Updated on Sept 7 for “The Sting” episode: (Scroll down to bottom)
On August 31, Hulu dropped the first three episodes of its new murder-comedy series, “Only Murders in the Building,” which stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez as tenants who team up to solve a murder in the posh New York City building they all live in.
It’s a black comedy that might not sit well with everyone. Two minutes in to the first episode, Steve Martin – who plays Charles-Haden Savage the star of a ’90s detective series – is recognized on the street by a fan, who tells the actor he and his dad loved to watch the show when he was little. When Charles wants to pass on a message to the father, the man says his dad is on hospice – and the son hope he dies soon. The awkward moment is played for laughs as he reveals the father has ALS and makes a “loony” gesture when he tells Charles there’s no point in mentioning having met the star of “Brazzos.”
If a very off-putting moment, but fans might still want to stick around for the mystery. And Oliver (Martin Short)’s cute bulldog, Winnie.
But … if you think joking about hospice and ALS wasn’t funny, you also might not appreciate how the series treats its animals.
The story begins with the apparent suicide of resident Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), who is found shot to death. Police conclude it’s self-inflicted gunshot as he left a suicide note. Case close.
But true crime aficionados Charles, Oliver, the washed-up Broadway producer, and much younger tenant Mabel Mora (Gomez), all believe Kono was murdered as they saw him just before he died. They decide to solve the crime themselves – and create a killer podcast about it, just like the ones they’re always bingeing.
Among the suspects: Howard (Michael Cyril Creighton), whose cat Evelyn disliked Tim and who died the same night and musician Sting (playing himself), who tells Oliver he hates dogs, especially Winnie.
We hear about the death of the cat at a residents’ meeting to remember Tim. However, it turns out everyone hated him as he was the one who asked for a ban on fireplace usage because of his asthma. Only Howard seems to be mourning, but then he reveals he’s crying over his cat, not Tim, who also died unexpectedly the night before.
Oliver decides Howard has the best motive to kill Tim as the victim was allergic to cats and got upset whenever she came into his apartment through an open widow: Ergo, Howard might have killed Tim believing he had killed his pet.
The trio sneaks into Tim’s apartment and find cat prints in the blood from the crime scene, which seems to indicate Tim died before the cat.
When Charles and Mabel question Howard – under guise of offering their condolences about his cat – they discover Howard believes Evelyn was poisoned — so he’s keeping her body in his freezer until he can get her examined. Charles discovers this after Howard passes out and he goes to the freezer to get some ice. He is shocked to find Evelyn’s body and accidentally drops the frozen cat. We later found out one of her legs broke off in the process when Charles takes the severed leg out of his pocket and shows it to his fellow amateur detectives.
But that’s not the end of the animal mishaps.
Oliver finds himself alone in the elevator with Sting and boasts about the podcast, hoping to impress the star. Instead, Sting angrily tells him to keep Winnie – who is standing on his feet – away – and declares that he hates dogs.
Later, Oliver is successful in getting wealthy neighbor (Nathan Lane) to finance the podcast. (He desperately needs the money as he’s eight months behind in his apartment fees, a fact he’s concealed from his fellow crimebusters.)
He shares the good news with Charles and Mabel that the podcast is sponsored – and the first episode is already live.
He then returns home to find a handwritten note on his door: “End the podcast, or I will end you.” He goes inside to find Winnie moaning and listless in his apartment. (It was established earlier in the series that he never locks his front door.) A strangely powdery dog bone is found next to Winnie and Oliver naturally concludes someone has poisoned his beloved dog.
“Who would do this to you?” he exclaims, leaving the viewers hanging about whether Winnie will recover or not.
September 7 Update: (SPOILERS)
We found out in the fourth episode, titled The Sting, that Oliver’s dog Winnie has survived and apparently “everything is out of her system.” She is still at the vet, however, so we don’t see her at al in this episode.
Sting, the musician, is also ruled out as the one who poisoned Winnie. He was simply feeling guilty about Tim Kono’s suicide as his had just raged at the financial manager for losing large sums of his money. He is greatly relieved to hear that Charles, Oliver and Mabel all believe Tim was murdered, as that lets him off the hook.