Tuesday, October 3, 2023

REVIEW: 'Only Murders in the Building' - Oliver Debuts His Musical While Helping His Friends Catch a Killer in 'Opening Night'

Hulu's Only Murders in the Building - Episode 3.10 "Opening Night"

Charles, Mabel and Oliver race to entrap the killer on opening night. As the musical thrills its Broadway audience, the trio brave further twists and turns from behind, above and all around the stage.

"Opening Night" was written by John Hoffman & Ben Smith and directed by Jamie Babbit

In Death Rattle Dazzle, a community based around a lighthouse believes one of the infant triplets killed their mother. The true killer was the detective tasked with investigating who also happens to be the triplets' previously unknown father. He's stopped by the nanny who pushes him to his own death. She has no biological connection to the children. However, she will defend them no matter what. That's the basic plot summary of the musical Oliver has been staging all season long. Plenty of people make jokes about not being able to explain it. And yes, it is absolutely ridiculous. So much time is spent buying into an insane premise of a baby being capable of murder. The big reveal happens to serve as the climax of the story. As such, the narrative structure functions the same way as the television show. The killer is ultimately revealed in the finale.

Charles, Oliver and Mabel believed they identified Donna as the killer. They had the timeline and evidence to prove she poisoned Ben's cookie. She refused to let her son fail during his first time producing a Broadway show. She confesses to the crime as well. Mabel had nine pages of dialogue written out for the podcasters to lure her into sharing the truth. She acknowledges the horrible acting right away. They aren't convincing in their attempts at misdirection. After three seasons, one would think they were better than this. They aren't meant to be convincing. It's meant to showcase the latest instance of a mother during whatever it takes to protect her child. Loretta understand that impulse. Her connection with Dickie was so strong that he knew she was his mother before she confessed the truth. That's a big moment of catharsis and compassion. It's a celebration. It contrasts with the confession between Donna and Cliff. That's an explosion of emotions too. It just threatens the opening night of the show all over again.

Donna is dying. She has produced many Broadway shows over the years. Her strongest bond was always with her son. The show indicated right away how creepy it was that they kiss openly on the mouth. That showcased a codependency that was toxic for both of them. It was also the first clue of how deranged they could become under the right circumstances. Donna poisoned Ben to get more time to fix the play. She ultimately got her wish. Ben was simply collateral damage. He died. Oliver pivoted to the musical format. The show becomes a hit. Maxine's review declares it as a classic Oliver Putnam production. It sang like all of his best shows do. It doesn't need to make sense. Fortunately, the plot of the series does. It requires the audience to be aware of the characters to see who is capable of murder. It has a ton of fun along the way too. Those observations are necessary to survive in this increasingly dangerous world. This season was a risk. It entertained in some truly inspiring ways. It also played into certain conventions that have grown a little tired.

Donna poisoned Ben but Cliff was the one who pushed him down the elevator shaft. A call from the doctor with his results was all Ben needed to put the pieces together of what happened. Cliff just happened to be in the hallway at the time. He too tried his best to protect his mother. However, he also sought to exert his own independence. That was his first move to exert control over this project. He didn't want to cast Ben. He didn't think he was right for the part. He was always Donna's preference. She didn't see the error until it was spelled out in the review. She never trusted her son to produce on his own. His instincts were right. He was never given the opportunity to produce his own way. She had to manage every single detail. He always relied on her. She calmed him down during every moment of crisis. He proclaims that Ben's death was an accident. It's not quite as simple as that. He let out his rage. He only reckons with that upon being confronted by Mabel. It doesn't take much to make that leap. It's still a meaningful realization for her.

Everyone races to the rafters to prevent Cliff from jumping. Charles and Oliver complain about all the stairs. Meanwhile, Donna appears at the right time. She leads with love for her son. Nothing else matters. Nothing will stop her from saving him. They make their confessions. They are arrested. Their antics disrupt opening night. It's commented on in the audience. It's not enough to derail the show. The afterparty is a smooth event for all involved. People are still going their separate ways though. Loretta made her Broadway debut. She has the chance to pursue her dreams. Oliver doesn't want to hold her back. Similarly, Tobert aims to help Mabel get unstuck in life. The podcasters belong in New York City though. They can only tolerate Los Angeles in small doses. They make those commitments.

However, the podcasters quickly have a new murder to solve. Sazz is the latest victim in the Arconia. It's the final example of her standing in for Charles. And so, who would want to kill Charles-Haden Savage? He makes an impression in the musical. This feels more personal and could potentially tie into whatever news Sazz wanted to share with her old friend. It's an exciting promise for the future. It aspires to bring the focus back to the Arconia and the central nature of what this building and friendship means for the central trio. The execution of something much grander this season still worked. The songs newly displayed in the finale aren't as immediately moving or catchy as Charles and Loretta's prior showcases. It still completes a total story. That's needed in order for any material to have value or meaning. This show understands the artistic process while still ridiculing the neuroses of the people telling the stories.