DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Only Murders in the Building season finale episode “Open and Shut” is riddled with spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, true crime lovers! We’ve finally reached season finale territory, and folks, it’s a juicy one! “Open and Shut” deftly ties loose ends, closing the door on Tim Kono while flinging open another for the murder of Bunny. While Jan revealing herself as the killer isn’t entirely unpredictable, Amy Ryan makes an enthralling, charming murderer.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the legendary Steve Martin and Martin Short for their pitch-perfect slapstick prowess. To see these comic titans expertly performing physical comedy in their 70s is downright inspiring, and they’ve still got it.
Ready to delve into “Open and Shut”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), providing voiceover narration for the season finale. Approximately 12 minutes before getting murdered, Tim boarded an elevator with Mabel (Selena Gomez), Charles (Martin) and Oliver (Short).
Tim proceeds to give us his backstory, and we see glimpses of his lonely childhood through his Hardy Boy years with Mabel, Oscar and Zoe. Finally, his quest to bring down Teddy Dimas. Then, we get a taste of something new — his romance with Jan (Ryan).
Later, we see Mabel and Oliver run toward Charles’ apartment, and Oliver attempts to bust the door down with his stalwart (or not) frame. Of course, you can guess how that pans out.
Charles exits the elevator to Mabel and Oliver, frantically informing him he’s dating a murderer, a.k.a. Jan, and they’ve got the bassoon cleaner from Tim’s sex toys bin to prove it. That and the knowledge that Jan lives on the sixth floor, where they last saw Tim alive.
Naturally, Charles refuses to believe Jan’s a killer. We see blood caked under his nose from when it started bleeding at Jan’s symphony performance, and it’s an indicator that something’s wrong. Mabel and Oliver urge him to think it over. After they leave, Charles examines Jan’s note before their first date and flashbacks play featuring the lovebirds and their burgeoning romance.
Meanwhile, Oliver and Mabel decide to sneak into Jan’s apartment while she’s out.
Then, Jan knocks on Charles’ door during the symphony’s intermission. She apologizes for lying about being the first chair bassoonist. Charles ushers her inside, and Jan makes them “old fashioned” cocktails and gives him a handkerchief for his bloody nose. Mabel and Oliver break into Jan’s place.
Jan spots the bassoon cleaner, and Charles tells her Oliver and Mabel found it in Tim’s apartment. Jan nervously wonders whether Charles thinks she’s the murderer, but he reassures her he doesn’t think anything of the sort. Charles professes his love for her and asserts he’d still love her even if she killed Tim Kono. Jan reciprocates his feelings.
That’s when Jan notices Charles hasn’t touched his drink; in fact, he’s only taking “stage sips.”
Charles turns the tables, revealing he knows she poisoned the beverages just like she did with Tim. Next, the floodgates open, and Jan unveils her turbulent love affair with Tim.
Meanwhile, Oliver and Mabel find a box labeled “Jan’s toxins” in Jan’s bathroom, clear evidence of her poisoning Tim.
We learn that Jan reeled in Tim under the guise of him leaving items at her apartment, and she asked him to have a drink with her, for old time’s sake. Afterward, Tim disposed of the glasses in a garbage bag, and Jan allowed the poison to take effect. Charles debunks her claim that she practiced her bassoon after the poisoning, citing her playing sounded like a recording.
And it was!
Charles reveals he examined her handwriting next to Tim’s “suicide notes,” noting their “Js” look alike. Suddenly, Charles collapses, losing control of his motor skills. According to Jan, she poisoned him via the handkerchief, not the drink.
Later, Mabel procures a knife from the bathroom, and it’s the same one Jan used to stab herself. In addition, Jan pulled the fire alarm the night Tim died and snuck into his apartment while the rest of the tenants fled. Then, she perched atop him while he took his last breath, wrapped his lifeless hand around the gun and pulled the trigger.
The real reason for killing Tim? Jan thought he was seeing someone else — she found the emerald ring among Tim’s possessions (but we know that’s associated with Teddy Dimas, and Tim was trying to clear Oscar’s name).
Speaking of the ring, Mabel discovers it hidden in Jan’s humble abode.
Jan places a pillow under Charles’ head and turns on the fireplace. Then, she flees the scene, leaving Charles incapacitated on the floor, presumably hoping the poison kills him.
After she departs, Charles rolls over and turns off the recording on his phone. He tells Siri he doesn’t feel so good, but instead, Siri plays “Fields of Gold” by Sting. All of the Sting references on this show are gold.
Then, Mabel and Oliver enter one elevator as Jan exits another, and Charles rolls himself over to an elevator on his floor. Unfortunately, Oliver and Mabel barge into his unlocked place to find it bereft of their friend, who’s currently on an elevator.
Next, poor Charles shares an elevator with Bunny, Bunny’s friend, Howard (with Evelyn 7) and the resident therapist. While he’s on the floor, the quartet assumes he’s merely intoxicated. After the tenants exit the elevator, Lester, the Arconia’s resident jack of all trades, sends Charles back up to his apartment and urges him to sleep it off.
Thankfully, Mabel and Oliver catch Charles just as he arrives on his floor again. Oliver feeds him gut milk to absorb the poison while Mabel plays the recording of Jan.
After Charles’ neighbor, Arnav, complains about feeling dizzy and seeing “fumes coming from the basement,” Mabel and Oliver realize Jan plans to gas the building via the now open fireplaces.
But how will they get Charles down to the basement?
Oliver and Mabel strap him in Winnie’s dog stroller. Then, Mabel and Oliver notice that Jan’s gas plan is already in motion; however, they put the kibosh on that.
Suddenly, Jan emerges while brandishing a gun. In an unexpected twist, Charles stands up, having regained control of his motor skills. He demands Jan shoot him, not his friends. Mabel and Oliver make him feel alive again, and he doesn’t want to live in a world without them. How sweet!
Then, we see Charles is still in the stroller, emphatically blabbering gibberish. He must sound like a hero in his head.
Oliver pushes Charles and the stroller toward Jan, knocking her off her feet. Mabel seizes control of Jan’s gun and punches her in the face while armed with the emerald ring.
Later, the authorities arrest Jan, and Charles boards an ambulance to get his stomach pumped. Bunny approaches Mabel and Oliver, informing them of the apartment complex’s decision to let them stay at the Arconia.
Next, Oliver’s son, Will (Ryan Broussard), stops by with Winnie, who’s fully healed from getting poisoned herself. Will offers his father a check for “the next big project,” but Oliver declines it. Instead, he wants to tell Will all about the podcast and catching Jan.
Oscar (Aaron Dominguez) admires Mabel’s finished mural, and Mabel reveals she’s happy for the first time in years.
Meanwhile, Charles texts Lucy, and the latter responds. Our trio records their last episode of “Only Murders in the Building.” It features Charles’ best performance yet.
Then, Charles, Mabel and Oliver celebrate with champagne on the roof. Mabel departs to grab another bottle while Oliver and Charles chat about “the next case.” They’re besties now, and there’s nothing you can do about it!
Suddenly, we hear sirens in the distance. Charles and Oliver receive an anonymous text urging them to leave the building. Of course, they won’t go anywhere without Mabel. They barge into her apartment to find Mabel, her shirt front bloodied, hunching over a lifeless body that’s donning a tie-dye sweatshirt.
At first, it looks like Oscar, but the body rolls over, and we see it’s Bunny with a knitting needle in her neck. Mabel claims Bunny fell on her when she opened her door. Unfortunately, the police arrive, kicking down the said door.
We see the cops cart away our trio in handcuffs, and Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) orders them not to say a word to anyone. The Arconia residents watch the display (along with Oscar and the Arconiacs) — some in awe, a couple in horror, others with disappointment and a few with abject disgust.
Finally, after Mabel, Oliver and Charles are stuffed into a police cruiser, we see Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) and her assistant are present. Her assistant refers to their newest podcast as “Only Murderers in the Building.” Cinda loves it, but she wants all the credit for the idea.
Only Murders in the Building knocks it out of the park with this season finale. It’s a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride with bits of Martin and Short’s signature humor sprinkled in for good measure. Steve Martin stole this outing for me, delivering his best performance of the season.
I love the connections between “Open and Shut” and the pilot episode. We get more context regarding the opening scene wherein the guys find Mabel with Bunny. In the pilot, Oliver asks Will for money, but the latter turns him down. Then, in the finale, Will gives Oliver a check, but he rejects it. We see Detective Williams in the first and last episodes.
I’m sure Williams will be crucial in getting our trio vindicated, but I’ll be curious to see how long they stay imprisoned. Who texted Charles and Oliver to warn them about the police? Who tried to frame Mabel by stabbing Bunny with her knitting needle? Was it someone in the Arconia? I’m assuming Oscar will support our crew, especially since he knows what it’s like to get wrongfully accused of murder.
Overall, Only Murders in the Building is delightful — a steaming cup of hot cocoa on a brisk fall evening. Bolstered by masterful performances (notably Martin and Short), excellent chemistry between the three leads, a brilliant score by Siddhartha Khosla and unexpected twists, it’s a cleverly crafted comedic mystery that sends the case in a whole new direction.
Thankfully, we’re getting a second season!
All episodes of Only Murders in the Building are now streaming on Hulu.
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