Solving Only Murders In The Building – season 3, episode 7

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 season 3, episode 7. Spoilers!

What happened on the night ‘Ben Glenroy’ died? Where exactly did he die? And what is his name, really? Because it’s not necessarily Ben at all.

We could get into the Mel Brooks, Daily Mail and Matthew Broderick of it all, or even argue about whether the ‘Jamaican accents’ line was a jab at The Phantom Menace, but I’d like to try something different this week and attempt a timeline covering what went down on the opening night of Death Rattle.

There are only three episodes remaining in this year’s Only Murders story and this week’s episode, CoBro, provided a few more clues – so can we now put it all together into a consistent thread?

Well, probably not quite. But that’s not going to stop me trying! It’s what I do.

Some of this is speculation. I’ll use italics to mark out my leaps of conjecture and imagination. The rest is based very closely on what we’ve seen in the episodes.

Oh, and I’m assuming the existence of a Bad Ben and a Good Ben, two identical twin brothers. One of them will really be called Ben, probably. Or maybe that’s a stage name. And the other one? We don’t know. So, for now, Bad Ben and Good Ben will have to do.

  • Good Ben is recorded on Tobert’s tape, arguing with somebody or something. “You’re not supposed to be here.” It’s a plate of cookies, which he is trying to resist – just like at the table read.
  • The same footage reveals the duplicates of Ben’s costume hanging in his dressing room.
  • About half an hour before curtain up, Bad Ben and Loretta argue on stage. He accuses her of being obsessed with him and she has ‘wormed her way’ into the show. She calls him a fucking pig – the last thing she says to him.
  • This is when Charles intervenes and punches Ben – right-handed, so the blow lands on the left side of his face.
  • Howard calls Joy, who comes to cover up Ben’s ‘cosmetic emergency’, a big red mark she assumes came from him being hit in the face. Her guess is that her lipstick fell out of her clutch.
  • When Kimber sees Ben, the red mark is entirely gone.
  • Somebody writes Fucking Pig on Ben’s mirror with, apparently, Joy’s lipstick. Was it Good Ben in a fit of self loathing, having eaten the cookies? Or was it Bad Ben, as a message of contempt to his good brother, written when he arrives to take over Good Ben’s role? 
  • At some point during all of this, Howard goes to KT’s office for a broom only to find it locked and ‘strange noises coming from within.’ This would seem to be the shredder we see KT using. But who is locked in there? Was it Good Ben, hiding so Bad Ben can take his place on stage?
  • Oliver goes to Ben’s dressing room. Bad Ben bursts out saying “I’m good” with no sign of a blemish on his face.
  • Oliver and Ben talk backstage about ‘the other guy’ and Ben wants to know if ‘he’ apologised. Presumably they are talking about Charles.
  • Ben goes out onto the stage amidst the stage fog. Charles walks out and joins him, they argue and Charles tells Ben to “Be smart. Stay away from her” and Charles tells him “Ben, I know what you did.”
  • Oliver takes his seat in the stalls, the curtains open and there’s Ben. After delivering his first lines – “What turned me into a creature of the night? Let me tell you” – he appears dazed, then falls, struggles and eventually collapses. I’ve got a hunch that Ben’s line here will be the first line of voiceover in the final episode, as one of the Bens explains their secret life in the shadows and how the two brothers ended up with such a strange, close, hidden working relationship.
  • Charles and members of the crew rush in. Ben has blood coming from his mouth. It could be stage blood.
  • Ben is wheeled out of the theatre on a stretcher – his face not covered. His brother Dickie follows closely behind, speaking on the phone to somebody saying “They already pronocounced him… they pronounced him.”
  • Howard sees Loretta in her dressing room and describes her as “pretty upset.”
  • Oliver assembles members of the Death Rattle team at the Arconia for what passes as a first night party. When they arrive there, the lifts are out. There’s an open shaft, protected by nothing more than straps of ‘Caution’ tape. It’s the right hand shaft that’s open, the left hand shaft is still working.
  • At the party, KT uses her Death Rattle handkerchief and we see that Howard has his too.
  • Much to everybody’s surprise, the party is derailed by Bad Ben bursting back in with “Okay, okay, who farted?” and followed by his adopted brother Dickie.
  • Bad Ben’s shirt is torn, there’s blood stains on his face and he’s being extremely over the top. According to this Ben, “I was dead, dude, for like an hour. They said it was like a record in their hospital.” Dickie walks this back with “They didn’t say anything like that.”
  • According to Ben he bit his tongue, which explains the blood. He claims the hospital pumped his stomach and said “maybe it was something I ate.” In short, his account of the whole affair is barely credible.
  • Ben makes his way around the room, apparently attempting to make amends for the way he’d behaved over the last few weeks. It’s a tour de face of narcissism. The whole way around, Dickie lurks unacknowledged, not receiving even one of Ben’s pseudo-sorry statements.
  • Ben says of Loretta, “CoBro knows a fellow snake when he sees one.”
  • A call comes in on Dickie’s phone and he says “Ben. You gotta take this” to which Ben replies, most interestingly, “What? Oh. Ben’s got to take this.” Could this be the first big clue that Good Ben is the real Ben and this Bad Ben isn’t the actual Ben?
  • Bad Ben says he’s going up to his apartment and will take the call somewhere quieter.
  • “It’s a hell of a story to reopen a play with, people!” says Donna. Cliff, for his part, notes “Word is out.”
  • Loretta leaves the party – as far as we can tell, the rest of the guests remain.
  • Ben falls down the lift shaft, the caution tape wrapped about him.
  • Mabel, Oliver and Charles meet at Mabel’s place, planning to go to The Pickle Diner.  They arrive at the elevators and the right hand one opens. They get inside and head down to the lobby. There’s a lot of strained noise and nervousness, followed by drips of blood from above – and finally, what appears to be Ben’s body falls through the glass.
  • He’s holding a Death Rattle handkerchief and has a untied tie hanging around his neck.
  • Eveybody leaves, with Oliver calling for security and Lester, but Mabel sneaks back to take pictures of Ben’s watch and tattooed fingers – we can fairly clearly see GC on two fingers of his left hand.
  • Sometime shortly after this, Uma comes back and takes the handkerchief.

So what has happened? I’m going to throw all of the ideas together and see if they will stick. What follows will be messy, but it might shine some light on what the showmakers really did concoct. If I’m very, very lucky.

Let’s begin by supposing a world where Charles-Haden Savage had young Ben fired from Brazzos, even if the timings seem off – was Brazzos on air around 1981?

That young boy never acted again, but his parents pushed his twin into it. Good Ben retired, Bad Ben became a star, their parents kept raking in the cash.

After Girl Cop in the 1990s, Bad Ben had GC tattooed onto his fingers. Good Ben tried to get matching tattoos and he ended up with CG instead.

After being cast in Death Rattle, Bad Ben started losing his way even more. Perhaps his relationship with Kimber is what made things volatile, perhaps it was just his relationship with cookies – or perhaps it was just a plan by his adopted brother, Dickie, to keep him away from Loretta?

Why? Because Loretta is Dickie’s biological mother. Note that Dickie talked about Ben’s parents struggling for children and then getting lucky; there’s a greatly enhanced likelihood of twins with IVF, being over 12% for younger mothers.

The producers are expecting Death Rattle to be a disaster, especially with volatile Ben in the leading role, not mention Oliver directing, so they might have planned a publicity stunt that will enable them to recast.

Or perhaps this was Dickie’s emergency scheme. Knowing Good Ben was out of commission for the night – thanks, most likely, to the cookies – and that opening night is crucial to a play’s success, he had Bad Ben fake a collapse. Why would Bad Ben go along with it? Because it’s less work and more attention.

The paramedics who arrive are fakes. They’re not supposed to pronounce Ben anything, least of all dead. Real paramedics would have covered the face of a dead man, right?

So he’s whizzed away. Not to a hospital.

But then he hears about the after party. He wants that glory. So he storms off to it, Dickie in tow.

Meanwhile, Good Ben is on his way back from the Gooseberry where he had been hiding out in KT’s office. He’s supposed to arrive and tell everybody everything is okay, he just had a bad turn but it’s over now.

But Bad Ben is there, off the chain and out of control – and they cross paths by the elevators.

One of these Bens is pushed into the open shaft by somebody else. Somebody who is looking to cover up the existence of Bad Ben, hoping to stop everything from crashing down – well, everything except Dead Ben who, judging from the tattoos on his fingers is the same one who attended the table read. Good Ben? Bad Ben? I have confused myself. Perhaps I should go get a pen and paper.

Anyway, the probable fatal alteraction between a Ben and Ben-alike suggests to me, the real answer to “Who Killed Ben Glenroy?” might just be…

“You’re asking the wrong question. You should be asking ‘Who did Ben Glenroy kill?'”

But whichever of those questions is the right one, the answer is “His twin brother.”

Oh, by the way, the ‘living Ben’ may have made an appearance in the show this week, just as I speculated he closed a door in the Gooseberry last week.

Go to around 23 minutes and 30 seconds, right when Theo is telling Mabel about the CoBro catchphrase and you’ll see a mysterious individual lurking on the left side of the frame, their hood up like a cobra. Is this Bad Ben sneaking off, hoping to go unseen?

A few shots later you’ll see them pass by again, passing out of frame to the right, as Theo explains that Ben came up with the CoBro idea when he was a kid.

There would be lots of fun in a flashback explaining why Bad Ben was here, and how he skulked away. Or, you know, maybe they just needed bodies and thought this would be a fun misdirect.

And talking of Ben coming up with the CoBro idea… maybe it wasn’t Dickie who did, even though probably it was. We don’t know if the third brother has the initial R too. Roy Glenben?

Okay, I think that’ll do for now. It’s starting to get loopy around here.

I’ll be back very soon for Only Murders In The Building's next episode, Sitzprobe.

Read Brendon’s thoughts on Only Murders In The Building's previous instalments, season 3, episodes 5 and 6.

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