Widescreen: Hulu's 'Only Murders' finale plays a perfect coda for a satisfying season

  • Charles (Steve Martin) finds an important clue in the Season 1 finale of Hulu's "Only Murders in the Building."

    Charles (Steve Martin) finds an important clue in the Season 1 finale of Hulu's "Only Murders in the Building." Courtesy of Hulu

 
 
Posted10/21/2021 7:57 AM

"Doo da-doo, do-do-doo, do do doo."

If I can stop humming the infectious theme song long enough, I can tell you that this week's finale of "Only Murders in the Building," Hulu's delightful comedy whodunit starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, perfectly caps one of the most satisfying television seasons in recent memory.

 

First and foremost, our trio of true-crime podcasters solve the case -- we won't spend the next 10 months still wondering who killed Tim Kono (Julian Cihi). And though it looks like everything has been sewn up tight, the closing moments dangle a thread for the already ordered second season.

The episode begins with narration from beyond the grave by Tim Kono himself, but this finale belongs to Martin (uh, Steve, not Short). With a touch of sadness, Martin has finely underplayed his role as former TV detective Charles-Haden Savage. In "Open and Shut," we are reminded he is a brilliant physical comedian, too, after he gets spoilered by Spoiler! Ahem.

Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) realize a friend is in danger in the Season 1 finale of Hulu's "Only Murders in the Building."
Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) realize a friend is in danger in the Season 1 finale of Hulu's "Only Murders in the Building." - Courtesy of Hulu

Martin's gesticulating, gibberish-filled performance has us laughing and crying in the climactic scene, a feat reminiscent of 1984's "All of Me" with Lily Tomlin. (You can watch that for free on YouTube, by the way.) It's a high-wire act that could collapse with one false step.

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That applies to the whole show, which mustered a mystery as compelling as HBO's "Mare of Easttown" even while two comedy legends cut it up with a pop star. Big-name guest stars bordering on stunt casting could have crashed, but instead stuck every landing -- Nathan Lane and Jane Lynch, especially. A wordless episode told entirely from the point of view of a deaf side character (James Caverly) worked, too, without feeling pretentious.

"Only Murders in the Building" is essential television. Stream all 10 half-hour episodes now on Hulu.

"Doo da-doo, do-do-doo, do do doo."

Seriously, about that music ...

Siddhartha Khosla's theme is so integral to the success of "Only Murders in the Building" that it should get fourth billing after Gomez.

Composer Siddhartha Khosla gives "Only Murders in the Building" a distinct musical identity.
Composer Siddhartha Khosla gives "Only Murders in the Building" a distinct musical identity. - Associated Press
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We hear female voices sing the pliable melody over the opening credits. Later, we might hear mournful cellos play it, or perhaps just the arpeggiated piano harmony. We hear it so often and in so many different ways, and yet we never tire of it -- it's the "That Thing You Do!" of murder shows. (There's a sentence you've never read before.)

In an interview with WUOL in Louisville, Khosla credited French composer Erik Satie, Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson and the films of Alfred Hitchcock as the theme's inspirations. I think I hear just a touch of John Ottman's "Usual Suspects" score in there, too.

Khosla, a three-time Emmy nominee, also writes music for "This Is Us," "Nancy Drew" and "Love, Victor."

"Doo da-doo, do-do-doo, do do doo."

• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor whose wife may be the prime suspect in his own murder if he doesn't stop humming that song.

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