Up until she stabbed someone on the train, Mabel was doing a remarkable job of keeping it together. She was working with Charles and Oliver to clear their names, even though you could hardly have blamed her if she’d hidden away in her aunt’s fab apartment for at least the first round of “Bloody Mabel” discourse. She met someone new after realizing that her “trauma bond” with Oscar might not be the best foundation for a relationship. She’s even managed to have something of a social life, though that botched game of Son of Sam probably isn’t going to do her online reputation any favors.
It’s hardly surprising, given what Mabel’s already endured and the armor she created for herself. But she’s always been the most vulnerable of the Arconia Three — she’s not wealthy, white, or male. Seeing how Oscar was railroaded for Zoe’s death must make her somewhat anxious that, as another working-class Latina person (rich aunt or none), she could meet the same fate. And that’s all without taking into account the lingering grief and guilt over Zoe’s death, Oscar’s imprisonment, and Tim Kono’s murder — not to mention losing her father at a young age.
We’ve heard from Mabel how she manages to cope with life in New York City, but “Flipping the Pieces” flips the script on Tough Mabel, who’s been avoiding much more than she let on. This is the most extensive look into Mabel’s past that season two has offered to date, and it comes from Stephen Markley and Ben Philippe, who wrote the wonderful season-one episode “The Boy From 6B.” Fittingly, Theo Dimas (James Caverly) makes his return, surprising himself and Mabel by teaming up with one of the people who uncovered his family’s crimes.
But, as they spend the day together at Coney Island, Mabel and Theo realize how much they have in common: parents who would do anything to protect them; fear that they don’t know for certain if they killed someone. Theo experienced a distorted, fun-house-mirror version of that parental devotion: Where Mabel’s parents kept her dad’s stomach cancer from her, Teddy threatened Tim and framed Oscar for Zoe’s death. Neither of them had a carefree childhood, but Theo spent his adolescence helping his dad steal from dead people. “The Boy From 6B” illustrated just how lonely he’s always been.
Having gotten in a solid dig about Theo’s ankle monitor (“You steal jewelry from dead people and the state gives you an anklet. How poetic.”), Mabel still can’t help but feel bad when she learns what he was robbed of. The two former neighbors continue to find common ground at Coney Island, which is where they’ve tracked Glitter Person, who assaulted Mabel on the train, leaving behind a security badge at the station. It’s another potential break in the case, which is good, given that Glitter Person, despite being injured, made off with the bloody matchbook. They just have to go through a bunch of personnel files and/or figure out what the chicken patch on Glitter Person’s backpack means.
“Flipping the Pieces” has an even bigger reveal in store: Mabel’s recollection of what happened the night Bunny was killed. But first, we need to see what Mabel went through with her dad (Mark Consuelos, playing another hot, not-long-for-this-world dad), and how that affected her memory. Her father (his first name isn’t spoken aloud) moved into a small apartment after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. She’d spend Sunday mornings with him working on puzzles, which he compares to mysteries: “A mystery is just a puzzle.” Mabel didn’t understand what was really happening, so when he’s unable to take her trick-or-treating, she yells that he never keeps his promises anymore. And he lets her believe that, bearing the brunt of her anger, because he thinks it’s less harmful than telling her the truth — that he’s dying.
That’s a feeling that virtually every parent or parental figure on Only Murders shares. Oliver says as much to Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who’s back early from parental leave: “You’ll do anything if you think it’ll help your kid.” In that moment, he’s talking about miming choreography from A Chorus Line with your baby’s legs to help them fart, but it really applies to anything. The desire to help or protect your kid is why Oliver never got rid of the murder weapon; instead, he chose to help Will with his production of The Wizard of Oz. It’s why Teddy has done some of the nefarious things he’s done, why Charles rushed Lucy back to Connecticut in an Uber. Detective Williams observes that Charles and Oliver are effectively doing the same for Mabel, before convincing them to turn over the murder weapon. She then belts out a line from A Chorus Line’s “One,” because of course she “fucking knows” A Chorus Line.
But Mabel didn’t feel protected by what her parents did; it just taught her to cope with a problem by not coping with it. Whenever “something was too much or too difficult … when I was afraid to see what really happened … or what I had possibly done,” Mabel mentally obscured the reality, “flipping the pieces” of what was happening to prevent the memory from taking root. She hasn’t been keeping anything from her friends, which will probably be a relief to Charles and Oliver. As she starts to reconstruct her memory, we see that she actually spied the killer on their way through the closet door, knife in one hand and a flashlight in the other. When she turned to grab her needles, Bunny staggered in with one of those needles in her chest. After agonizing about the possibility that she’s “the sort of person to put a needle in a defenseless old woman,” Mabel realizes she didn’t attack Bunny. And she didn’t need any hackneyed art installation to do it (ahem, Alice).
This “good lie” is also probably what turned Mabel into the kind of person who skips to the ending of a book — after having such a huge thing kept from her, Mabel tried to get the jump on future mysteries. This connection is much more elegantly made here than in “The Tell,” by reframing what we already know about a character instead of having someone close to them insist that trait always existed.
About that: I mentioned this last week, but there has to be more to Will’s request for a DNA test than he’s told Oliver. I think little Henry was tasked with making a family tree, a project that Will ended up taking over (just like Oliver with The Wizard of Oz). Will must have come across something that made him suspect that Oliver isn’t his biological father. What I’m less certain of is how Will feels about that — prior to the Oz thing, he only really saw Oliver when his dad needed money. Will did come to Winnie’s aid last season and he was also prepared to give Oliver more money. But he seemed almost pleased to inform Oliver last week that Mabel, the person he had been spending so much time with, was “bad news.” And who sent Oliver the video of Mabel on the train? Will. If Oliver really did pride himself on being able to sniff out everyone’s secrets, then Will might get some grim satisfaction from keeping this one from him (for now).
Will isn’t actually on my murder board, but there is something off there. And it’s high time we start narrowing down the suspects, since the cops in OMITB aren’t doing any of the legwork. Seriously, is Detective Williams, who is on parental leave, the only person trying to solve Bunny’s murder? For all his posturing, Detective Kreps hasn’t turned up jackshit — but that could be by design. His motive isn’t obvious, though he might just hate the Upper West Side. There’s no real evidence against him, but I would just like to point out how often cops moonlight as security guards.
Another theory is that Kreps is somehow related to Charles, given how Mr. Savage Sr. got around. It would be in keeping with what seems to be the larger theme of the season (which it shares with the Fast and Furious franchise): family. Whether it’s buried history or renewed connections, family ties are a big part of season two. Parental love has been highlighted in Teddy’s, Oliver’s, Charles’s, and Mabel’s dad’s cases — though, it should be noted, not in Leonora’s. She may be old, but she was downright apathetic about Bunny’s death. I don’t think she killed her own daughter, but she may have been trying to wrest the painting back from her hands and ordered someone else to get to it by any means.
A (possibly) wilder theory: There are two killers, or at least, two people who attacked Bunny that night. One might just have been trying to scare her into giving up the painting, while the other had murder on the mind. I say this because the person who ran out of Mabel’s apartment in her memory had both a knife in their right hand and a flashlight in the left. The person Lucy heard in the Arcatacombs had only a flashlight, and it was in their right hand; their left hand looks empty (check the 33:50 timestamp of “Here’s Looking at You …”). Maybe they stashed the knife, but when would they have had the time, if they were pursuing Bunny into Mabel’s apartment? And how did Bunny get into that apartment in the first place? The timeline and details aren’t matching up, and neither are Bunny’s wounds. In Mabel’s memory, she’s bleeding from a single wound, which was caused by the needle. But according to the police report, she was stabbed eight times with a knife.
Those could just be continuity gaps, but this season has been even more of an ensemble effort; episodes have been introduced from the viewpoints of secondary (though probably not for long) characters like Will, Leonora, and Poppy. We could have a Scream 2 situation here: one person who wants fame, another who wants justice. That did end up being a family affair.
• This week’s Easter egg is all over the Arconia: puzzle outlines on the building exterior.
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