[This story contains major spoilers for the Only Murders in the Building season three finale, with immediate ramifications for season four. Proceed with caution.]
Who killed Paul Rudd? That was the number one question on Only Murders in the Building all season long, as the Hulu murder mystery comedy launched viewers into its third season with the star-studded slaying of special guest star Rudd as superstar Ben Glenroy. Now, following the season finale, “Opening Night,” we have our answer, and we’re left with an even deadlier question: Who killed Jane Lynch?
Before its shocking final scene, “Opening Night” untangles the mystery of Ben Glenroy’s death. At the start of the season, everyone assumed Glenroy had died onstage during the opening night of Oliver Putnam’s (Martin Short) new play. In fact, he survived, only to plummet to his death later that evening down an elevator shaft at the Arconia. Did the same killer strike twice, or was this a Scream situation, with two Ghostface killers? Turns out, closer to the second thing.
The penultimate episode of the season unmasked one of the two killers: Donna DeMeo (Linda Emond), producer of Oliver’s show. Early in the finale, on the precipice of Oliver’s show’s second opening night, Donna cops to poisoning Ben before the original opening night in order to stave off bad reviews of the show that would tank her son Cliff’s (Wesley Taylor) aspiring producer career. She did not mean to kill Ben, only knock him out long enough for the show to close down. When the intrepid trio of Oliver, Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) and Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) accuse her of pushing Ben down the elevator shaft — waving the dead man’s handkerchief with Donna’s lipstick marks on it as proof — she cops to that killing, too. The confession is on tape; Donna swears she’s not a flight risk as she’s currently sick with terminal cancer, and the show goes on. It all seems sewn up.
But, not so fast.
Just last year, Emond (who plays Donna) played the mother of a serial killer on The Patient. Now, she’s the mother of yet another murderer: Cliff DeMeo, Donna’s son, who we learn was the person who actually killed Ben.
After Ben recovers from his initial assassination attempt and returns to the Arconia, he deduces that Donna was responsible for the poisoning. He confesses this in a scene with Cliff, who does not take kindly to the actor’s threat of his mother’s imprisonment. So, Cliff does what any codependent child would do for his domineering mother: He pushes Ben down the elevator shaft, delivering the killing blow.
And there you have it: Only Murders in the Building needed to kill Paul Rudd twice, and needed two killers to do it. The producers DeMeo are the culprits, literally murdering one of their actors in order to shut down their show and avoid bad reviews. A bit on the nose given our recent Hollywood news cycle, isn’t it? But, never accuse Only Murders of being anything other than extremely meta. (Look no further than the penultimate episode’s delightfully absurd Father of the Bride tribute for further proof.)
So, all’s well that ends well, right? Wrong. While it’s a happy ending for our main trio, who are all either in love — Meryl Streep’s Loretta isn’t a killer, she and Oliver remain a couple, which leaves the door wide open for more Streep in the building! — moving to Los Angeles for work, or both. About as easy a conclusion as one could hope for. Until the final shoe drops, in the form of a sniper.
The episode ends with Jane Lynch’s Sazz Pataki, Charles’ longtime stunt double, going up to Charles’ apartment in the dead of night. As she roams the room, a silenced bullet pierces the window and lands directly in Sazz’s chest. At first, the audience is fooled into thinking Charles was just murdered. But as the season draws to an end, we see it’s his old pal Sazz who has once again taken the fall for her friend and colleague. The season cuts to black with Sazz dying on the ground, her fingers coated in the blood of her own gunshot wound, potentially trying to write some final message on the floor…
So, one murder down, another mystery on the board. Who killed Sazz? Just as importantly, why? That second question is easier to answer, since Sazz died in Charles’ apartment, and is Charles’ stunt double. Whoever pulled the trigger was most likely aiming for Steve Martin and wound up killing a Steve Martin double, which means Charles is in grave danger heading into the fourth season of the show. A fourth season was made official by Hulu on the day the finale released.
As for culprits? There are plenty of folks to suspect, with Amy Ryan’s Jan at the top of the list, given her romantic connection to both Charles and Sazz. (Yes, she’s in prison, but a phone call to the right trigger-person, plus her old apartment existing right across the way from Charles’ at the Arconia, could do the trick.) For now, it’s speculation time as we head into yet another offseason for Only Murders, shipping into a fourth season on the heels of a riveting, hilarious and often rather tragic third year. Encore!
Revisit this season’s Suspect Watch posts, below.
THR‘s midpoint “Suspect Watch,” posted after episode seven: Who Killed Paul Rudd?
It started with a bang… well, not exactly, unless you count dropping on the floor as a “bang.” In reality it’s more like a “thud.” In fact, let’s go with that: It started with a thud — from none other than Paul Rudd!
Only Murders in the Building’s excellent third season has produced a litany of emotions, from unbridled laughter (Steve Martin’s foul-mouthed patter song shall forever live rent-free in my own personal White Room) to surprising levels of soulful depths. (Despite what you may read elsewhere, Martin Short’s a national treasure, and has been particularly moving this season as his lovestruck Oliver negotiates a budding relationship with Meryl Streep’s Loretta.) Through all of this, the show’s central premise remains intact: A murder mystery with enough perps on the proverbial board to keep us guessing all season long.
The question at the start of the season (revisit that in full below) remains the show’s driving force, now seven episodes in: Who killed Ben Glenroy, the shamelessly smarmy actor played by Paul Rudd? Indeed, there could be multiple killers, as Ben died not once, but twice. First he was poisoned on stage and then revived at the hospital, only to plummet down an elevator shaft to his doom later that evening.
We can safely take the Martins Steve and Short off the suspect list, as well as Selena Gomez’s Mabel. At this point, any of the core podcasters inserting themselves into the narrative in an actively violent way feels like taking a jump with more self-destructive takes than, say, Splash: The Musical. Short of our heroes, then, which of the season three suspects did it? Seven episodes down, we’re honing in on the following candidates:
Dickie Glenroy (Jeremy Shamos)
The biggest suspect on the board exiting this week’s Only Murders? None other than Ben’s own brother and manager, Dickie (Jeremy Shamos). We learn hat he likely created CoBro as a child but received none of the credit. We also see him holding a bloody handkerchief at the end of episode seven. Dickie tries to get Mabel off the case, happy enough with all signs pointing at Ben’s stalker as the killer, even if recent evidence exonerates the man. Most signs point toward Dickie right now, which is actually a point in favor of his innocence, as there are still three episodes left in the season. It’s a bit early for an open-and-shut answer to the central question.
Tobert (Jesse Williams)
Robert without the “R” infiltrated Mabel’s circle of trust with ease, gaining access to the murder board and, therefore, an ability to track the team’s investigation. Few people benefit more from the podcast trio’s disbandment, as it not only weakens their pursuit of the truth but also opens up another revenue stream via Hashtag Bloody Mabel.
Cinda Canning (Tina Fey)
Tina Fey’s nefarious podcast mega host returned this season with a new haircut and a new heir apparent to the true crime genre: Bloody Mabel. What if Cinda and Tobert worked together to kill Ben and revolutionize Mabel’s reputation, catapulting all of their careers to another level? Let’s not forget that Cinda’s old assistant Poppy (aka Becky Butler) was outed as a killer last season. Does the murder apple fall far from the murder apple tree? Wait a minute, are there murder apple trees?
Loretta (Meryl Streep)
Just because Meryl Streep’s humble alter ego possesses a scrapbook fixated on Ben Glenroy does not mean she killed Ben Glenroy. However, it does mean we have to take her very seriously as a culprit until proven otherwise. Another possibility involves Loretta’s life imitating Oliver’s art, in that she once served as Ben’s (and perhaps Dickie’s) nanny, mirroring the plot of the play. Is that why she has what one could rightly call a Ben Glenroy stalker manifesto? Or, is she simply carrying precisely that — a stalker manifesto? Three episodes until we know more.
A Third Glenroy Brother (Paul Rudd, Jeremy Shamos or Another Actor Entirely)
Which of the Pickwick Triplets did it? It’s not only a very catchy patter song lyric, but perhaps some critical insight into the season’s core mystery. Oliver’s play focuses on three babies who witnessed or may have even committed a murder. Right now, we know about two Glenroy siblings. But what if there’s a secret third? This week’s episode revealed Dickie was adopted — does he have a twin, or even two brothers that we don’t know about? Are we in for some sort of The Prestige-level reveal? As long as we’re talking about incognito CoBros and not a small army of Hugh Jackman clones, we’re not only here for it, but feel pretty good about the possibility.
Matthew Broderick (Himself)
Okay, probably not, but the legendary actor joins the Only Murders cast this week as a heightened version of himself who overcommits to all of his parts. (He learned to write code for War Games, and let’s not revisit what he did to prepare for Election.) If Broderick had his eye on a killer role in Death Rattle, then killing Ben to know what it feels like to murder someone wouldn’t be beyond the pale — even if it’s not exactly likely.
Who do you think killed Ben Glenroy? I’ll be back for one more set of predictions for the penultimate episode in two weeks. In the meantime, you can revisit our first take below.
THR‘s first “Suspect Watch,” posted after premiere: Who Killed Paul Rudd?
In its second season finale, Only Murders in the Building loudly announced its intentions for season three: Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez’s intrepid true crime podcasters were going to have to solve another murder mystery, with Paul Rudd playing the corpse in question. Stunt casting aside, the new case was another significant leap forward for the comedy on at least two fronts: The murder took place a full year after the events of seasons one and two, and the murder took place in a building outside of the titular… well, building.
At least, that’s how it seemed.
The Only Murders season three premiere, called “The Show Must,” which has released on Hulu amid the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes (which is why you won’t see any actors doing press for the season), takes back the death of Ben Glenroy (Rudd), if only for a little while. A vapid actor whose celebrity highlight reel includes projects such as “Cobro” and “Girl Cop,” Rudd’s Glenroy manages to survive his apparent on-stage demise from the season two finale, in which he appeared to die in front of a packed theater house on opening night of the new play “Death Rattle.” Technically, Glenroy did die, but only for an hour. His resurrection turns out to be similarly short-lived, as his battered body is discovered on top of an elevator by the end of the premiere by none other than Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), Oliver Putnam (Short) and Mabel Mora (Gomez), whose whodunnit podcast series is officially back in action with a brand new mystery to solve.
Across its first two episodes, Only Murders season three introduces (and reintroduces) the viewer to a litany of folks with plenty of motive and opportunity to kill the cookie-loving monster known as Ben Glenroy. Who done it? Let’s survey the suspects as the 10-episode season begins:
Paul Rudd isn’t the only A-lister on board for Only Murders this season. The iconic Meryl Streep joins the cast this year as Loretta Durkin, one of the stars of “Death Rattle,” Oliver’s new Broadway show. In a major turn against type, Streep’s character is a struggling actress, long rejected by the industry and finally facing a chance at success.
The season begins by introducing Loretta and her backstory, setting her up as Oliver’s new love interest, and making tension between her and Ben clear. With Ben dead, the play is also likely dead, which means Oliver’s rule of no workplace romances may finally lift. Did Loretta kill Ben in order to open the door for a romance with Oliver? it feels a little light. And also, we’ve been here before, what with Charles-Haden’s ill-fated relationship with serial killer Jan (Amy Ryan). Still, she remains a top suspect, if not for motive then at least for a few key pieces of dialogue. (“Oliver tells me you’re one to look out for,” Ben says at one point, and later even Loretta exclaims: “Oh my God, it’s me! It’s me, isn’t it?”)
Played by Jeremy Shamos, a.k.a. the erstwhile Mr. Kettleman on Better Call Saul, Dickie is Ben’s brother and manager. He’s responsible for Ben’s diet, which must be strictly followed due to the actor’s commitment to playing superhero Cobro. With direct access to Ben’s food, Dickie could easily have poisoned Ben, a first murder attempt that ultimately went awry. Shortly before Ben’s final death, Dickie pulled his brother aside for a very important phone call. Was that an actual call, or something arranged to sneak Ben away somewhere a bit more private — like an elevator shaft, perhaps?
Tobert the Documentarian
Also known as “Robert with a T,” played by Jesse Williams. Tobert is Ben’s documentarian, on hand to film the hotshot actor’s Broadway debut. Williams is a significant name among the new Only Murders cast members, and he has one of the most significant “that’s the murderer” pieces of dialogue in the premiere: “Hey Broadway, I’m just an observer. This is literally the last time you’re going to hear my voice.” (Exactly what the killer would say.) Season two already took a meta route by having a podcaster as the murderer; casting a filmmaker in that role would be a natural next step for season three.
Donna and Clifford DiMeo
Then again, there’s always the producers of “Death Rattle,” mother-son duo Donna and Clifford, played by Linda Emond and Wesley Taylor. Right off the bat, these two give off major criminal vibes, what with an incredibly inappropriate kiss that no mother and son should share for any reason whatsoever. What’s more, Ben’s primadonna behavior has clearly rubbed the producers the wrong way; Ben can’t even remember Clifford’s name, only calling him “boy.” These two stand out as very likely suspects here in the early going of season three on a couple of fronts. One, “Clifford” is the same name as one of Martin Short’s most monstrous alter-egos, perhaps a not-so-subtle nod to the Only Murders Clifford’s murderous tendencies. For another, a pair of producers killing an actor and causing a show to stop down? Sounds eerily familiar…
Howard and the Arconia Residents
When considering who murdered in the building, always suspect the people who live in said building. This season, there’s no greater ambassador for the prime in-house suspect list than Howard, played by Michael Cyril Creighton, promoted to series regular for season three. The upgraded importance could be a tell, but he also has incentive to ruin the show, given that he auditioned for Oliver’s play and instead was cast as Oliver’s assistant. Enough of an excuse to commit a murder? Maybe not. It would also be a bitter pill to swallow for fans who have come to grow quite fond of the late, great Evelyn the cat’s cat dad. This early in the season — and this late into the series’ life cycle, however — anyone and everyone who lives at the Arconia should wind up on the whiteboard.
If it wasn’t Loretta, Dickie, Tobert, Donna, Clifford or Howard, who killed Ben Glenroy? Check back later in the season for another rundown of the suspects before the big reveal.
Only Murders in the Building season three is now streaming on Hulu.
This story first posted on Aug. 8 and again on Sept. 12 before its final update.