For season two, Only Murders in the Building creators John Hoffman and Steve Martin sought to make the world of the Arconia (and their show) bigger, which resulted in more self-referential humor, more guest stars, and yes, more mysteries. It’s a fairly normal direction to take the second season of a breakout hit — upward and outward. But Only Murders has spent as much of its second season retracing its steps — playing the season-one hits like “guest star as a suspect” and “love interest as a suspect” — as it has throwing new elements into the mix. With each new episode, the balance between questions and answers skews toward the former, making it increasingly less likely that all the story lines will be resolved or, at the very least, addressed again.
There are now so many characters that the writers haven’t even properly named them all. Charles’s dad is still just Mr. Savage while Mabel’s dad remains Mr. Mora, though even then, they’re never addressed by name — we only know their last names because we know Charles’s and Mabel’s last names. This week’s episode, “Hello Darkness,” introduces a new resident to the Arconia and a potential love interest for Howard: a Broadway performer played by Jason Veasey, of the Tony Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning A Strange Loop. But his name is never uttered, not even by Howard, who has been pining for this “chorus boy” since he first started subletting an apartment on his floor.
It’s possible that the name of this singer, who we find out is “lethally allergic to cats,” is itself some kind of clue, but if that’s the case, then the show really is in danger of losing the plot. There’s still a whole murder left to solve — one that the OMITB trio may be the only people invested in actually solving — DNA results to be delivered, and Teddy’s threat to deal with, and that’s just to name a few. It’s too late in the game to add enigmas for the sake of enigmas; even if this is just an oversight (and we learn the character’s name via closed captions, which aren’t available on most screeners!), it still points to the overabundance of plot threads this season. (Though, if we’re losing things in the shuffle, I do not mind if we never hear about Amy Schumer wanting to make a limited series about the OMITB podcast again.)
“Hello Darkness” is light on answers, even as it ends with the revelation that Detective Kreps is Glitter Person, a.k.a. the trio’s prime suspect. Like “The Tell” and “Flipping the Pieces,” the episode takes inspiration from its season-one counterpart — in this case, “Fan Fiction,” which first spotlighted the Arconiacs. Just as Mabel, Oliver, and Charles had some tensions earlier in the season, there’s also dissent among the ranks of their superfans. Paulette complains about having to listen to “five entire episodes of vamping,” while Sam worries “the cops are going to solve it before they do.” Along with Grant (Orson Hong), they’re starting to “cheat” on OMITB with a new podcast about embezzling. But Marv (Daniel Oreskes), still a little sore with his friends for so easily discounting his “Sixth Avenue Slasher killed Bunny” theory, insists he’s “OMITB for life.”
Marv gets his wish of becoming involved in the investigation, but his arc is characteristic of the larger struggle this season. He’s all over the place this episode, mostly to fulfill different plot needs — behaving strangely with the other Arconiacs before peddling his Sixth Avenue Slasher theory to Mabel, Charles, and Oliver. He offers to help the podcasters because they’re stuck, which Oliver immediately denies. The fact that Marv provides the narration in this episode suggests he has a key role to play, and that his thoughts about the killer, like Will’s observations about his dad’s perspicacity, will somehow factor into the plot. But the longer Marv goes on about some serial killer in New York City from the early aughts — there’s no real M.O., no clear demarcation of territory, no specific victim type — the less likely it seems that the killings were the work of a single predator. If this is another group we’re dealing with, are they actually working together as a team like the Arconia three? Do they have the same motive, or just the same means: murder?
Episode director Chris Teague plays with the idea of doubles, as two different jumpsuited figures make their way through the Arcatacombs, which are not nearly as secret as the opening voice-over in “Framed” implied. (Frankly, I’m surprised more thrill-seekers haven’t found their way to the Arconia’s network of secret passageways, especially since they were mentioned on the podcast.) The person who breaks into Charles’s apartment with a knife and crowbar wears the same gray jumpsuit we’ve spied before, and is probably the same person Lucy heard in the passageway. (Or did Lucy see the killer? More on that in a bit.)
We find out the person in the blue jumpsuit and respirator is Marv, who learned about the secret passageways from his work as a mold inspector. Despite his somewhat ominous behavior, Marv just wants to be a part of the investigation. Like Oliver, he’s looking for purpose; like Charles, Marv is trying to reconnect with his daughter. He even scares off the actual killer (one of them, anyway) before they can get to Lucy. But in the end, he’s just another red herring, as well as another example of the show underlining the theme of family — more specifically, of fathers struggling to be there for their kids.
All the lampshading and reinforcing of ideas that are already well established threw off the pacing early on, and season two has been scrambling to get back on track. But I don’t agree with Paulette that the preceding five episodes were just “vamping.” Season two has alternated more frequently between the viewpoints of the core trio and secondary characters like Theo and Marv, and new additions like Poppy. “Hello Darkness” continues the exploration of the Arconia, with scenes from around the building. We watch Howard trying to feed Sevelyn, who is absolutely precious. Ursula hawks Gut Milk in the front lobby as the residents complain about the blackout.
Buster and Nina talk about the future of the Arconia, which now seems to actually include Buster. The doorman, now director of resident support, tells Nina he’s haunted by the idea that he let Bunny’s killer into the building, though he can probably rest easy — the passageways prove that people have been sneaking into the building unbeknownst to him (which is a different security problem). Nina worries that the killer may have an ax to grind with board presidents, though again, I don’t think she really has to worry about that. It’s looking more and more likely that Bunny’s murder had nothing to do with the Arconia, or even the Rose Cooper painting.
This season’s had more herring than the Pickle Diner (assuming the cuisine is Russian-based, and that they serve shuba … you get my point). But we now know that Detective Kreps is involved in Bunny’s murder, which also explains why the investigation has seemingly stalled, aside from Detective Williams’s efforts. He also seems to know that Mabel knows his identity, and he implies that he could arrest her at any moment for the incident on the train. She wonders aloud why he hasn’t, just as I have — not because I want to see Mabel subjected to that, but because it’s yet another ball that the writers have dropped while juggling others.
Things are looking awfully crowded in the home stretch of season two, but there is one saving grace — we’ve met the murderer(s), even if we didn’t realize it. Season two’s expansion beyond the original cast means it’s one of the newcomers, who could be in cahoots with a mainstay. And they’re now hiding out in a group of unsuspecting New Yorkers, like the killer in Oliver’s game.
• This episode makes a point of Lucy having seen the killer in the passageway the night of Bunny’s murder, but I’ve watched “Here’s Looking at You …” so many times (for recapping and “watching Steve Martin play guitar” purposes), and I just don’t see how that’s possible. In the flashback, Lucy hears someone come into the Arcatacombs and immediately scrunches herself down and even turns her face away. At no point does she venture a peek. When we see the killer’s point of view, Lucy isn’t in their line of sight. But this week’s episode underscores the idea that Lucy saw the killer and that they saw her, despite how things played out in the fourth episode. Maybe we’ll see another flashback from a slightly different angle? I am doing my best to embrace the mess, but all this telling versus showing is making it very difficult!
• Something I haven’t really figured out is whether Kreps and his partner (or the mastermind behind the scheme) caused the blackout or simply took advantage of it. The timing is just way too convenient, though it seems just as likely that they were already planning to go after Lucy that night.
• Fun fact: Jason Veasey was actually in The Lion King in 2011.
• This week’s Easter egg: The lights are out in most of the Arconia apartments because of the blackout, though we do still see the people in the stairwell (emergency lights) and the woman on her smartphone.
Sign up here for email alerts for every new Only Murders in the Building recap.