Tuesday, July 26, 2022

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Mabel Fears the Worst When Others Obsess Over Her Past in 'Performance Review'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 2.06 "Performance Review"

Charles, Oliver and Mabel collide with their podcasting mentor-turned-competitor, Cinda Canning. Subsequently, a key clue requires the trio to orchestrate a classic stakeout - Brazzos-style. New York has never been more glittering.

"Performance Review" was written by Ben Smith & Joshua Allen Griffith and directed by Cherien Dabis

Charles, Oliver and Mabel have legitimacy as podcasters now. They are taken seriously in this space because they solved a crime. People listen to their theories. They are desperate to prove themselves innocent of Bunny's murder. That gets more and more difficult as evidence keeps popping up in their apartments. They jump to wild conclusions in the name of advancing this investigation. It's how they operate. As such, it's how their listens react as well. The police don't appreciate that. In the first season, the podcast and its theories could be dismissed. Tim Kono's murder was ruled a suicide. Detective Williams had to be convinced. She saw the value in the evidence, which ultimately led to Jan's arrest. Now, the podcast is treated seriously. Two podcasts are competing to understand Bunny's murder. They have different theories of the case. Cinda Canning is eager to prove the guilt of the central trio. Her storytelling has largely been absent from the season after being so pivotal early on. She is treated as the ultimate professional. However, she's actually a terrible boss. She's always undercutting her assistant, Poppy. Moreover, she promotes fanciful storytelling meant to entertain instead of actually uncovering the truth. Charles, Oliver and Mabel can no longer idolize her. That's a consequence of her investigating them. But now, it's all about her story. She digs into Mabel's past mostly to fit her narrative of Mabel being a woman who snaps on occasion. Cinda interviews a man whose finger was cut off while working with Mabel at Long John Silver's. It's a story taken completely out of contest. He was the harasser in that environment. Right now, everyone is primed to see Mabel as the assailant capable of anything. She has been escalating her attacks after a lifetime of being the victim and witnessing horrific crimes. That's too easy of a summation of her essence. It's what so many people want to boil her down to. That's dispiriting. It's even the energy Alice seemingly projects onto the situation. She may have the right intentions in recreating the crime scene to help Mabel confront what happened to her. Mabel seeing that play out in real time commits so much damage. It causes her trust issues to flare up once more. She sees Alice as just another person trying to take advantage of her. Mabel wants to reclaim her own narrative. And yet, the world only wishes to view her as Bloody Mabel. She strikes again. That's the sensational headline. It has nothing to do with the trauma she's endured and the fear that the killer is on the subway with her. Charles, Oliver and Mabel had a clever plan to catch the killer as they try to retrieve evidence. They understand the natural storytelling impulses. They get distracted and make wrong assumptions - like believing they've been texting with Detective Williams. It's incredibly personal. It hinders their investigation in a way that may only increase suspicion against them.

Of course, this case isn't meant to play out on the public stage. People want to label Mabel as the killer. Meanwhile, Detective Kreps would appreciate it if both podcasts stopped releasing new episodes until the official investigation is over. The police are being flooded with tips. That overwhelms the system while providing no meaningful leads. It's all in reaction to the stories these individuals want to tell. They don't have all the answers. They have their own set narratives. They play into them no matter what. Mabel sees the pain Poppy is in. The assistant has to realize for herself that the abuse she suffers isn't normal. It doesn't have to be tolerated in the name of creative genius. She doesn't have to endure all that Cinda throws at her. She deserves to be inspired in this space as well. It's unfortunate Mabel doesn't have the time to continue being a trusted resource. She is willing to share Cinda's secrets. She wants the whole world to know the truth. That may have nothing to do with the murder. That's the overwhelming fear amongst all of this. The further people investigate the more they get away from what truly matters. Bunny is dead. No one is any closer to solving her murder. Mabel fears she must act on the subway before more people are hurt. That may still ultimately be a huge assumption she makes. Meanwhile, Oliver is trying to convince himself it's wrong to believe Will isn't his biological son. The evidence seems damning. He doesn't receive his DNA test results yet either. The narrative was pointed in suggesting Teddy is Will's father. That may ultimately shake Oliver's convictions in this world. He can't focus on the investigation now that he's too worried about the destruction of his family. He just got that back. He can't lose it all over again. That's not fair. It's what the world seems to be offering him. He can only cope with a hug from Charles. It's not something either of them wants. It's the comfort they need over how daunting everything seems. Charles is afraid to act. He's a non-confrontational person. He has people who would gladly take care of him. He relies on them on set. He doesn't even have to remember their names. That showcases how he is still essentially selfish. He still deserves happiness. That possibility is out there even though he closes himself off to anything with his hair and makeup stylist. He's too caught up in Jan, who continues to worm her way back into his life. It gets so dire that he makes Sazz break up with her instead. It still works. Jan is even turned on by the experience. That highlights how this show can play with expectations and still deliver emotional punches. Oliver can note the pattern that their behavior runs on too. This is all a formula. Human stories are being told along the way too. That balance remains true and provides continuing insight into these individuals even as the stakes continue to escalate.