Only Murders In The Building continues – and here’s our spoiler-y sleuthing from the fourth episode of season two.
Note: This post assumes you have seen Only Murders in the Building up to and including the fourth episode of season two, or that you’re at least willing to play along as though you have.
This week’s installment of Only Murders is was what you might call a chapter of clarity. After several episodes’ worth of throwing balls into the air to get an increasingly complex mystery in flight, things snapped into focus somewhat for Episode Four: Here’s Looking At You.
Well, kind of. Because the clues and convolutions certainly kept coming and all sorts of threads from previous episodes (the previous season, even) are still dangling. Thinking thematically, however, it’s now abundantly clear what the show has on its mind this year.
In truth, it’s not anything too different from what the showmakers have been concerned with all along. This is a show about parents and their children, most obviously fathers and sons. But not only fathers and sons: the general absence of mother figures might well be one of the most important, shaping factors in everything we see and hear. We might just be waiting for the next chapter of clarity to come and resolve all of the mother-themed threads.
While the central mystery of this year’s plot is certainly Who Killed Bunny Folger? there are plenty of other, unresolved storylines, and this is the week those threads became utterly knotted together. To properly understand any of them, they will need to be untangled.
So, let’s have a go – and let’s use the vantage point of the show’s theme to inform us. What does the murder of Bunny have to do with fathers and sons? Or mothers and daughters? And (because this show is their story, especially Charles-Haden’s) how does all of that relate to our podcaster heroes and their character arcs?
The core mix-up, around which all of the other misdirections seem to revolve, is that Bunny was attacked at the door of her own apartment, then was soon after seen in Mabel’s apartment, now stabbed eight times with a knife and at least once with a knitting needle. Nothing will make sense until there’s a narrative that explains all of this.
First of all, we know Bunny had gone home in the Only Murders hoodie. Then she watched TV with her parrot, Mrs Gambolini, who said ‘I know who did it’.
Shortly after this, Bunny answered the door to somebody she recognised in black boots and long rubber gloves. She was attacked, mostly off screen and in a way that, in retrospect, probably didn’t involve stabbing. This person had arrived in the elevator, which had traveled up several floors.
Lucy reports being in the crawlspace tunnels between the Arconia walls that night, and seeing a character in a mask who sneezed. They had protective cloth covers over their shoes – not unlike the ones Mabel wore in the last season when working in her apartment.
Two of the podcasters receive text messages telling them to get out of the building.
When Bunny crosses paths with Mabel in her apartment, she has been brutally stabbed eight times with a knife and at least once with a knitting needle. She says something that sounds like ‘Fourteen’ and something like ‘Savage.’
In the days after the murder, the Rose Cooper painting is surprisingly discovered in Charles’ apartment – Charles-Haden Savage, that is, on the 14th floor.
Some days later, a bloody knife is found in Charles’ kitchen. This knife is believed to be one of Oliver’s.
There are a lot of gaps in this story, and it’s easy to plug them with assumptions. I’m sure I already made some such assumptions and published them in my previous posts about the show.
For example, I last week commented as though the attacker at Bunny’s door had definitely stabbed her with the knife. In retrospect, that might be a leap too far – not least because Bunny’s blood was shown in Mabel’s apartment, not all over the Arconia.
I bolded some of the above words because I want to look at those elements more closely. One at a time, then:
Bunny had gone home: when the podcasters looked out of Mabel’s apartment to see if Bunny was still around, a door on the opposite side of the corridor closed. This was very probably Bunny’s door – we get to see the spatial arrangement of Bunny and Mabel’s doors in the first season, when Charles is showing off his Brazzos skills at lockpicking – but I’m not in the habit of rewinding, pausing and freeze framing the show to be sure; that doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of things. In any case, we’re certainly not shown who went through the door, which creates a slightly agitating effect if nothing else.
In truth, I think everything is more straightforward here than the suspense-raising staging and editing makes it appear. Bunny went home, the podcasters were fractions of a second too slow to stop her and change the course of the evening’s events.
‘I know who did it’: Episode two ended with a brilliant tease when Mrs Gambolini told the podcasters ‘I know who did it.’ We went into episode three assuming this would have something to do with the case – or at least last year’s Tim Kono mystery. When we saw that a TV show catchphrase was the origin of the parrot’s chatter it seemed to render the comment irrelevent. Suddenly, a sort-of cliffhanger was revealed to be nothing more than a funny red herring.
But what if it wasn’t? What if the cause of the parrot saying ‘I know who did it’ is far less important than its effect? Here’s one wild theory I cooked up: Bunny was killed because somebody overheard the parrot – which had her voice, more or less – and subsequently believed Bunny was onto them. I like this idea a lot because it’s a total double-flip.
Black boots: Just like a giallo movie with its overabundance of suspicious-looking black gloves, dodgy boots are all over the Arconia. The surprise visitor at Bunny’s apartment was kept largely off-screen, though their boots were absolutely dangled in front of the audience like a carrot. Comparing those boots to other shoes could be helpful in piecing together a useful, logical narrative.
We don’t get a great look at Alice’s feet in the axe-smash scene, but when we do, they’re good match for the person arriving at Bunny’s door. Meanwhile, the person Lucy describes seeing in the tunnels has covers over their shoes. Lucy herself has similar boots to the attacker in the ‘frappucino accident’ picture that she sends to Charles early in episode four but we later see her in sneakers while wearing the same dress. There’s also that fun beat with Teddy stopping the elevator door with his foot, which gives us a good look at his maybe-but-probably-not-attacker-like shoes and his ankle tag.
The whole shoe game might be a massive distraction, but it’s the kind of viewer-friendly clue that more or less everybody in the audience can play along with. My hunch is that it tells us either Alice or Lucy showed up at Bunny’s door that night, and because of the eye-protectors, I’m going to say Alice for now, because Why Not. That is the game we’re playing, after all.
Sneezed: I couldn’t help but think of the ending of Pelham 123 and wonder if this set up of a sneeze will play out in a similar way. The sneeze certainly isn’t going to mean nothing, and that’s a good reason to believe Lucy was telling the truth about what she saw and not just making things up. Or maybe it’s a little bit of verisimilitude that goes nowhere and cons us all into trusting Lucy. That would be… frustrating?
Text messages: In the finale of the first season, while Oliver and Charles are on the roof and Mabel is on her way to discover Bunny, we see both Oliver and Charles receive the same text message. It reads ‘Get out of the building now!!!’ and they don’t recognise the number. It seems to be a warning – that the SWAT team are on the way in, perhaps, or that Bunny’s killer is on the move, maybe even looking for the trio.
The scene highlights the message’s punctuation, which contrasts it with the messages sent by Lucy early in this week’s episode, where she often but not always skips punctuation altogether. It’s utterly circumstantial, of course – I tend not to use exclamation points myself but if I were sending messages, telling people to flee a killer, I might just reach for any emphasis I could.
I don’t recall any confirmation that Mabel also got the same message – or that other characters did not. If Mabel did not, then does this imply the sender is somebody who would have Charles and Oliver’s numbers, but not hers? The distinction could be social (ie. somebody had their numbers from everyday use) or administrative (ie. Charles and Oliver rent in the building, whereas Mabel is in her aunt’s apartment so her number may not be part of Arconia record keeping).
The Rose Cooper painting: There hasn’t been anything about the painting in a while, with the ‘physical clue’ emphasis recently shifted onto the bloody knife and the boots. There are lots of reasons somebody might want this painting – to sell it, because they feel like it’s theirs, to destroy it because it contains some kind of information that they’d like to obscure. These motives are all up in the air so far, but the painting clearly has an important place in the overall mess of mysteries.
There may yet be no connection between the painting and the murder other than, for whatever wicked twist of cause and effect the showmakers have concocted, somebody was trying to obtain, destroy or move the painting on the same night that Bunny was killed for an unrelated or semi-related reason. But we have two key props appearing inexplicably in Charles’ apartment now, and it would take a lot of narrative gymnastics for the planting of the knife and the painting to not be somehow related.
What we do know for sure about the painting is that it not only has something to do with the show’s already-exposed interest in fathers and sons, with Charles’ father apparently being the model of the male figure portrayed, but that it connects to the show’s so-far quiet and subtle interest in mothers and daughters.
Leonora is, she says, Bunny’s mother. I’ve questioned that before, and I guess we don’t really know for sure. She may be Bunny’s mother, or Rose Cooper the artist, or the woman in the painting, or any combination of the above, including none. She may have been lying when she said it was ‘her’ painting, or she may have meant that she owned it, she painted it, and/or that it depcited her.
She may also be the grandmother of Alice Banks, who may or may not actually be called Alice Banks. They each arrived in the same episode and have disappeared since, which means it’s very early days for grasping their relationship to the story overall. They are prime examples of balls thrown high into the air that we’re still waiting to see in orbit, let alone making their way back down again.
Other unresolved mother-figure plotlines that will likely get some airing later in the season include: Cinda Canning’s relationship with her mini-me duo. Lucy’s relationship with her mother, Charles’ newly-married ex. Mabel’s mysterious aunt, if she exists. Perhaps Mabel’s mother will be allowed back into the narrative again. This episode made Nina a mother and seemed to close the loop on her being a murder suspect but that doesn’t mean she won’t factor into the story again, and in important ways. Charles’ mother may yet take centre stage. Bunny’s mother won’t be incidental, whoever she is or isn’t. We may even be hearing more about Will Putnam’s mother.
My recent inclination has been to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Ivan at The Pickle Diner is Bunny’s son. That would certainly give us an emotional plot to pay off with him, and one that resonates with Bunny’s indecision between a fresh start and long-standing commitments.
A bloody knife: Lucy is surprised to find the bloody knife in Charles’ kitchen. It soon becomes a comedy/suspense mechanism, dangling from the ceiling over Howards’ head, as much as it is a clue. The last we see of it, Oliver is carrying it off in a bag and asking the others to ‘not worry’ abou it. There’s a real sense that these amateur sleuths might do themselves a favour by handing it into police – what if it’s animal blood, and a staged piece of evidence, say? – but they’re going to go on playing detective instead, at their own expense.
When Mabel commented on the knife not having her fingerprints on it, I was reminded of my earlier observation that the axe scene could be all about getting Mabel’s prints on that. I’m feeling pretty good about that idea now.
Whatever happens and whichever characters eventually appear in the concluding episode or two, I’m now absolutely sure that they’re going to tell a story about Charles first and foremost, a story about Bunny secondarily, that these stories are going to be entwined in some way, and that these stories will be about parents and children. Anybody trying to get ahead of the mystery should definitely keep that in mind as a kind of north star. If your theory has nothing to do with the themes and character arcs, it’s probably wrong.
Notes from my sleuthing notepad –
- Is there a frappucino stain on Lucy’s dress in the scenes of her sneaking about the Arconia?
- How long has Lucy been in the tunnels? For the duration of this whole season?
- The entirety of Angel in Flip-Flops is streaming online now. The other five tracks from the record we see on screen are sadly not. Because they don’t exist. Probably.
- When she’s making her video at the beginning of this episode, Lucy is fussing with her hat. Is this because she’s trying it on for the first time – ie. she’s stolen it from one of the apartments?
- In fact, does Lucy’s patchy-mismatchy clothing style indicate that she’s stealing things often?
- What’s this Lucy says about wanting a proper diagnosis, Xanex and Klonopin?
- Lucy also mentions the 100 Gecs Tree.
- What is Charles going to ask Jan? Is Jan already corresponding with Amy Schumer about the fictionalisation?
- Lucy and Cinda are both dimunitives of Lucinda, just like Teddy and Theo are both diminutives of Theodore. Huh. This makes me really want to know Bunny’s real name.
- Teddy and Theo’s scene was really quite upsetting.
- Did we ever see Will in the suspcious boots or trousers?
- Is Jared the father of Nina’s baby? Who else might be? Howard? Tim Kono? Ivan? Honestly, there are interesting stories to be told with any of those options.
- Mark is just there but barely. It might be really annoying to have him pushed on us as a major part of the plot when he’s basically been furniture so far.
- What in the painting makes it so interesting? The people are obvious, the watch is almost as obvious, but the table and books on the right are not so obvious. How could these things motivate so much interest in the painting
- I don’t believe they’ll necessarily solve the murder Charles’ father was arrested over… until season three.
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