viewer has been trying to guess how it would figure into things. The show even teased it some more with Cinda Canning eventually making her own podcast about the trouble Charles, Oliver and Mabel get into in this building. The story isn't singularly about Tim Kono. It's about so much more than that. It's all clearly the show trying to buck expectations. In doing so though, it creates less excitement for what comes next. That's disappointing. The surprise of that pivotal moment ultimately comes from who is killed. It's not about another murder taking place in this building with the central trio being closely involved. That shock value has worn off. People could have previously speculated that it was Oscar as he was the infamous tie dye guy. And yet, that hoodie became a symbol for the podcast's fans. It no longer had to symbolize him as this victim. He's not dead despite the close relationship he formed with Mabel. His name is cleared of all past wrongdoing. He is no longer a convicted killer. He can move on with his life. Mabel is at peace upon solving this case. That's incredibly freeing to her. Of course, that's what she says in one moment before fearing loose ends in the case in the next with Charles and Oliver. That too is odd. Again, it foreshadows what's coming. The audience operates on a different wavelength because that glimpse has already been provided to us. Sure, more details are apparent now. But everything would have been just as shocking if it was all contained to this finale. The inclusion in the premiere feels like a false choice in hindsight. The show wanted the audience to have the tools to figure this out all along. Howard's cat dying of the same poison as Tim was purely coincidental but should have tipped everyone off that Tim's death wasn't suicide. Tim having a bassoon cleaner should have immediately put suspicion on Jan. The central trio aren't that good as investigators. Mabel has brought more skills to the table than her partners. Even she was prone to falling down some rabbit holes in a search for meaning. And now, Jan is giddy with excitement wondering how Charles figured it out. That confrontation between them is excellent. It showcases the brilliance and horror within each deliberative action. It's incredibly dynamic and fuels so much of the intrigue of this climax. It's also then funny to watch the show follow that up with people not being concerned about Charles having been poisoned. That's the jaded New York attitude on firm display. People don't see it as unusual or troubling until Oliver and Mable come along. They understand exactly what it is. They have collected the clues in Jan's apartment to incriminate her as well. She would be arrested regardless of her confession on Charles' phone. That wraps up everything neatly. It showcases the ways in which the show blends drama and comedy. Sometimes it can go too far in either direction without really knowing how to balance out the repercussions. Its best episodes hit that balance perfectly. This finale has problematic structuring based on the overall season. It still provides a solid resolution while setting up more story to come. That's exciting despite some quibbles along the way. Plus, the central trio each get a moment of personal catharsis before their lives are turned upside down once more. They each find peace with their loved ones. Dating a killer may cure Charles of his loneliness. Oliver recognizes the pain he has caused others and knows he can't embrace those qualities again if he wants his son in his life. And Mabel is content with a bright romantic future. They are all dumbfounded as to what happened with Bunny. Some will show their support. Plenty will have disdain. It's all absurd. That's the show's greatest aspiration. It's all silly and it's all sincere. Again, that's a delicate balance. The show made it work more often than not.