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Hear Me Out

Only Murders in the Building's Mabel Desperately Needs Friends Her Own Age

Mabel's dependence upon Charles and Oliver is preventing her from moving forward elsewhere in her life.
  • Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building Season 3 (Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)
    Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building Season 3 (Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

    In Hear Me Out, Primetimer staffers and contributors espouse their pet theories, hot takes, and even the occasional galaxy-brain idea.

    Only Murders in the Building's Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) is a woman at a crossroads. After two seasons spent living in her aunt's apartment, Mabel's time at the Arconia is coming to an end, leaving her unmoored and contemplating her next move as she approaches her 30th birthday. But if Season 3 is about the millennial crime-solver discovering her purpose, she's looking in all the wrong places. Rather than dragging Charles (Steve Martin) and Oliver (Martin Short) into yet another murder investigation, it's high time for Mabel to make some friends her own age.

    The generation gap between Mabel and Charles and Oliver has always been one of Only Murders' most reliable sources of comedy, and this season is no exception. The first few episodes have included plenty of jokes about Charles and Oliver's limited understanding of technology, including Martin's laughably incorrect pronunciation of the word "meme." But after three seasons, their inability to get with it is starting to wear thin. Punchlines about the duo struggling to connect to bluetooth or using their iPhones efficiently have been recycled so many times that they no longer feel fresh. They're also hardly convincing — surely all their devices are synced and their passwords saved in iCloud by now.

    Even if she outwardly mocks them, Mabel puts up with Charles and Oliver's antics, but her frustration is beginning to show. She struggles to get Oliver, who's distracted with Death Rattle and his crush on star Loretta Durkin (Meryl Streep), to care about the investigation into Ben Glenroy's (Paul Rudd) death; it's only when Mabel speaks to him like a child ("Zip it!" she says) that he diverts his attention to the task at hand, however briefly. Charles has also been busy with his own issues, including his new relationship with Joy (Andrea Martin) and his stage fright, but at least he's involved in the search for the truth — he just lacks a natural ability for it, despite years playing Detective Brazzos. When he explains that he has little insight to offer about his co-stars in Oliver's musical, Mabel's sarcastic response is appropriately biting: "I was worried we'd be starting at square one, but no danger of that."

    But regardless of how little Charles and Oliver aid the investigation or how irritated she gets, Mabel continues to keep them in the loop. With so much in her life changing, their friendship and creative partnership becomes a security blanket, something Mabel can hold on to when everything else — her housing search, her lack of income, and her general aimlessness — is too overwhelming to deal with head on. That's perfectly understandable, but Mabel's insistence on recreating old times by solving Ben's murder with her boomer pals is preventing her from moving forward in any meaningful way, especially when Charles and Oliver are progressing with their own lives.

    Only Murders has offered a few glimpses of what's in store for Mabel if she's willing to disentangle herself from Charles and Oliver. Last season, she took a risk by trusting mysterious artist Alice, and though Gomez and Cara Delevingne didn't have super believable chemistry, the relationship helped Mabel put Tim Kono's (Julian Cihi) murder in her rearview mirror. Season 3 introduces a new love interest in documentarian Tobert (Jesse Williams), who gives Mabel an opportunity to reflect on life beyond the walls of the Arconia. Hiding in a closet in Ben's apartment, Tobert discusses his recent experience in Botswana, and he and Mabel are immediately on the same wavelength: There's no need for either to explain their references or justify their tenacity. Tobert, who owns up to his ruthlessness when they meet again later, is exactly the kind of person who can challenge Mabel to break free of old habits and find her purpose, which her podcast co-hosts aren't able to do at the moment.

    Mabel's encounters with people her age have been primarily romantic, but Episode 4, "The White Room," shows how desperately she needs new platonic relationships, as well. When it comes time to interrogate Death Rattle star Kimber (Ashley Park), who runs a successful side hustle as a skincare influencer, Mabel is wholly out of her depth. She spews out a string of millennial-adjacent words — "Hey mama, we're like yas, and werk, and slay, and... yas" — reinforcing Charles' earlier slight about her "old lady energy."

    The moment indicates that Mabel doesn't quite fit in with anyone, even other women in their late-20s, but Kimber looks past her awkwardness and welcomes her into her dressing room. For Mabel, Kimber represents someone who has life figured out, and as they speak, it becomes clear how much Mabel has to learn about the modern world. When Mabel brings up "rumors" about Kimber's "showmance" with Ben, the Broadway star admonishes her about the dangers of making assumptions about women sleeping with their male co-stars to get ahead. It's a reminder that Mabel never would have gotten from Charles or Oliver, and even if she did, it carries far more weight when it comes from a peer who's actually affected by these kinds of judgments, rather than two white men.

    Mabel's journey in "The White Room" ends with a surprise meeting with Cinda Canning (Tina Fey), who offers Mabel a job in her true-crime podcasting empire. Cinda may be manipulative, but she understands that Mabel cannot continue living in the past. "What are you going to do when people stop keeling over at the Arconia?" she warns. "Bloody Mabel is already feeling very last season."

    Of course, given Cinda's prior treatment of her employees, Mabel is right to turn her down. But the proposal offers a viable path forward for the lost millennial: "You can crack this, as long as you have the right partner," Cinda says of her investigation into Ben's death. Mabel doesn't need to kick Charles and Oliver to the curb entirely, but as she evaluates her future, she would be wise to think about what she requires of a partner and who is best equipped to support her in the long run. And if that person happens to have a passable understanding of the internet, all the better.

    New episodes of Only Murders in the Building Season 3 drop Tuesdays on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Only Murders In The Building , Hulu, Jesse Williams, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Steve Martin