Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/ HULU
After taking a massive gulp of Gut Milk, I am finally buzzed and hyped enough to blog about the Only Murders in the Building season finale.
“Open and Shut” is a stunning finale that plays with this very dynamic. It gets right to business: Jan murdered Tim Kono because he ended their affair, which she is happy to admit to Charles. Oliver and Mabel confirm their theory from episode nine after exploring Jan’s apartment and discovering well-organized poison and Zoe’s emerald ring, proving Jan did it. But when they initially tell Charles the news, he doesn’t believe them because, of course, Jan is a normal, charming, and, most important, sexy bassoon player. Jan leaves her performance early to explain to Charles why she lied about being the first chair. But she admits to everything over a drink (that she prepared) and details how she murdered Tim Kono and why.
But Charles had already caught on after sitting with Oliver and Mabel’s theory and noticing that her handwriting is similar to the killer’s, and he knows Jan poisoned the drink. Since the jig is up, Charles and Jan revisit the night of Tim Kono’s murder, and Jan reveals that she played a recording of herself playing bassoon to convince people she was in her apartment at the time of the murder. Jan is thrilled about revealing all her hard work to Charles. She’s smiling maniacally and giddily, as if she’s enjoying this. (Can I please just add here that I was right about Jan the whole time? Thanks very much! She was not a red herring like Guy Pearce in Mare of Easttown, and I would like an award, please.) Unfortunately, Jan, who is incredibly frightening (she stabbed herself and is, you know, a murderer), was onto Charles before he revealed that he was onto her (are you following along?) and poisoned his handkerchief with the same poison she used to murder Tim (still with me?).
Much of the finale centers on Charles’s excruciating physical journey in the Arconia while poisoned and his emotional journey, reiterating the parallels between Charles and Tim Kono we’ve seen throughout the season. It’s easy to forget that Charles had no friends besides the peppers he meticulously organized in his fridge at the beginning of the series. He wasn’t exactly well liked either. While Charles had convinced himself that he preferred to be alone, he was desperate for connection, just like Tim Kono, who became lonely after losing the Hardy Boys following Zoe’s death. And these are exactly the type of men Jan preys upon. “I felt so lucky to be let into your private, isolated worlds,” she says during her confession.
I was both nervous for Charles’s life and thoroughly enjoying his predicament, furiously clinging on to a pillow and laughing uproariously as Charles crawled around the Arconia like a floppy noodle. Oliver and Mabel eventually find Charles after a game of elevator tag, and they save his life with Gut Milk (all the pieces matter, baby!).
Jan goes to the basement and leaks the building’s fireplace gas valve, so the trio goes down to the basement to fix it before the building explodes and everyone dies. The trio confronts Jan, and Charles speaks openheartedly about what Oliver, Mabel, and the podcast meant to him. Unfortunately, all anyone around him can hear are random sounds because he can’t move his mouth due to the poison. Luckily, Oliver thinks quickly and pushes Charles and the dolly he’s on into Jan’s foot, and Mabel knocks her out with a swift punch to the face. After they’re out of danger, Charles contacts Lucy and doesn’t even sign off his whole name at the end of the text. He has learned so much from Mabel!
Oliver’s financial future is one of the only things that remain a mystery: Did Teddy’s check solve everything? Is Only Murders podcast merch keeping him financially stable? (If so, maybe I need to look into merch because I would also love some financial stability.) In a touching scene toward the end of the episode, Oliver’s son returns Winnie the dog and, while he’s there, offers Oliver money and says he is proud of him, but Oliver declines the handout. Since the beginning of the series, Oliver has become more confident in his ideas and himself; he now knows he can rely on himself, even when he needs help desperately, the polar opposite of Charles.
Mabel’s story guided the earlier season, so she takes more of a back seat until the finale’s end. Mabel is relieved when she and Oliver confirm that Jan is the killer, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel over. On the rooftop during their celebration — and right before Charles and Oliver find her covered in blood next to Bunny’s corpse — Mabel says, “Does anyone else feel like there’s still a couple of loose ends? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a feeling.”
The finale ties up most loose ends while keeping the story moving forward enough to have compelling material for its second season. We’re left with our trio in handcuffs getting into the back of a cop car after being found with Bunny’s body — an excruciating but necessary cliffhanger. We’re also left with Cinda Canning taking Charles, Oliver, and Mabel’s story into her own hands. Just several episodes ago, Cinda was laughing at the Only Murders podcast on The Tonight Show.
Like Netflix’s American Vandal (bring it back, please), Only Murders provides the sharpest commentary on its target in its humor. From the Arconiacs to the very idea that three strangers who love a true-crime podcast created their own true-crime podcast that results in them becoming the subjects of a true-crime podcast is absurd enough to make sense. There is also a more subtle commentary on the darker sides of the obsession with true crime. The finale opens from the perspective of Tim Kono, the murder victim. In popular true-crime stories, including Serial, The Jinx, and Making a Murderer, the victims are intentionally or unintentionally erased from the narrative, allowing their lives to become as obsolete as their murderers intended. Kono says directly to the camera, “Get to know a fella a little before he tells you how he died, right?”
When you know the premise of Only Murders in the Building — three strangers love a true-crime podcast enough to create their own — you have a pretty good idea about what that show might be. I certainly had my assumptions: It was always going to be a show about how we consume culture and how culture consumes us. But Only Murders in the Building is so much more than what I ever expected it to be. I (fairly, I think) assumed it would be a cute little show that I would smile at while I folded my laundry. Instead, it’s something more complex and in-depth, with character development comparable to Mad Men. But it’s all so comforting at the same time. On Only Murders in the Building, the stakes are very high, although they never feel high. The characters have been through dangerous situations — tied up in the back of a van surrounded by corpses, poisoned by a murderer, in a building that is about to explode because of a murder-y bassoonist — but you always feel cozy and safe. You still feel the stakes as you sit on the edge of your couch, all the while knowing that everything, in the end, is going to be okay.
Only Murders in the Building Season-Finale Recap