Solving Only Murders In The Building – season 2, episode 3

Bunny Folger in Only Murders in the Building
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Only Murders In The Building continues – and here’s our spoiler-y sleuthing from the third episode of season two.

Check out our previous posts about the show too.

Note: This post assumes you have seen Only Murders in the Building up to and including the third episode of season two, or that you’re at least willing to play along as though you have.

The victims in murder mysteries tend to be rather unlikeable. The authorial presumption appears to be that this makes their murder more palatable. All credit to John Hoffman and his Only Murders team for the efforts they go to in order to reject this longstanding and inherently icky trope.

Back in the final episode of season one, viewers were given a newly intimate perspective on Tim Kono, that season’s central murder victim. The audience spent a little bit of quality time with him, and he even addressed the camera and spoke to his personal experience, directly and openly. As such, we were invited into his inner life. That writing decision stands in direct contrast to true crime podcast trends, where hordes of amateurs and wannabes with cheap microphones have tried to process real life suffering and pain into online clout – a theme that, obviously, is at the forefront of the show’s mind.

Now, the latest episode of season two delivers a day in the life of Bunny Folger, the show’s current ‘spotlight’ victim. And not just any day but the very last one of her life, leading up to and including her slightly off-screen murder. We’re not left waiting until the finale this year; we’re still pretty early in the overall story of the season while we’re getting to know Bunny better than before. It’s a very strong choice.

Where the show has only depicted a less than charming side of Bunny until now, this episode sticks close enough by her side that she’s given all the dimension and humanity that twenty minutes or so of scenes will allow. What we see is a principled, rough-edged woman, albeit one filled with doubt and regret as she teeters on the edge of a life-changing decision. Will she leave The Arconia, the building-universe that has been her life, which was built by her grandfather, for which she has been Board President since the death of her mother, and about which she seems to be the sole custodian of several secrets?

A lot of statuses change in this short episode. Not only does Bunny reverse her commitment to leave into a commitment to stay, her relationship with the three hosts of the Only Murders podcast flips on both side, from what seems like antipathy to, at the very least, empathy. This makes for an emotional episode, at least as dramatic as it is comedic – not least for the climactic scene in which Bunny falls apart emotionally on one side of a closed door, while the three podcasters on the other side weigh up what they’re going to do about it. This is a brilliant bit of story structure, allowing us to see our heroes eventually work through their crap and come to the right decision, just not in time.

In direct contrast to this scene of Bunny bursting open there’s another earlier, but also pivotal, scene in which she closes her blast shields and goes into combat mode: the meeting of the Arconia’s board. When all is said and done, will we reflect on this as the two turning points which sealed Bunny’s fate? Two scenes about dramatically changing minds, one of them about making enemies, the other about almost making friends – but alas, too late. Whatever, it’s brilliant TV.

Bunny Folger in Only Murders in the Building

I was certainly glad that this episode, which takes a resident of the Arconia and explores how little-known and under-appreciated they are by the people they live with, even those who act like they know her, stands in opposition to the Jan plotline’s whiff of ‘Fear Your Neighbour.’ Best of all, Bunny’s physical generosity in giving fat envelopes of money and champagne is profoundly trumped by her vulnerability, her attentiveness, her principled stance about things she believes in, her life-long commitment to Mrs. Gambolini and her crustily affectionate relationship with Uma. We’re not expected to simply equate ‘gives away money’ with ‘not as bad as you thought.’

Watching this episode explicitly for clues as to who might have killed Bunny and why they’d do so yields a lot of small, mysterious puzzle pieces. If there has been a smoking gun so far I’ve not recognised it as such, but there have been lots of telling details and odd occurances.

Consider the scene with Ivan, Bunny’s waiter. It’s suggested she has been generous to him before but is outdoing herself with this latest, fattest tip. My hunch is that we shouldn’t question why she’s giving him money – there’s no good reason to consider ulterior motives here, at least not yet – but why she’s giving him such a big sum on this occasion. Is it simply a goodbye, because she’s planning to go away? Or is it because she’s going away and has a large sum of money right now?

Does this suggest that, despite her comments, Bunny had already sold her Rose Cooper painting (or some copies of it, if we assume it really has been faked, at least once) to fund her relocation to Florida, or maybe just to clear house? Maybe! It certainly makes sense that she’s been negotiating a sale of the painting before her departure – all of the plot points around the painting make sense on that thread, as well as several that, for all we know so far, may or may not relate to the painting, like the call she gets while in the diner, or Ivan’s comment on seeing Bunny with a friend.

Talking of Rose Cooper, there’s a lot we don’t know about her. She apparently lived across the street from the Arconia, seemingly had an affair with Charles’ father, Mr Savage Sr., and painted the season’s big MacGuffin. We’re told that shortly after she made this painting, she went missing. But this information all comes second hand – we’ve not spent any time with Rose Cooper, or at least not knowingly – and most of it from Leonora Folger.

In the spirit of taking nothing on face value, I can easily see how the supposed Leonora Folger might in truth be Rose Cooper under an alias, or if not Rose Cooper, then somebody else, as-yet unidentified: Uma Heller did quite clearly say that Bunny has no family in episode two, though this was mere moments before Leonora appears on the scene, seemingly unchallenged by Uma. It might take a little stretching to square that circle perfectly just now.

Perhaps Leonora looks enough like Bunny to be her mother. The plot certainly sets her up to be a contender for Charles’ mother, and seeing as he’s the show’s actual true protagonist, it only makes sense that the various mystery plotlines and twists will hit home for him – cf. Jan being the murderer last year. Family is also a prominent thematic component already, right down to Mabel’s still-absent aunt and the ‘Uncle Brazzos’ subplot (and not forgetting the appearance of Lucy in the trailers, though let’s not get too far into what the promos show just yet). I can also imagine Leonora as Alice’s grandmother, if we’re looking for multi-generational collusions – though, really, those two characters wouldn’t need to be related to be somehow working together, either deliberately or (see below!) not.

There’s some solid physical evidence presented in the scene of Bunny’s murder – or at least, you know, a shadow on the wall. It’s a good example of a clue that we the audience have that the chief investigating characters do not. We see the murderer’s shoes and trousers, then we see their silhouette – which seems to reveal that they have glasses. The Cinda-Poppy-Cindy trinity are the show’s most famous spectacle wearers, though they’re far from alone. In fact, the recurring cast might be just as bespectacled as not. There’s also a possibility of disguise of some kind and/or perhaps using eye protector-type goggles like the ones Alice gave Mabel in the previous episode’s axe scene.

One crucial and conspicuous absence from the sequence depicting this attack on Bunny is any sort of knitting needle. What we see can explain knife wounds but the needle has to come from somewhere, so unless we assume the killer finished off their stabbing attack by pulling a knitting needle from their back pocket, we can rest assured that there’s a lot more about Bunny’s death to be revealed. And for another thing, somebody has to put Mrs Gambolini back in her cage.

One theory I’ve been cooking up is that Bunny was attacked once at home, then used the elevator to go to Mabel’s appartment – for help, or safety, or to attempt an escape – where she was attacked again, most likely with the knitting needle, which is something you’d expect to find there. Bunny might even have been the one to text the podcasters, telling them to get out of the building, in the meantime.

Two would-be murderers could be super effective when it comes to complicating alibis and overlapping clues later on (it has certainly worked wonders in a few classic murder mysteries), though it would mean somebody else was in Mabel’s appartment in the moments before Bunny died. The obvious candidate for this is Alice, though this would raise some mystifying questions about what exactly she’s after now and why she doesn’t simply let herself in again to get it.

Hopefully what we do see whenever we return to the scene(s) of the crime and the truth of Bunny’s murder works at least as well as this superlative episode. It’s fair to say I really loved this week’s Only Murders. It was truly one of the best yet, by my reckoning, because it played to most of the show’s strengths: formal ambition, witty episode structure, oodles of character, exceptional dialogue.

Notes from my sleuthing notepad –

  • There’s so much fuss made about Nina’s feet and shoes, all of which seems like set up for the eventual close-up of the killer’s shoes. I feel like we’re being played here. It’s misdirection… right? It makes me want to pay special attention to the killer’s trousers instead.
  • Who is the father of Nina’s supposedly imminent baby? His absence makes me raise an eyebrow.
  • There are lots and lots of characters who wear glasses and Leonora made some fuss about her eyesight.
  • The name Folger is mightily like ‘Forger.’ Is Leonora’s full name going to be some kind of anagrammatic pseudonym? I hope we get her middle name soon so I can start playing with scrabble tiles! The best I can get so far is ‘Leo, NOLA Forger’ though this hardly leaves me thinking somebody called Leo from New Orleans did the painting bootlegging. 
  • We also don’t know Bunny’s real name, necessarily. Bunny sounds a lot like a nickname. Because she always kept that ornamental bunny, maybe? It did get pride of place in the ending credits of an episode.
  • Ursula appeared again this week and is re-connected, albeit lightly, to plot points about the building’s elevators. Call me a cynic, but I wonder if this was just a matter of keeping the killer in play so that a visible through-line reads clearly on rewatching.
  • What was that business about Will Puttnam breaking a window? Are we just being reminded that Bunny remembers everything that has happened in the Arconia? My friend Jim wonders if Oliver’s comments left Will worried about Bunny saw something else that he did, and that this motivates him to murder her. What would it be? Well, let’s see if he’s on to anything. Maybe Will was one of the ‘four teens’ that I mentioned last week. Maybe they were four savage little brutes.
  • Uma having a key to Bunny’s apartment is one thing but (every?) apartment on the A-Line is connected to hers by ‘secret’ elevator so maybe it’s not that important.
  • On this day, Bunny leaves through her secret elevator but returns through the main door. Perhaps this facilitates her not seeing it propped open, etc.
  • The secret elevator makes it pretty possible for anybody to bypass Lester and get access to the Arconia’s interior, of course.
  • Working out how and why the painting was in Charles’ appartment, which is apparently not on the secret elevator shaft, seems key to the whole thing. Or at least a whole thing.

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