Solving Only Murders In The Building – season 3, episode 4

Only Murders In The Building
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Only Murders In The Building is deep into its latest mystery and we’ve been working our way through the clues in episode 4. Spoilers!

This week in Only Murders, one single bit of set decoration proved funny, revealing and more than a little heartbreaking: the mirror in Ben’s dressing room. It even gets tangled up with the closest thing to a literal red herring the show has featured so far. I want to take a closer look at all of this in this week’s post. This and a bundle of other clues, distractions and loose ends.

We obviously don’t know it’s all going to wrap up, and it has felt especially easy to get ahead of some crucial clues this year, but this season’s plot currently seems like the most ingenious, not to mention elegantly intricate yet. Will this be the year they finally get the mystery mechanics right?

But to start another blog-shaped snuffle around for clue-scented truffles I want to look back at last week’s theory of three identical Ben Glenroys. Did this week’s episode give us the bits of evidence we’d want to undermine that notion?

Er… maybe?

One possible metaclue is the design of the triplet dolls from Death Rattle Dazzle. Two appear like mirror images – well, excepting the red mark on one’s face – the third has a very different look. Has this been set up to echo Ben 1, Ben 2 and Dickie? Would that make Dickie the triplet without Paul Rudd movie star looks? This alone could fuel all sorts of motives.

When we return to Cinda’s office we see she has a new assistant who matches her new look. There’s just two of them, Cinda and Minion, unlike the set of three we had in earlier seasons – so is there a specifically twin-not-triplet motif baked into the show, despite the verbal references to triplets?

Or maybe none of this matters as much as it seemed before. It’s looking increasingly like Ben’s worst enemy isn’t any kind of identical twin but himself. Last week we had him arguing with a plate of cookies – in essence, fighting with his id, tearing himself apart between self control and his appetites. This week we have, I’m really very sure, the end results of poor Ben Glenroy looking at himself in the mirror and writing ‘Fucking Pig’ over his own reflection.

It’s terribly sad to think of Ben, having indulged in the cookies and now getting sucked into self-loathing. The show has made it clear that the pressures of celebrity have distorted Ben’s attitudes to eating and they’re no longer at all healthy. This poor guy was buckling under a lot of pressure.

Or, you know, one of this poor guy was buckling, the other one(s) maybe not so much. If there are other ones. Which… let’s see. Probably?

We’ve had two weeks now where we’ve been given very clear but false leads and apparently innocent suspects have gone to the centre of frame – Kimber first, then Joy. They were both put under suspicion by a clue that seems, on closer consideration, to point not towards a murderer but Ben’s personal struggles instead.

That, I think, is pretty brilliant.

Meanwhile, Charles’ struggles were the focus of much of the rest of the episode. We’re introduced to The White Room, the space where (only?) actors go when they black… er white out under extreme pressure.

At its most simple, this provides a mechanism by which Charles might have whited out previously, missing something crucial and potentially misinterpreting events as a result. I don’t think they’ll use this for a ‘Charles whited out and pushed Ben into the lift shaft’ reveal but a different show might well have done something like that.

If The White Room is a known experience across the acting community, perhaps we’ll also get to see Ben in his own White Room. Could this be how he ended up falling to his death? If you extend the idea of Charles’ omelette making to Ben doing something while in the White Room and it looks workable.

The ideas is there, deep undercover at least, to support a Ben who isn’t two different people physically but two different people mentally. Will the showmakers draw this in the broad strokes of ‘fugues’ or even a ‘split persona’ or just have a man tormented by his contradictory impulses? I’m sure they’ll be quite sensible and sensitive.

Perhaps a format-breaking twist is coming, but not the ones I speculated about previously. Maybe this will end up being the story of a tragic, accidental death or two – an allergic reaction, a fall into a lift shaft – that some would-be sleuths try pushing into the narrative shape of a murder. That would certainly chime with the emotional arc Mabel is on, looking for purpose and itching to podcast, and certainly puts Tobert’s story about a drowning elephant into a dreadful, relevant light.

Now, swinging back to the more antic side of the show, there’s one big hint that Triplets is stil pinned to the Theory Board. This would be the patter song we saw Charles trying to learn. We know it’s getting a reprise… but why? Well, it’s not hard to imagine it bubbling back up at the moment when three suspects are being considered. Which of the Pickwick Triplets did it?

Here are some more bits and pieces from my notepad.

  • Do they really say ‘fiver’ in New York?
  • There’s a shot of Kimber looking at herself in the mirror that echoes the self-reflection Ben would have gone into before erupting into his lipstick-fuelled self-denigration.
  • Is Charles’ improvised lyric ‘Pig-Fuck Digwad’ more than an empty non-clue connecting his rant with Ben’s mirror? Does it imply Ben might have been out of control in the same way when he wrote those words?
  • The Paul Rudd looks young jokes will have to get old sooner or later.
  • Liquid Venom was one of the cosmetics on Kimber’s dressing table. A would-be Cobro tie-in, no doubt, but also a product that gave Ben an unexpected rash on the face?
  • Joy’s red lipstick and her fascination with fish seem like they might be a big metaclue too, a perverse evocation of ‘red herring.’
  • Did Charles propose with a ring from the fishtank treasure chest? Smooth, Chuck.
  • Charles goes back to his Brazzos lockpicking skills this week. He seems to remember so much of what went down on that show. Are we headed to a scene where Charles apologises to Ben for having him fired when, in fact, neither of them was involved and it was Sazz Pataki who had Ben’s twin fired?
  • We’re still waiting for Matthew Broderick to appear.
  • Kimber narrated

That’ll do for now. I’ll be back here very soon for Only Murders In The Building's next episode, Ah, Love!

Read Brendon’s thoughts on Only Murders In The Building's previous instalment, season 3, episode 3.

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