Following a two-part premiere that mostly reestablished what we know and love about the show, Only Murders in the Building heads to less familiar territory in “The Last Day Of Bunny Folger.” We go through the final hours in the life of the outgoing board president, parrot owner, and ball buster to see what makes Bunny, as Charles puts it at episode’s end, “a New York classic.”
Bunny was a minor antagonist in season one (though the wonderful Jayne Houdyshell proved there are no small roles) — she was quickly eliminated as a suspect in Tim Kono’s murder but gave the Arconia three hell every chance she got. Her death in the season finale, “We Are All Tim Kono,” brought her to the forefront of the show, promising that we’d learn more about her story in the new episodes. In order to solve a murder mystery, you have to get to know the victim — that’s amateur sleuthing 101. Now it’s time to see who Bunny was aside from the insults and razor-thin tolerance for people who waste her time.
Charles provides much of the voiceover in this episode, probably because of his presumed connection to Bunny. He observes that the day Bunny was murdered (March 12, for those keeping track at home) was shaping up to be a day like any other in her life, but there were also signs that it would be anything but normal. After getting out of bed, Bunny listens to a call-in radio show, sips tea, reads the paper, and exercises while practicing her speech for the board meeting where she’ll step down as president. She gets a breakfast sandwich from her favorite vendor, meets with her successor, Nina, scolds Lester, interrupts a party in the courtyard (more on that in a bit), then goes for a walk with Uma.
This all seems like pretty standard stuff — it’s more socializing than I’m able to do during the week, at least — but there are indications that she’s about to be knocked from this well-worn path. After parting ways with Uma, Bunny gets a call about the Rose Cooper painting, and though she doesn’t recognize the number, she does seem to know the caller’s identity: “Oh, it’s you. No, I do not want to talk about the painting. Stop calling!” That seems to bolster the theory that Bunny’s death is tied to the painting, but there’s no way we’re getting that kind of confirmation this early in the season. There’s still a lot to uncover in Bunny’s life and elsewhere.
“The Last Day of Bunny Folger” does mark an interesting change of pace for the series, which, in its first season, held off on really getting inside Tim Kono’s head until the second half. This time around, we get the episode from the victim’s perspective within the first three episodes. Could that be because the motive isn’t as shocking as the killer’s identity? Or is Bunny’s murder a piece of some larger puzzle? I mean, it almost certainly is. After all, her story is tied to that of the Arconia, which houses the stories of many past and present residents. As board president, she learned a lot about the inner lives of her neighbors; we get a small taste of that in her courtyard tête-à-tête with Nina. There’s even a slim chance she’s related to Charles, who she apparently made out with — that is, “sloshed around” with — at a Christmas party.
But this episode is dedicated more broadly to Bunny’s relationships with the Arconia tenants, including her fellow board members Nina, Howard, Dr. Grover Stanley (Russell G. Jones) — who, if you don’t recall, takes all kinds of online payments — and Liam, a tenant I don’t remember seeing before. We already have a sense of how Howard got along with Bunny; he groveled in front of her publicly but expressed less favorable thoughts in private (see his meeting minutes). Dr. Grover mostly seemed to want to stay out of her way, and maybe one day we’ll learn what’s up with Liam. Bunny and Nina’s friendship, which we’ve only just learned about this season, implodes during the final board meeting. It turns out Nina was just pretending to go along with Bunny’s plans for the Arconia; she actually thinks it should be made “more efficient. Modernized. Monetized.”
To say that Bunny feels betrayed is an understatement — it’s clear that she only felt comfortable leaving her post as board president because she thought she’d found the ideal replacement, someone who would “preserve” the Arconia. Bunny refuses to step down, calling Nina an “ungrateful, power-hungry, baby-bumpy bitch.” Nina responds by saying Bunny is “a relic. And I can’t allow this building to become one, too.” Then, some famous last words from Bunny: “I’m not gonna let you get away with this.”
The hilarious sight of Howard studiously writing this all down defuses some of the tension, but that confrontation gives the OMITB team a new prime suspect: Nina. Oliver seems delighted with the possibility, if only because it leads to him saying, “Ooh, did the pregnant protégé make a pernicious power play?” He’s so pleased with himself that he brags to Charles and Mabel that he’s “on fire. You know, I think I’ve really leveled up since Tim’s murder.” (The only other person this self-congratulatory is Howard, who describes the “You’re Done” and “It’s Over” decorations he hung up in Bun-Bun’s place as “alurring [sic] décor which is giving campy-retirement” instead of ominous.)
That may be a break in the case, but “The Last Day” is more a tribute to Bunny Folger, a hard-nosed native New Yorker and, as the show suggests throughout the episode, part of a dying breed. And yet, we see how much Bunny had left to do or still wanted to do with her life — there’s as great a sense of renewed vibrancy as there is dread in the lead-up to her death. Only Murders offers a multifaceted memorial, expertly shifting tones to offset the sillier moments (Charles and Oliver trading laugh-out-loud Bunny impressions to try to get Mrs. Gambolini to tell them “who did it”) with more poignant ones.
But let’s not forget what Leonora said in “Framed”: “That’s the lot of a woman — in order to be recognized, you have to disappear.” Bunny only gets her due in death. Oliver and Mabel take turns expressing admiration for her; at the Pickle Diner (a made-over Mansion Restaurant), Oliver warmly describes Bunny as a “lifer” who will probably be buried in the Arconia (he’s almost right). After watching Bunny repair the stalled elevator, Mabel calls Bunny a “badass.” And in a voiceover for the podcast, Charles hails her as “a treasure trove of stories, secrets, and forgotten wisdom.” He says that only after acknowledging that, had the trio invited her in to celebrate with them on that night — as she clearly wanted but couldn’t bring herself to ask — they might have “saved her life with a simple act of kindness.”
It’s a reminder of how interconnected the lives of the Arconia residents really are, even if they all keep to themselves. But it also maybe speaks to what we lose in the name of progress. Several scenes illustrate just how in tune Bunny was with the Arconia. If the story of Bunny Folger begins with that of the Arconia or is tied to it, what happens to the building now that she’s gone?
• I really enjoyed the scene of Mabel, Oliver, and Charles holding court in the courtyard — it underscored how close they’ve become. But I do wonder how Howard feels about the fact that the Arconiacs are selling key chains in the shape of Evelyn’s leg.
• If the person who steps off the elevator at the end of the episode is the same person who attacks Bunny, then they’re tall (judging by where their gloved hands line up with Bunny’s neck) with small feet. Those black boots are tiny.
• This week’s Easter egg: the Champagne bottle and cork that appears between Oliver and Charles in the opening credits.