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Only Murders in the Building: Who's the Killer in Season 3?

Everyone has a motive to kill Ben Glenroy, so it's time to evaluate the suspect list.
  • Clockwise: Meryl Streep, Jesse Williams, Andrea Martin, Linda Emond, and Wesley Taylor (Photos: Hulu)
    Clockwise: Meryl Streep, Jesse Williams, Andrea Martin, Linda Emond, and Wesley Taylor (Photos: Hulu)

    It wasn't one of the Pickwick triplets, but certainly someone killed Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd) in Only Murders in the Building's Season 3 premiere. It’s possible there were multiple someones, considering Ben was initially poisoned, then ended up dead and bloody in the elevator shaft of the Arconia.

    Only Murders has done a great job so far of assembling the suspects, all of whom are connected to Oliver's (Martin Short) production of "Death Rattle," in which Ben was to have the leading role. We've already ruled a few out. There was Gregg (Adrian Martinez), Ben's security guard and secretly obsessed fan, who was initially arrested for the crime after tying up Charles (Steve Martin) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) in a basement. But Gregg is way too obvious a choice, and the reveal would have happened way too early. We can also probably rule out Charles, even though he had bad blood with Ben. Other shows could maybe get away with making one of the starring trio of sleuths the killer, but the light, zippy tone of Only Murders wouldn't be able to take on Charles as a murderer.

    So who was it, then? Four episodes into the season, the suspects have given us plenty of reasons to cast a raised eyebrow their way. The key to making a good educated guess this early in the season is to resist the temptation to follow the clues. Clues are for the characters on screen. Clues can be reinterpreted as the season goes on or new clues will emerge. Ultimately, there will be clues that point to just about everyone as a suspect.

    As a viewer, the key to sussing out a TV murder mystery is thinking about what the story would be. What's the story if Loretta (Meryl Streep) is the killer? What is the show telling us if the murderer is Kimber (Ashley Park) or Joy (Andrea Martin) or Howard (Michael Cyril Creighton)? It's mostly about motive, but it's also about stepping outside of the text. Would John Hoffman and his team make Mabel's love interest the killer? Would they indulge a hoary trope like "the understudy did it"?

    We've narrowed the suspect list to the following 11 people:

    Loretta (Meryl Streep)

    The case for Loretta as Ben Glenroy's killer was made before the first opening credits of the season had even rolled. This is a woman whose dreams of Broadway stardom have eluded her through years of training, pounding the pavement, and rejection. As Charles' narration puts it, once such a person has finally gotten their moment in the spotlight — the way Loretta has with Death Rattle — is there anything they wouldn't do to preserve it? There's also the fact that when Ben was temporarily alive again, he made the rounds to everyone in the production and expressed contrition for his past behavior… except Loretta. For Loretta, all Ben had to say was "Cobro knows a snake when he sees one," followed by a literal hiss. Whatever bad blood existed between Loretta and Ben, it was worse than any of Ben's other relationships.

    Jonathan (Jason Veasey)

    The case for Jonathan is one of archetypes. Just like how any murder that occurs at a fancy country estate ought to have the butler somewhere on the list of subjects, when an actor is murdered, their understudy must be considered a suspect. The case against Jonathan is that he'd be a pretty low-impact choice as a murderer. As the understudy, he's too obvious to be a surprise. But as a character, he's not tied closely enough to the major characters to really shake up their world if he were to be the killer. Yes, Howard would be devastated, but Howard is always kind of devastated.

    Kimber (Ashley Park)

    In the Season 2 premiere, there are strong hints that Kimber and Ben were involved in an affair gone wrong. Ben apologizes for "f*cking things up." But in "The White Room," Kimber reveals she wanted a business relationship with Ben, not a romantic one. She wanted Ben, with his megawatt star power, to endorse her anti-aging serum, and he backed out of their deal. Of course, a business deal gone south is second only to a curdled romance when it comes to a motive for murder. Reasons to doubt Kimber is the killer include the fact that she sold the telltale handkerchief that Ben pulled off of the killer when he died. It seems likely that whomever purchased Kimber's hankie for $100 on Ebay is the real killer.

    Dickie (Jeremy Shamos)

    Dickie is both Ben's brother and manager, a crossing of the streams of business and personal relationships that could have led to a lot of resentment. When Ben first enters the rehearsal room on Day 1 of "Death Rattle," he blames his being late on Dickie. You get the sense that sh*t tended to roll downhill a lot in that relationship. Later, when Mabel and Tobert are hiding out in the wardrobe in Ben's penthouse, they spy a distraught Dickie saying "I'm so sorry, Ben!" Sorry… for killing him? The longer the show goes without overtly pointing a finger at Dickie, the more he'll seem like a legitimate candidate for murder instead of a red herring.

    Donna and Cliff DeMeo (Linda Emond and Wesley Taylor)

    The mother-and-son producing pair fall under suspicion for murder primarily because they are both strange and wealthy. The whole kissing on the lips thing is weird enough, but there's also the fact that we've seen Donna belittle Cliff and his intelligence and ability in front of other people. That kind of repeated maternal humiliation and degradation can raise a young boy to be a killer. As for Donna herself, she invested a lot of money into Death Rattle, and if she were worried about not being able to recoup her investment, murdering her famous leading man might have been a way out of it.

    Tobert (Jesse Williams)

    Ah, the documentarian. Tobert seems to be a contradiction of a person. He's such a snob about his work, looking down on Mabel for her murder podcasting, talking about making important nature films in Botswana. So why, then, would he be making a documentary about a mainstream, Marvel-grade, not particularly deep actor in Ben Glenroy? We also know (because he admitted it) that he lied to Mabel when he told her the story about stopping filming to go help a baby elephant from drowning. He's not to be trusted, he watches baby animals die, and the show framed him to look like he had devil horns on his head. He's also clearly being positioned as Mabel's love interest, and lord knows that has been reason enough to suspect someone of murder over the years. One of these seasons, Mabel's love interest won't be just a red herring.

    Joy (Andrea Martin)

    Joy talked her way onto the suspect list with this doozy to Charles: "I'm gonna look out for you, Charlie. Just like I did with Ben Glenroy. He knew if he touched one hair on your gorgeous little head, he was gonna have to deal with me." Would Joy have really murdered Ben because he'd threatened Charles with physical harm? Finding out that it was Joy's lipstick that was used to write "f*cking pig" on Ben's dressing-room mirror points another finger in her direction. Reasons to doubt that Joy is the killer? For one thing, she's become too obvious a suspect much too early in the season. Also, would the show really go back to the well of making Charles' love interest the killer?

    Howard (Michael Cyril Creighton)

    Howard is someone else who's no stranger to being an Only Murders in the Building suspect. This season, the closest we've seen to Howard attempting to harm Ben is when he sat that plate of tempting Schmackary's cookies next to him at the table read. But maybe it's a "just when we stopped thinking of Howard as a suspect, he strikes" situation. He's serving as Oliver's assistant on "Death Rattle," and lord knows the pressure of that job might drive Howard over the edge. Not to mention that killing Ben would put his boyfriend, Jonathan, in the leading role.

    Maxine (Noma Dumezweni)

    This one's a long shot, mostly because Maxine has only been on the show for one scene. But in that scene, we learn she has exactingly high standards for the theater. She's never been a particular fan of Oliver's work, but even his worst productions sing, and "this one didn't sing." She reserved her harshest criticism for Ben, of whom she said gave a better performance at his funeral. Could Maxine's high standards for theater have led her to kill Ben — a superhero movie actor slumming it on the stage — rather than have him deface the medium she loves?

    New episodes of Only Murders in the Building drop every Tuesday on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Only Murders In The Building , Andrea Martin, Ashley Park, Jason Veasey, Jeremy Shamos, Jesse Williams, Linda Emond, Martin Short, Meryl Streep, Michael Cyril Creighton, Noma Dumezweni, Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, Wesley Taylor