There’s just one episode left in Only Murders In The Building season three and the penultimate episode dropped a bombshell theory. Heading into the finale, it certainly seems like the show is setting up Donna (Linda Emond) as Ben Glenroy’s (Paul Rudd) killer. But there’s no way it’s that simple, right? Only Murders has a habit of keeping fans guessing until the very end, so we’re betting there’s going to be at least one more twist. Ahead of the finale, A.V. Club staffers Saloni Gajjar, Mary Kate Carr, Cindy White, and Jen Lennon got together to share their thoughts on the season—and, of course, their wildest theories about this season’s mystery.
Mary Kate Carr: I’m gonna say ... no. I’m still into the two-killer theory, but right now, I’m placing a bet on the poisoning being an accident.
Cindy White: It does seem like they’ve been setting that up for a while (maybe all season), with the theme of what a mother would sacrifice for her child.
Saloni Gajjar: So, I had Donna and/or Cliff on my list for a while now, simply because they’re quirky and rich. But also we don’t know much about them except they like to share a kiss. I can see her acting in haste to try and save the play’s reputation I guess for the sake of her son, a.k.a. the overarching theme. But now that the show has hinted at her so heavily going into the finale, I’m thinking maybe not—why would she kill Ben when she could fire him? She is one of the few people with the power to do it.
I’m also in the same boat about the two-killer theory, so maybe she’s attempted to poison him but didn’t push him?
CW: Maybe you were right all along with the theory of Cliff being the pusher, Jen! I have to admit, I’m still very suspicious of Tobert, though.
Jen Lennon: Yeah, I’m still on board with the two-killers theory. I think Donna poisoned him and Cliff pushed him. She was trying to get the whole play shut down, not just the lead actor fired, because the review of the play overall was going to be terrible. So she’d need to do something drastic to get the whole play shut down. And then when Cliff realized what she did he finished the job for her.
SG: If that’s true then wow, look at the power of a well-written review.
MKC: I agree with Cindy that Tobert has been flying way too under the radar. Also, sad that all of Mabel’s love interests always want to take advantage of the “Bloody Mabel” thing.
CW: The Donna/Cliff theory seems pretty straightforward, but there’s only a half hour left to solve this so they can’t get too complicated with it.
SG: Yeah, we don’t know what Tobert’s deal is entirely. What was he doing before he showed up to Ben’s dressing room in episode nine? And he conveniently disappears after actively helping Mabel investigate in the beginning. So he’s shady overall. We also don’t have a motive yet, maybe it’s related to his elephant story—he was tired of being a bystander and finally intervened in the life of his subject.
JL: Yeah, Tobert is definitely suspicious. The elephant story still feels like a big factor the show hasn’t really explored yet.
MKC: Ben was also pushing him out and preventing him from actually doing his job. And clearly, he’s trying to move in on the true crime space...
JL: So much of this season has been about moving on and letting go—or at least Mabel’s story has. So it does make me think they’re angling for this to be the last season.
SG: To be honest, I don’t even care who did it. I’ve not invested much in the mystery itself because I don’t think the show has compared to previous seasons. I’m in it for the ride with the excellent supporting cast, but a satisfying end would be some kind of meaningful evolution for Mabel, Charles, and Oliver individually and as friends and what’s next for them in and outside of true crime. And I feel like season 3 has used the case as a device for that well.
CW: The mystery aspect is what drew me to the show, so that’s always going to be interesting to me. But I did love that the three of them were back to being besties and doing what they do in this last episode. Like Oliver said: “Can we just take a beat to appreciate how magical this is?”
MKC: Agreed—what’s so interesting about that Saloni, is I feel like Mabel has referred to time and again about not being sure about her place in the world, even though she knows she’s good at investigating. A good ending for the season would be her committing to that as a vocation. But for Charles and Oliver, their vocations sort of lie elsewhere, so it does make you wonder how they can move forward. To tie your point to Cindy’s: the friendship simply works best when there’s a mystery to solve!
SG: I would love for Mabel to come to that realization by the end of season 3 that this is what she’s meant to do, whether it’s another podcast (maybe with Cinda’s assistance?) or, I don’t know, opening a PI agency could be fun. That’s one way to ensure she, with the help of her pals, keeps investigating in future seasons. I say this because if the show has to continue, they need to realistically keep adding murders into the mix. How many people must die in the Arconia for their fun sleuthing to continue?
(That is if the show continues at all. I think because of the star power and general goodwill, Hulu will try to squeeze one more season out of it.)
CW: Mabel was trying to tell herself what she wanted for the whole episode. There was her weird dream— “Congratulations, it’s a podcast”—and then her birthday wish. She knows what she wants, she just has to fully accept it.
JL: Yeah, I agree that, more than the mystery of who killed Ben, the biggest question this season is about Mabel and her future. And a good resolution to that is more important than them totally nailing the details of the murder mystery.
MKC: In that way, I do kind of like Tobert as the killer, because I think Mabel solving the mystery and shaking off the users would be a satisfying conclusion.
CW: I was thinking the same thing! That’s another reason why they have to get Tobert out of the way. Though they didn’t have any problem getting rid of Cara Delevingne off-screen.
JL: Okay, this is extremely grim, but does anyone else think Tobert was lying about the mother elephant coming back to save the baby? Like, for some reason, I can’t stop thinking that he watched a baby elephant die. I don’t know why I’m so fixated on his elephant story.
MKC: I think Tobert is shady! “Tobert”??? Come on!
CW: I feel you. It shows that he’s capable of lying to make himself look good and sustaining that lie indefinitely. So it’s not just a throwaway thing.
JL: My way-out-there idea is that he’s collaborating with Cinda somehow.
CW: Maybe he’s not the murderer, but something is definitely up with him. So it makes sense. Was anyone fooled by the promo image of Mabel in a wedding gown? When they finally got to it in this episode I realized I’d forgotten all about it.
MKC: I had forgotten too, but I think it proves they’re still trying to trick us when possible.
SG: I hadn’t forgotten about it, so I kept waiting. As I expected, it was a disguise of sorts anyway.
CW: I would not have guessed that it was just setting up a Father Of The Bride reference.
SG: The Father Of The Bride reference was top-notch so I’ll take it.
MKC: To be honest, I can see much clearer paths to all our big suspects right now than the conclusion of last season’s murder, which is a good thing. But my final theory is: first murder accident, second murder Tobert.
SG: Yeah, I’m in the same boat as MK with Tobert. Although what’s going on with the rest of the Death Rattle cast? We don’t have their exact alibis, so maybe they’ll be a wild card.
I’m not too attached, as long as it’s somewhat logical, I’ll accept the answer in this case.
CW: I’m sure there will be a twist we won’t see coming, but my final wild guess is that Cliff was the one shredding the review and poisoned the cookie, and then Donna finished him off by pushing him to cover for Cliff.
JL: I have to admit that makes more sense than Donna poisoning him and then Cliff pushing him. I’m just way too attached to my theory about Cliff’s name. But I would really love to be surprised! I think Tobert is a really strong suspect, too.
CW: My sense is that there isn’t enough time to introduce a new motive, which they’d have to do if it was someone in the Death Rattle cast. And also that something will come out about Tobert that’s shady but maybe not incriminating.
SG: Fair enough! I think Death Rattle Dazzle is such a huge factor in season three, I’d be surprised if it didn’t relate to the crime somehow. Maybe all the singing about which triplet did it could have a larger meaning—that’s a wild theory though, so don’t hold me to it. It’s okay even if it’s not, at least we got Steve Martin’s performance and a Broderick cameo out of it.
To circle back, my final theory is still that Tobert is involved/is the killer.
JL: Over the course of this conversation, I’m realizing that I want Mabel to find her purpose in life (or embrace it, as Cindy said), I want a happy ending for Oliver and Loretta, I want some resolution with Joy, and I want to know where Mabel, Charles, and Oliver go from here as friends. And I’d like to know who killed Ben. But that’s a lot lower on my list than the other things. And for a murder mystery show, I think it’s pretty remarkable that we’re able to care about these characters so much.
MKC: I endorse all of that! And in that vein, as we’ve been saying in these conversations, if the show is going to go on I’d like to see them set up a way for it to continue that makes sense. And I think that could definitely be tied to Mabel deciding her future.
SG: I agree with both of you in every way. I hope we get all those threads sorted out, especially with Mabel and with Oliver and Loretta (Martin Short/Meryl Streep for on-screen couple of the year?).
CW: I have to add that I’ve really enjoyed all the big guest stars this season. They really used them well. The cookie reveal was expected, but still really fun to see. The “fucking pig” scene was amazing. Paul Rudd really went for it. I loved the layers of his performance. And I also agree that to really bring the season home they’re going to have to resolve Mabel’s identity crisis.