Only Murders in the Building
One of the few benefits to come in the aftermath of “Peak TV” is the likelihood of encountering a show like The Sopranos or Mad Men that’s willing to take a creative risk and occasionally shift the focus from the protagonists to interesting characters and talented actors deeper in the cast. You’re the Worst had “LCD Soundsystem,” an episode focused on Gretchen’s neighbors’ picture-perfect L.A. perspective as a contrast to her tumultuous lifestyle. Most recently, Ted Lasso centered an entire episode on Coach Beard — a popular but tertiary character — as he navigates a chaotic night out in London, à la the 1985 Martin Scorsese classic After Hours (the episode is called “Beard After Hours”).
Only Murders in the Building has offered perspectives from various characters, big and small, all season, including Oscar and Detective Williams, but none more than “The Boy From 6B” has. The episode is told almost entirely from the perspective of Theo, Teddy’s son, a character who we’ve only seen briefly in the background. What makes Teddy’s perspective all the more unique is that because he’s a deaf character, much of the story is told in near silence, save for the muffled sound design and sparse, intentional score that’s similar to last year’s Sound of Metal. And “The Boy From 6B” isn’t a throwaway episode; it is perhaps the most important episode in terms of delivering answers about one of the story’s central mysteries. That it provides those answers with nearly no audible dialogue makes it the most impressive.
Even in the age of social media, there is still so much we don’t know about the people physically closest to us: our neighbors. This is especially true in New York City: Your neighbors may share a wall and roof, or a doorman or elevator with you, but you might rarely speak to them, much less get to know them on a deeper level. Residents of the Arconia sleep under the same roof as hundreds (maybe thousands, I don’t know the scale, sorry!) of people they know surprisingly little about. This is true of Oliver, who thought he knew Teddy but is now tied up with Mabel in the back of Teddy’s son’s van. Teddy, it turns out, is not simply the charming financier who once gave in to a bad Splash musical pitch. He runs a mysterious black-market jewelry business and now seems to be the person who murdered Tim Kono.
“The Boy From 6B” answers nearly all the questions remaining from the night Zoe died — the inciting incident that sent Oscar to prison and eventually resulted in the murder of Tim Kono. We learn more about Teddy and his son Theo in the opening-sequence flashback of Teddy trying to give a young Theo the experience of listening to Carousel. Teddy might be a murderer, but he does have good taste in musicals (Splash aside). This scene also establishes that this particular part of the story is Theo’s to tell. The only answer we don’t get is who killed Tim Kono?
But Teddy isn’t the only guilty party; Theo helps his dad run the black-market jewelry business that Tim Kono was investigating. Another flashback: In the prime days of the Hardy Boys, the group broke into Teddy’s apartment while Theo was hiding in a secret passage. Theo watched as Zoe stole a ring, and they locked eyes. From there, Theo and Zoe establish a connection through American Sign Language. Later, on New Year’s Eve, Teddy notices Zoe wearing the ring she stole. He angrily commands his son to get it back, and when Theo tries to get the ring back from Zoe, they get into an argument and shoving match that results in Zoe falling off the building. Tim sees the whole confrontation, and Teddy threatens to kill Mabel if Tim ever reveals what really happened, resulting in Oscar taking the blame for Zoe’s fall.
Not to brag, but my theory was pretty spot-on. I suggested Theo was involved from the first time we saw him. I don’t think he is as guilty as this episode suggests: It’s evident that Theo feels guilty about his past and current actions. Even though their final exchange was cruel, Zoe made him feel included, and he still feels responsible for her death and everything that has resulted from it, which is why it’s unlikely Theo is responsible for Tim Kono’s murder. And it’s looking like Teddy is the one who killed Tim Kono (or at least directed the hit).
As the episode gives us answers about Theo’s past, Charles, Mabel and Oliver try to find answers in the present. First, Mabel and Charles break into Teddy’s apartment while Theo breaks into Oliver’s, where they discover the secret room filled with jewelry inside urns, which leads them to Shine On funeral home. Mabel and Oliver go to Shine On to investigate, where Oliver sheds some theatrical tears (they should create an Emmy category for physical comedy based on Martin Short’s performance in this episode alone), and they learn that the jewelry is stolen from corpses. Theo catches Mabel and Oliver in the basement so now they’re in the back of Theo’s van, leaving Charles with 11 missed phone calls and 78 text messages. Luckily, Charles skipped this mission to have a romantic night playing horny Scrabble with Jan (congrats to him, really). I am so happy for Charles, although he should have been wearing his little hat, and I am still mildly suspicious of Jan for some reason. Maybe I’m just suspicious of everyone?
Only Murders in the Building knows how to balance its quirk and charm with heavy emotional moments. At first, the show seemed like a cute, clever comedy with a murder mystery that wasn’t as interesting as the characters, starring three very famous, likable people. Seven episodes in, it’s become so much more: a rich, complex analysis of all the different people who live under the same roof and then a compelling murder mystery, and it delivers some of its most important information in silence.