Tuesday, August 2, 2022

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Mabel and Theo Work Together to Confront Ugly Truths in 'Flipping the Pieces'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 2.07 "Flipping the Pieces"

Mabel's incident on the subway leads her to gain help from an unlikely ally. Their journey takes them to a legendary amusement park which turns out to be full of terror - while amusements and evidence reside back in the Arconia with Charles and Oliver.

"Flipping the Pieces" was written by Ben Philippe & Stephen Markley and directed by Chris Teague

Mabel and Theo only understand a fraction of what the other is saying. And yet, it's truly cathartic for them to express their deepest feelings to someone else. They've long been afraid of confronting those realities themselves. It's freeing to do so to a person who doesn't understand the full complexity. The underlying point is still delivered. It allows them to form a bond as kindred spirits. Sure, Mabel doesn't trust Theo. He is a grave robber who killed Zoe and let Oscar go to prison. His father was responsible for so much of that trauma. Theo has had to live with the burden of those actions. He felt powerless. He still has agency in this world. For too long, he wasn't allowed to have any kind of normal fun. Seeing him let go of the pressure allows him to experience life in a new way. Of course, he still has to be held responsible for the sins of the past. That doesn't immediately mean forgiveness for his father. However, Mabel reflects on what it's like to be pushed away from the person she is suppose to love and trust the most. It's always been difficult for Mabel to talk about her father. That comes from a childhood where she was protected from the reality of his illness. It wasn't something she had to live with constantly. She always knew something was wrong. He would make promises and then fail to deliver when the time came for it. He had the best of intentions. He didn't always succeed in caring for her. Mabel didn't have a firm understanding as to why he repeatedly let her down. Instead, it was better to idolize him as this imperfect man who died suddenly. That's not the truth. Mabel has to accept that now. She can't ignore the past. She has to confront it. Of course, Mabel confronting people hasn't exactly gone well previously. She truly fears she is capable of stabbing anyone and completely forgetting about it. She has a pattern of losing memories. It's a way of protecting herself. She still actively seeks out these mysteries. She wants to solve these cases. In doing so, she has to be aware of every single facet of truth. She can't ignore what happened. Cinda would love to build up an incredible violent narrative around Mabel. Social media affirms that with the video of her stabbing a guy going viral. That doesn't tell the full story. However, it's incredibly annoying that Mabel has had multiple run-ins with the killer and hasn't gotten any closer to learning their identity. That's frustrating. All she knows is the killer also works at Coney Island. She goes searching for clues in employee files. That offers no immediate satisfaction. That comes later on during the latest confrontation where Mabel retrieves her bag. That reveals Lucy as the next target. Even that can't be properly addressed before all the lights go out in the city. It's a big dramatic twist meant to convey just how powerful and influential this killer is. But the narrative is struggling under the weight of trying to keep this mystery sustained for ten episodes.

At this point, it's better to stay in the personal lives of the core characters as they reflect on their failings in the past and try to make up for them in the present. They aren't perfect. They are far from it actually. They are actively trying to do better. They hope they can make a difference through the podcast. And yet, the team has withheld information because it would only further incriminate them. They can trust Detective Williams with the knife found in Charles' apartment. The murder weapon may unlock new clues. It seems like the obvious and sensible decision. It still took awhile for them to reach that conclusion. Part of that was explained by Detective Williams being out of town on maternity leave. She's suddenly back because she can't let this mystery go. She needs it solved just as desperately as everyone else. She's invested in the lives of the podcasters. That doesn't mean she's listening and following the details of their investigation. She simply knows she's a better resource for them than Detective Kreps. He has a very one-sided understanding of the case. None of the characters have treated him all that seriously. He wants his influence to be known. That hasn't informed too much though. In fact, it's more revealing when Oliver helps Detective Williams care for the child she's watching. He knows the tricks that come from raising Will. Sure, he's had his struggles as a father. However, every narrative impulse lately has been to showcase how loving and nurturing he is in this way. He is Will's father in every way that matters. Oliver worries about the results. He wonders what the genetics could mean for him. They could completely ruin his life. He is still meant to be seen as an upstanding guy in this way even though he falsely assumes Detective Williams doesn't know A Chorus Line. These parents bond offer the desire to do whatever it takes to make their children happy. That extends across a broad swath of the generational issues at play. Teddy wants to protect Theo. His son doesn't want to accept that help because he feels he should face some punishment for his actions. Charles protects Lucy even though he doesn't know the extent of the threat against her life. He simply receives the evidence pointing to the two of them being watched. As such, he needs to race back to the Arconia to keep her safe. He needs to maintain that security for her despite the murders constantly happening in proximity to the podcasters. Charles and Oliver worry about Mabel as well. She isn't purposefully avoiding their texts and calls. She also has to go on her own journey of acceptance in order to embrace them with as much love as she can radiate. However, the "flipping the pieces" metaphor of Mabel's realization was incredibly over-the-top and painstakingly forced. It didn't feel natural which ultimately disrupted the usual flow of storytelling.