Tuesday, September 26, 2023

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Charles, Oliver and Mabel Assemble All the Evidence to Pinpoint a Suspect in 'Thirty'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 3.09 "Thirty"

The trio have amassed a plethora of clues, suspects and theories but find no concrete answers about Ben's murder. They devise a peculiar method of throwing themselves into the actual case to recreate the final moments of Ben's life.

"Thirty" was written by Elaine Ko and directed by Cherien Dabis

Why does there need to be a groom? Mabel celebrates her thirtieth birthday lamenting over what she imagined her life would be like when she was younger. She keeps these thoughts private for awhile too. She thought she would be married to Josh Hartnett and have two kids by now. In a way, she does. Charles and Oliver need her constant attention. The podcast is her third baby. Her dream in the hospital is incredibly on-the-nose. This is what her life has become. It's different than she imagined. Yet she still loves it. She doesn't want or need to change any of it. The podcasters are reunited and working together once more. They are each completely committed to the investigation following Loretta’s stunning confession. For Oliver, it's all about proving her innocence. The podcasters know she confessed to killing Ben because she believed Dickie was guilty. She wanted to protect her son. He still doesn't know about their biological connection. She has been mothering him throughout this production. She encouraged him to stand up to his brother and fight for his independence. Everything that defined Dickie's life was in relation to Ben. Loretta fulfilled a new role. Outside observers see the transference. Dickie is still in the dark. The police wanted to talk with Dickie because his alibi needed further elaboration. Charles, Oliver and Mabel take it at face value. They need him to be innocent to help Loretta. He was passed out on the street outside a fabric store Ben liked to visit. It's another classic example of miscommunication. Dickie thought his brother had a standing order for sex workers. In reality, he was part of a sewing group. They made the hankies that were handed out to the cast and crew before opening night. Those gifts were Ben's greatest expression of himself. He needed these five women at opening night to calm all the nerves he carried. Instead, they got stuck in traffic because of some conference at the United Nations. That ultimately led him on his incredibly tragic downward spiral. The podcasters are only able to recreate the thirty minutes before opening night thanks to the police interviews. That immediately provides clarity as to what everyone was doing. Charles and Oliver were backstage as well. However, they were caught up in their own drama to notice everything else happening. They had no ability to recognize the complexity of others in the production. That empathy and understanding was lacking. They played a role in what happened to Ben. They see that clearly now. Pieces are still missing. Time is running out. Oliver needs to save Loretta from making this massive mistake. It may still throw his show into turmoil if he exposes the truth.

The podcasters believe Donna is the true killer. As such, her motives thematically line up with what drove Loretta to make her confession. It was simply a different mother trying her best to protect her son no matter what. Cliff had nerves before opening night as well. This was his first time producing a Broadway show. She couldn't let him fail. She knew what Maxine’s review was going to be. Ben was the problem. And so, she killed him to keep her son's dreams alive. He had the potential to bounce back. That happened quickly thereafter. The producers didn't even have to look for a different project. Donna kept investing more money into Death Rattle because Cliff was inspired. He engaged with the musical pivot immediately. That is the precise energy that allows this material to finally sing. That's what was lacking in the former production. Oliver has seemingly fixed that issue. He's set to make his grand return to Broadway. Everything is perfect. Yet he's now potentially losing the love of his life. Moreover, he had another heart attack that required surgery to mend. He was warned the next cardiac incident could be fatal. It wasn't. He survived yet another brush with death. Mabel and Charles were worried. However, they aren't losing him just yet. He's back to his normal self as if nothing happened rather quickly. That undercuts that particular cliffhanger quite a bit. It's in service to restoring the trio to their former glory. Charles, Oliver and Mabel are focused on the investigation. That comes after a season in which they have all been distracted. Those impulses are still attached to their surroundings. Charles still sees reminders of Joy. Oliver and Mabel fear what the people they're seeing romantically did during the day Ben was killed. They eventually arrive at the conclusion that Donna is the killer. The timeline adds up. No other solution could be offered. They just have to arrive at the courthouse in time. As such, Mabel suddenly wearing the wedding dress is mostly just a cheap ploy to cheekily reference Steve Martin's past work in Father of the Bribe. That's cute. It allows the show to buck expectations too. Mabel doesn't need what she previously envisioned to be happy. She has so much more than that now. She doesn't have everything figured out. That's okay too. These friendships are stronger than that. Leaning into them during times of turmoil will help each of them prevail. They just have to remember to do so instead of braving the world by themselves. They can no longer rely on loneliness to prevent the worst from happening. Ultimately though, the podcasters are caught staring down Donna as she also happens to be at Loretta's arraignment to see what the confession will turn out to be. Another twist could very well still happen. The show has never previously revealed the season’s killer in the penultimate episode. Expectations form and are meant to be bucked later on. This is something new. It still offers a tense situation. Exposing the truth can be just as deadly as investigating what truly happened within the grand mysteries of the Arconia. This season has expanded the world. The focus still largely remains the same. That's grounding and comforting even as the grandiosity of the musical numbers makes this season seem more expansive and joyful.