Warning: The following contains major spoilers for the Season 3 finale of “Only Murders in the Building.”
John Hoffman gets nervous every time Hulu releases a new episode of “Only Murders in the Building.” “I don’t know why I get like that, because there’s nothing I can do at that moment,” said the series’ co-creator and showrunner. “But when they first fall, I always panic.”
That’s a particularly understandable reaction to the now-airing season 3 finale, which features snippets of four musical numbers, identifies two homicidal culprits and, of course, reveals a new murder in a cliffhanger that will have fans anxiously awaiting season 4.
It all begins with the confirmation that star actor Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd) was poisoned by experienced producer Donna (Linda Emond) after reading a review of her soon-to-print new musical. “[It] It would have killed the show, so I bought us some time,” she tells amateur sleuths Oliver (Martin Short), Charles (Steve Martin) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) when they corner her backstage. “She wasn’t trying to kill Ben, she was just trying to knock him on the butt.”
Of course, the poison didn’t kill Ben. It was a fall down the elevator shaft in our heroes’ killer building in New York City, the Arconia. And at first, Donna confesses to this crime as well; after all, a bloody handkerchief found next to her body is marked with her lipstick. However, we soon learn in a flashback that the handkerchief actually belongs to Donna’s dilettante son Cliff (Wesley Taylor), and that he was fighting with Ben when the actor plunged to his death.
Both mother and son are arrested after the curtain call on the musical’s tumultuous opening night, but it wouldn’t be a finale of “Only Murders in the Building” without another murder. This time, the unfortunate character is none other than Charles’ stunt double, Sazz (Jane Lynch), who is shot while she walks through Charles’ apartment. (Whether the killer intended to kill Charles or Sazz remains a mystery.)
The Times spoke with Hoffman about whether Ben’s death was accidental or intentional, why Sazz was the next to die, and what industry season four is very, very likely to be.
The third season ended with not one but two murderers. Did he feel pressured to up the ante like this?
It’s always part of the discussion in the room: “What haven’t we done before? What feels fresh, what feels earned? And with two killers, the question is, “Are they working together? Are they even aware of what the other person has done?
I tend to be a pretty insecure writer, so I need to have something else underneath it all to have confidence in the story. This one had a personal connection: my mother passed away a year ago. So, looking at the skeleton of the story lines that we were building throughout the season, underneath it all is this ode to motherhood. It was fun to play with that between Donna and Cliff, Loretta (Meryl Streep) and Dickie (Jeremy Shamos) and the crazy “Death Rattle Dazzle” theme of a babysitter protecting her children.
Neither Donna nor Cliff were purely evil in trying to murder Ben. As funny as they are, they were both only doing it to protect the other.
Exactly. I have never been interested in murder mystery stories with just a “bad guy”, what interests me is the human story. This does not seem accidental to me. He’s not sheepishly fighting the guy outside the elevator doors, he’s really furious. All season long, they both seemed really shallow, a little like you could write them off…
So I understand why, at that moment, [Cliff] He would want to feel empowered and finally free himself from his mother’s slavery. [overbearing] sensitivity, but also to defend it. And then have Meryl Streep singing “A babysitter’s only duty is to protect her children” while the change occurs. The son takes charge of protecting his mother from her. And that is the surprise of the season.
The ending also gives Loretta a happy ending, as she reunites with her son Dickie and talks about continuing her relationship with Oliver as her career takes off. Can you explain to me how to create her character arc?
The problem could have been: “It’s Meryl Streep on your show! Are you going to give her enough to make her feel fulfilled? I loved the prospect of her playing an actress who has never been successful, and also in the most unexpected romance of the year. In a way, I felt like a new Meryl, a real opportunity. And she had the chance to fall in love with Marty Short. I don’t think many people saw it coming as a couple…
I’ll tell you a story: During that ferry ride [in Episode 5] — Lord knows we got ourselves into a dire situation filming romantic scenes on a ferry in February in New York City when the temperature would be 12 degrees below zero. I mean, what was I thinking? “Meryl will never come back, she will leave the show for good.” It’s the only time I’ll be grateful for climate change, because it was 60 degrees the night we filmed that scene. I was very grateful for an awesome night there. On our way back to town, Marty said, “I’m bringing the cosmos. John, bring some cheese and crackers and we’re going to have a little party on the way back on the ferry.
So they do this beautiful scene, and we’re all drunk on our cosmos at 2 in the morning, and Meryl just looks around and says, “I have to say, this is maybe my favorite place I’ve ever done. Well, okay, maybe it’s number 2. Number 1 is when [Robert] Redford washed my hair in ‘[Out of] Africa.'”
As we got off that boat, Meryl turned around, took my hand and said, “Thank you for this. This romance, getting to do this at our age, where it’s not old in a cheesy way, in a way that’s not about age, that makes perfect sense as two souls coming together. “I honestly didn’t think this was going to happen.”
Much of this show is not explicitly about age, even in its third season. Is that a conscious decision?
Yes. Oliver’s heart attack this season is the first time we’ve had any physical effects of age, but it’s really driven by the stress of what’s going on with Loretta and the musical. It’s because before this show, I worked on “Grace and Frankie,” and there were a lot of things on that show that were very age-centric, so I felt like I had done that. And I also quickly recognized that Steve Martin and Martin Short are the youngest spirits I know (they really are, no doubt) and Selena Gomez is a beautiful old soul.
I have to say it was hard to write them because they weren’t on the same page this season. The audience loves that trio, and I hoped and prayed that the audience would be with us in those moments. But the fight at the end of episode 6 felt really essential, especially since Mabel was the one who stood there and said, “I’m fighting for you now! Why am I doing this? “Because her return feels so deserved.
Speaking of Mabel, I admit that I initially suspected Ben Glenroy’s documentarian Tobert (Jesse Williams) was the season’s killer. It was sweet that she finally asked him to come to Los Angeles with him.
Good? That’s the twist: Tobert, who we’ve all been suspecting, is a guy who’s really interested in Mabel. And watching last night’s episode, that moment of silence of her behind the curtain, looking at Donna and Cliff while Loretta and Dickie have that moment, the look of her is just incredible while Mabel is putting everything together.
I don’t think it can be overstated: Selena Gomez’s task of finding her way on a show with [a] The 35-year-old legendary duo is huge and she makes that trio feel better than her duo, somehow.
Let’s talk about Ben’s dressing room moment in episode 9: Paul Rudd vs. a (poisonous) Schmackary cookie. How did that wonderful scene come about?
I had a feeling to change it up this season and drop the breadcrumbs early, give people an intuition about one or two things here and there, and lean more toward execution. You may have suspected he was talking to a cookie, but I don’t think people were prepared for the scene that unfolded, and it was exciting to play with the revelation that this cookie is his bête noire, a symbol of himself. -aversion. And every time someone has a weakness that seems uncontrollable, he feels humanized and heartbreaking, which is something I don’t think people expected from this character.
Paul and I talked about it beforehand, about how to bring it to a place of reality; Ben writes that [message] He looks in the mirror just before going on stage. We did some covers because it’s really fun in a lot of ways, but I wanted it to get darker in a way that was relatable. It really blew us away, and with Selena, Steve and Marty sitting on the couch nearby while it all happened. We have a very fun and lively crew, but the way everyone left the set that day was very, very calm.
The season ends with the sudden death of Sazz. How could you?!
That choice was the idea of my producing partner Jess Rosenthal. When he first said it, I immediately felt sad and then said, “That’s really good.” Because it does something new for us: we have never done it with a loved one in our victim situation, and it increases what we always need because, in the best case, at least one of the three feels a connection or responsibility. [for the murder]. And because it’s someone so personal, it’s going to be such a bond after this divisive season, like they have to come together more urgently from the beginning.
Fortunately, the moment I told Jane Lynch about the possibility, she said, “I love it.” It’s hard to tell people that they’re going to die or that they’re the killer, but she was amazing about it. I also loved the character and what Jane Lynch was doing with Sazz, so I love being able to take the time with our victims that we do over the course of a season where we see who she was, how we can get more out of her. of her and love her more.
With the show already renewed for a fourth season, do you have an ending in mind?
We’ve definitely talked about it. I don’t have a firm idea; I’ve never been that guy who watches the entire series in my head. The best I can do is go season by season, which is a pretty big task, and leave it open to learning things along the way.
So, looking at these breadcrumbs over the years: You’ve already marked seasons in the podcast world and in the theater world. Since Sazz is Charles’ longtime stunt double on that series, it makes sense that season 4 would be in the world of television.
I mean…I…well…that was good! I think what you’re saying makes sense. Again, there may be certain ways that those crumbs fall in certain directions that you’ll think, “Okay, I know where this is going,” but we hope to surprise you in the way we approach it.
‘Only murders in the building’
When: Any time, new episodes on Tuesdays.
Classified: TV-MA (may not be suitable for children under 17)