Tuesday, August 16, 2022

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Mabel Gets Closer to Finding the Motive Behind Bunny's Murder in 'Sparring Partners'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 2.09 "Sparring Partners"

Closing in on the killer, Mabel takes her investigative talents into the ring. Oliver and Charles duke it out over a birdcage only to end up confronting their deepest paternal struggles.

"Sparring Partners" was written by Kirker Butler and directed by Jamie Babbit

What possible motive could Detective Kreps have for killing Bunny? That was the question Mabel immediately asked upon seeing glitter on his neck. The podcasters finally had a meaningful lead. The detective in charge of the investigation was actually responsible for the murder and the attempt to pin the guilt on them. As far as they know, he only entered the world of the Arconia after Bunny's murder. They have to figure out what connects him to this place that could justify his precise in the story beforehand. It all connects to their shared love of podcasts. Charles, Oliver and Mabel bonded over listening to Cinda Canning's All Is Not OK in Oklahoma. They obsessed over every single detail. They were all starstruck when they met Cinda in person for the first time. She was their idol. They wanted their podcast to be just as good as the content she constantly delivers. She then became their competitor. She was just as desperate to reveal the truth. In fact, she has been singularly focused on proving the guilt of the trio. That has been the only lead she's wanted to investigate. She's been crafting her evidence to fit that narrative. That was apparent when Mabel started raising questions about the tactics the other side was using. She formed a friendship with Poppy. Cinda's trusted yet unappreciated assistant was willing to share secrets. She put in the work to track down leads and get people to speak on the record. She has done a good job for Cinda. Her boss has refused to promote her or offer her the praise she deserves. And now, it's revealed to all be intrinsically linked. Cinda and Detective Kreps separately went to Oklahoma to investigate the Becky Butler case. As a team, they presented a conclusion to that story. After years of uncertainty, they provided closure. Cinda was the face of the project. Kreps was simply one of the many big city detectives to come take a look. He didn't like the work. It was something he had to do to afford living in New York City. He complains about every aspect of his job. It's unfair that he's a small part of this massive machine. He believes he should be appreciated more. He seeks validation in someone as smart as Cinda being interested in him. Of course, it's more likely she is using his access to boost her own career. Becky Butler is still alive after all. Cinda has even taken that agency away from Poppy. It's time for her story to be told. She's afraid because of what Cinda is capable of. She knew about the Rose Cooper painting too. That offers the perfect story of Cinda being the criminal mastermind. She set out to take down these rival podcasters because they were the ones in the headlines getting credit for solving a murder. Meanwhile, all of her ideas were floundering at best. And so, she has created her own story with Bunny conveniently at the center of it all. More still has to be revealed - like how Cinda or Kreps knew about the catacombs of the Arconia. Yet answers are finally being delivered in a season that has been reluctant to do so.

This investigative progress comes on the heels of personal insight too. Mabel is once again leading the charge. Charles and Oliver are left behind to deal with the personal ramifications of this job. They have a duty to pursue the leads as they develop. Charles reaches out to Leonora Folger the moment the real painting is found. It turns out Mrs. Gambolini truly was Bunny's most prized possession. The bird was trusted to protect the painting within a secret compartment in its cage. All it took to pop open was some senseless fighting between Charles and Oliver. It's playful because neither of them wants this responsibility. It turns out to be more important than either was willing to admit. The same is true of Charles' relationship with his father. He spent a lifetime asking questions. That has only been amplified by his personal involvement in this case. And now, Leonora provides answers. Of course, she's not actually Bunny's mother. She's missing artist Rose Cooper. She disappeared in order to escape an abusive husband. She's led a quiet existence since then. Cinda still found her. Bunny was killed in pursuit of her painting. And so, Rose had to return to the Arconia. She bestows a gift to Charles. She gets to reveal what his father was truly like. He simply wanted to be a good dad. He tried his best. He didn't get to fulfill that promise. It was completely aspirational. He was imperfect. Yet the reminder stood the test of time. That provides comfort precisely when Charles needs it. The story is building to its fateful conclusion. Everyone is left dealing with the emotional clarity of these reveals. Oliver finally learns the results of his DNA test. They prove he isn't Will's biological father. He wants to continue living in that lie. He can't have his son taken away from him. He still wants to hurt Teddy for sleeping with his wife. These men serve as kindred spirits too. They want to please others. They have always run the risk of pushing them further away. They can bond over that. They pledge to keep these secrets. Teddy has softened upon losing his son. Theo is willing to put in the work to mend the relationship. Meanwhile, Will loves having clarity on this matter. It brings him closer to Oliver. All of that is truly lovely. Some twist may still inevitably come. Secrets rarely stay buried for very long in this world. So much is still left to be revealed throughout this building. It's still perfectly reasonable to be hopeful about the future. Mabel doesn't have to be defined by the worst things that happened to her. Of course, she also doesn't need all the heavy-handed metaphors about getting the puzzle pieces to fall into place already. That makes her seem behind the curve given the various context clues floating around for the audience to easily absorb. She has the confidence to proudly declare Cinda as the criminal mastermind they've been searching for this season. That's a bold step.