Paul Rudd sure knows how to make a show out of dying, coming back to life, and then dying again. Unlike some other historical Only Murders in the Building guest-stars-wh0-shall-not-be-named, Rudd’s cameo in season 3 is justified by a genuinely engaging performance as movie star Ben Glenroy, who leads the cast of Oliver Putnam (Martin Short)’s first Broadway show since the catastrophic swimming-pool musical Splash! But because nothing can ever seem to go totally right for OMitB’s core trio, Ben collapses while reciting his first lines on opening night. After his (seemingly deceased) body is carted off to the hospital, Oliver and his co-podcasters, Mabel (Selena Gomez) and Charles (Steve Martin), have only a few minutes to mourn at the opening-night cast party before a resuscitated Ben bursts through the door, sniffing fictional farts and wondering from whence they came.
Even after enduring such a miracle, the Girl Cop star (a.k.a CoBro) is not long for this world. Mere hours later, Oliver, Charles, and Mabel gather in the Arconia elevator, where a dribble of blood mysteriously begins to bloom onto Charles’ fedora. They manage to jump out of the container seconds before Ben’s bloody corpse comes crashing through the glass ceiling, this time really and truly dead. We think, anyway.
So…whodunnit? It’s another murder in the building, which means Oliver, Mabel, and Charles are on the case—even as they deal with the personal fallout of losing a cast member, childhood icon, and frenemy. Someone clearly wanted Ben dead badly enough to pull off murder multiple times. (Unless, of course, we’re looking at more than one bad actor here. Pun intended.) As we dig into the most up-to-date theories, we’ll treat the investigation like Clue: naming our suspected murderer, along with the scene of the crime and the murder weapon. Let’s begin.
Theory No.1: Loretta did it, in the elevator bank, with her earring.
The Hulu comedy loves a red herring, and this season, it’s almost certainly embodied by Meryl Streep. The accomplished actress does such a remarkable job playing a struggling actress that it’s easy to forget her character might be a distraction. Loretta—the sweet, always-a-bridesmaid who’s finally gotten her big break as “The Nanny” in Oliver’s Death Rattle—is set up not only as a love interest for Oliver, but as the most obvious suspect behind Ben’s death. In the first two episodes that arrived August 8, Streep’s Loretta takes pains to come off as harmless, even as she stumbles through her table read and attracts Ben’s ire. (“Our nanny is a stinkeroony,” he tells Oliver.) Later, at the opening-night party, Ben circles the room expressing his thanks for all his fellow cast and crew members. But he reserves a special bit of venom for Loretta, telling her, “CoBro knows a fellow snake when he sees one.”
Soon after, Loretta leaves the party, seemingly irked that Ben’s returned to the realm of the living. Why? Because he’s “a fucking asshole,” she says.
Is that justification enough to kill him? Maybe. Loretta’s the best lead we’ve got at the moment, though it’s all too obvious a set-up. Still, her little moment with Oliver—during which she asks him to fix her earring—seems too specific and strange not to bear significance beyond demonstrating their intimacy. Might that earring be the murder weapon? And if so…how?!
Later, in episode 3, Loretta shows up late to a rehearsal for Oliver’s reinvented Death Rattle: The Musical, and we learn Dickie—Ben’s brother—has offered to be her manager. (She has an audition for “an offshoot of an offshoot of a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff.”) Might she and Dickie have plotted Ben’s death together?
Theory No. 2: Charles did it, in the elevator bank, with the rattle handkerchief.
Personally, I’d love to see one of our main leads be responsible for a murder they’re solving. (Even if it were accidental!) I think Hulu is a bit too invested in the trio’s root morality to pull such a move, but wouldn’t it be a fascinating creative risk? And anyway, it’s not as if the show hasn’t already planted some evidence of the possibility. Charles, for instance, draws our attention when, in episode 1, Ben tells him, “You and I never got off on the right foot. If anyone here was happy that I was maybe dead, I bet it was you.”
Another red herring, I’m sure. In episode 2, we learn Charles and Ben had “a complicated but ultimately copacetic working relationship,” and also that Charles has a doctor’s note signifying he’s “too weak to kill.” We also get the revelation that an 8-year-old Ben was once fired from the set of Brazzos, Charles’ infamous detective show, thus igniting his decades-long grudge against the older actor. Their conversations were never exactly cordial since, but would they be enough to make a gentle old soul like Charles snap? There’s no way.
Still, I’m leaving the theory on the table, in part because of a moment in episode 2 when Charles unwraps his cast gift from Ben, the morning of the latter’s funeral: It’s a rattle-print handkerchief, the same one Ben gave all the other cast members. (There’s also a lovely note declaring, “Fuck you.”) We later learn that Ben was holding such a handkerchief when he died, and that a super-fan named Gregg (more on him later) has possession of Ben’s own handkerchief, meaning the corpse’s handkerchief had to have belonged to someone other than Ben himself. With all that in mind, why did Charles wait until the morning of the funeral to unwrap his own handkerchief? Might it be his version of an alibi? Is there a world in which lovely, innocent Charles might go to such lengths?
Theory No. 3: Mabel did it, in the building, with the help of succinylcholine chloride.
If Only Murders does, indeed, indict one of its protagonists, I think it’s likelier they’d go for Mabel. She’s been a suspect in past seasons, and her combined aura of dark humor and traumatic history lends her a moodiness that makes her catnip for pointing fingers.
We know she had a crush on Ben in middle school, and that his show Girl Cop helped her through crushing periods of isolation and depression. We also know she’s been feeling isolated from Charles and Oliver as their careers take off, and that she’s mere days away from getting booted out of her rich aunt’s apartment in the Arconia. She’s always been most herself when working in tandem with her fellow podcasters, and it’s possible she might have been willing to do something—anything—to get the three of them back on a case again. Not to mention she was a frequent attendee at cast rehearsals and the opening-night party, where she easily could have snagged a cast member’s handkerchief and used it to drug Ben in his Arconia apartment.
Now, do I really think that’s what happened? Not exactly. I doubt Mabel intentionally killed Ben, or that the desire even initially crossed her mind. But I do think it’s possible she accidentally killed him, or contributed inadvertently to his death, and she’s now trying to hide the evidence of her involvement by helming the investigation into his murder. And wouldn’t that be a great deal of fun to untangle?
In episode 3, Mabel’s antics further support this theory. First, there’s an odd moment between her and Charles as the duo attempt to build a case for Ben’s murder. Charles reveals that the cops said Ben’s blood was “clean, but maybe it was one of those poisons that dissipates within five minutes.”
“Like succinylcholine chloride!” Mabel exclaims, to which Charles gives a strange, skeptical pause. Either Mabel really knows her muscle relaxants—she is a true-crime junkie, after all—or she’s suspiciously eager to pin this crime on a specific person.
She goes on to inadvertently link up with Ben’s documentarian, Tobert (Jesse Williams), to dig through Ben’s apartment, and—after some brief flirtation—she swipes Tobert’s footage from the night Ben died. They eventually watch this clip together in a cafe, but isn’t it possible she tampered with the video before returning it to him?
Theory No. 4: Kimber did it, somewhere, with something?
In episode 2, Mabel and Charles are kidnapped by a Ben super-fan named Gregg (Adrian Martinez), who seems the most obvious suspect…until it’s understood he kidnapped Mabel and Charles because he thought they killed Ben. Anyway, he’s off the table, but he proposes a few other ideas before the police cart him off. What about, for instance, Kimber (Ashley Park), the “harmless ingenue, or a woman scorned?”
In multiple scenes throughout episodes 1 and 2, Ben maintains an uncomfortable flirtation with Death Rattle actress Kimber, who seems unsure of what to do with his advances. In episode 3, Charles seems to dismiss the idea that Kimber might be the culprit: In one of the show’s many self-aware digs, he remarks, “Another female killer? That’s so done.”
But hold up. What about that footage Mabel and Tobert watched? In the video, we see Ben in his dressing room the night he died, where he’s depicted talking to someone off-camera. “I want you so fuckin’ bad, but you’re gonna ruin my career,” he tells this mysterious visitor. “And I’m gonna like it.” Might this be Kimber?
The case against the “woman scorned” deepens when, at the end of episode 3, Kimber tells Charles, “I really wanted to give you my hankie, but I must have thrown it away. Or donated it to a good cause.” We know the handkerchief on Ben’s corpse was not his own. If Kimber is missing hers, that instantly bumps her to the main-suspect spot.
Theory No. 6: Literally anyone else!
“We think that Ben’s killer is someone in your show,” Mabel tells Oliver in the final seconds of episode 2. That means we can and should suspect pretty much anyone in the Only Murders cast, especially given that little qualifier “think.” Perhaps it’s Dickie, who smashes a lamp in Ben’s apartment in episode 3, weeping as he cries, “I’m so sorry, Ben”? But what about Tobert? Or Charles’ girlfriend, Joy (Andrea Martin)? How about Matthew Broderick?! Get your early bets in now.
This story will be updated.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is a staff culture writer at ELLE, where she primarily covers film, television and books. She was previously an associate editor at ELLE.