Tuesday, September 19, 2023

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Loretta Shares a Secret While Charles and Oliver Act Like Fools in 'Sitzprobe'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 3.08 "Sitzprobe"

On the day of the show's most critical rehearsal, the pressure mounts. A familiar official returns to upend the case. Loretta's complex past threatens to upend all else and Charles must finally sing his number without losing his marbles.

"Sitzprobe" was written by Pete Swanson & Siena Streiber and directed by Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini

Charles and Oliver are fools. Yet they use that perception to their advantage. Similarly, the show is remarkably crafted in rewarding the various developments that build up to something rather astonishing. Charles and Oliver know Detective Williams is a fan of musical theater. As such, they hype up the need to see Charles perform his patter song. It's condensed to a much shorter time frame for her as she only returns to the story upon the murder case being reopened. Meanwhile, the audience has had to sit alongside Charles' dread. He's had moments of brilliance. He had to train his mind to work in a different way. That was a terrifying thought. It plunged him into the white room. However, the pressure of this moment requires him to get every single word and note right. Oliver acknowledges right away that there are going to be mistakes. This is the first meeting between the performers and the orchestra. Everything is being worked out right now. It's not necessary for a critic to review these proceedings. Oliver still invites Maxine to acknowledge that he's on the right track with the revamped production. He receives that blessing. He is singularly focused on the show. And yet, he can't help himself from getting distracted. He wants everyone to be as committed to success as he is. He sees the greatness on the horizon. It's theirs for the taking. So much more is happening that threatens to derail everything. Charles and Oliver try to mend fences with Mabel after she recorded the podcast by herself. Her influence lingers over the stage. She wants to get to the truth. Meanwhile, Loretta is finally willing to acknowledge a secret she has long kept buried. That too plays into the misdirection that has shaped the murder mystery so far. It was easy to see Loretta as capable of murder. That possibility was never disproven. Oliver feared the worst. The very first sequence of the season detailed Loretta's life story. However, a crucial detail was omitted. The direction of that scene was deliberate as the action hid Meryl Streep's face until she wound up onstage before Oliver to perform. As such, it was only fitting that she would mesmerize him once she grabbed ahold of the material. Another misdirection was happening as well. Everyone was so focused on the ups and downs of her theater career. The details that didn't fit alongside that dream could be overlooked. That included an unexpected pregnancy. She gave the baby up for adoption. That baby grew up to be Dickie. And now, Loretta will do whatever it takes to protect her son. That includes confessing to a crime she didn't commit. In that fateful moment, she's motivated solely out of love. She refused to believe her son was capable of murder. But then, he shared his feeling of relief after Ben "died" the first time. That illuminated her to his true potential. It still may not be true. The show has more story left to reveal - especially as it pertains to the new clues Mabel develops. Yet this moment is driven entirely by how desperate people act when they are forced to behave irrationally to protect those they love.

Dickie doesn't even know the truth about his connection to Loretta. She wrote a letter detailing it all out. Instead, she opted for dinner after rehearsal. She lacked the confidence to hand the note over. Instead, it stayed inside her purse. It was simply waiting for some unwanted hands to pick it out. Charles and Oliver knew about her book obsessing over Ben's life. It's only with this greater understanding that it becomes clear she was truly monitoring Dickie. He was always alongside Ben. Once they became adults, these pictures of Ben were the only way to see Dickie. He was always in the background. He was all Loretta could see. Her combustive relationship with Ben in the past was seen as damning evidence. But now, she steps forward to share love. That drives her. Everything she does is to maintain this connection. Loretta and Dickie even forged their own bond. He became her manager. She has fought to make her Broadway debut for so long. She'll throw all that away to spend more time with Dickie. That's more important. She left to embark on this adventure in New York City. She collects the playbills of all the shows she's rehearsed in but never performed. She holds these memories of the past. Dickie is another extension of that. This is the life she chose to leave. And now, everything has aligned to make up for lost time. She can't share the truth though. She's distracted. Everyone believes Dickie is guilty. Protecting him is more important than falling in love with Oliver. The director makes that declaration. He hasn't felt this way in a long time. He lets himself be vulnerable despite how terrifying it is. Rejection comes from Loretta walking away during her big finale number to confess to the murder. To Oliver, a member of his cast is now guilty. Moreover, the woman he loves committed this heinous crime. He was told to reduce stress. He didn't listen to his doctor's orders. And so, he suffers another heart attack. This time he can't keep it a secret. It happens in front of the entire production. Charles and Mabel cry out for help. They need their friend to survive. They just renewed their friendship. Charles and Oliver helped Mabel obtain the evidence to know precisely what Detective Williams is thinking. Some crucial detail must be found in that tape as well as whatever was shredded that Howard is now obsessing over. Those details are just being laid now. However, the show has proven itself capable of setting up these intricate plots and knocking every detail down in the perfect balance. Sometimes the storytelling has struggled under the weight of reigniting the magic of Season 1. But it's also incredible to watch the show mature and grow more insane. It makes it joyous when the big musical numbers debut to showcase the talents of the cast. It never comes at the expense of the mystery. Every detail is planted so the payoff arrives eventually. The timing may not always be perfectly aligned. In this episode at least, everything sang to perfection.