Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Only Murders in the Building, Season 3, Episode 7
The Big Picture
- Mabel’s romantic subplots in Only Murders in the Building have become repetitive, lacking in new direction and impact on her character development.
- The lack of consistency with Mabel’s love interests and their limited screen time make it difficult to form a strong connection with them compared to other characters.
- The third season’s romantic partner for Mabel, Tobert, has been underwhelming and raises suspicions, making her quick trust in him feel disconnected from her past actions and decisions.
Only Murders in the Building is one of the wittiest and coziest shows out today. The series has successfully turned a simple and potentially repetitive premise into three distinct and engaging seasons. The motley group of friends played by Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin bring their intelligent, if not severely distracted, minds together in order to solve murders that occur in their sprawling apartment building, the Arconia. In the process of their investigations, they grow closer together despite their differences and unearth personal truths, just as much as facts of the case. The third season is currently underway as the trio come closer to discovering the murderer of Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd), the star of Oliver Putnam’s (Short) ill-fated Broadway production.
However, despite the show’s ability to repeat narrative ideas with new twists and turns to make them unique, there is one recurring plot thread that has grown stale. In each of the seasons so far, Mabel Mora (Gomez) has had a romantic subplot that integrates tension, mystery, and flirtation into the series. This time around, the third time has not been the charm, and it may be time to retire these played out beats in Mabel’s narrative.
Mabel’s Romances on ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Have Gotten Repetitive
One of the major issus with Mabel’s romantic subplots is that each of her love interests check off the same few requirements each time. So far, each has been a suspect in the case, has been quickly proven to be a red herring and not the actual murderer, but then has been revealed to have some other uncomfortable connection to other plots in play. Though there have been differences in pacing and details, these arcs have done little to push Mabel’s character in a new direction, making the overarching subplot feel repetitive rather than intriguing.
Part of what is causing this disconnect is the lack of consistency with these characters. Each season has introduced, then bid farewell, to a new romantic partner for Mabel. Season 1 had Oscar Torres (Aaron Dominguez), Season 2 had Alice Banks (Cara Delevingne), and now Season 3 introduced Tobert (Jesse Williams). The turnover for these characters is rapid, making it difficult to develop a strong connection to them, especially in comparison to the deepened familiarity the audience now feels with Mabel. Even Charles’ (Martin) romance with Jan Bellows (Amy Ryan), who is revealed to be the killer at the end of the first season, plays a small part in the next season. When his stunt double Sazz Pataki (Jane Lynch) reveals that she has continued to see Jan in prison, it feels like a knowing callback that has shown just how much Charles has grown. The lack of acknowledgment of Mabel’s past interests, and the lack of extended development for these relationships, creates a sense that these arcs are lateral moves that don’t leave lasting impact.
Mabel has always had issues trusting other people, which is a constant thread especially throughout the first season of the show. Despite their jolly natures and general goodwill, it took time for Mabel to soften up to Oliver and Charles. The building of their relationships made the pay-off more satisfying and permanent. However, Mabel is far quicker at opening up to these love interests, sometimes without substantial reason to believe them to be trustworthy in the first place. Her romances have begun to feel stale because the lack of consistency has limited the potential growth for either character.
Oscar Was Mabel’s Best Love Interest
Season 1’s romance was the best of the bunch, as Oscar Torres was intimately involved with the case and played a major role in Mabel’s backstory and character development. A secondary subplot in the first season is the unraveling of each main character’s own hidden past, such as Charles’ relationship with his ex-step-daughter, Oliver’s tensions with his son, and the mystery of Mabel’s connections to the murder victim and Arconia itself. Oscar was childhood friends with Mabel, the victim Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), and Zoe (Olivia Reis), the latter of which he was sent to prison for allegedly murdering. Mabel’s seemingly innate connections to death in the Arconia is at its most prevalent in the first season, making Oscar’s introduction into the series feel natural despite how much it complicates the investigation.
The chemistry between Mabel and Oscar is also the most engaging and believable out of all her love interests. Flashbacks from the past reveal that the two have always had a connection, which makes Mabel’s natural inclination to trust him despite her suspicions more understandable. His contributions to the series helped influence Mabel’s character growth and development, as she learned to accept her past and challenge her future, learning to trust others in order to find justice for her old friends. Oscar not only made sense within the context of the narrative, but he was a positive force and impact on the characters.
Why Should We Care About Tobert?
This third time around for Mabel has been the most puzzling and underwhelming of the three romantic partners. Tobert has done surprisingly little to endear himself to the audience, besides his striking baby blues and shared fandom of Mabel and her podcast. The way that Mabel has approached this relationship has also been the most out of character for her so far. Though Mabel is no longer the profoundly suspicious character that she was in the first season, she is still an intelligent and naturally guarded person for whom close personal connections have continued to be a challenge. Tobert’s first few impressions did nothing to present himself as trustworthy — he was literally snooping around Ben’s apartment, then proceeded to tell Mabel a story that turned out to be a lie. Even if Tobert were not a suspect, his loyalties and motivations are still presented as foggy at best.
Yet for some reason, Mabel is quick to trust him with all the clues of their investigation, sharing everything they have found, and even showing him their “murder board” with all their suspects and ideas. When Charles calls her out for showing this stranger all their findings, it’s hard to argue with his perspective. It’s entirely too soon to cross him off the list of likely suspects, but it also feels too soon for Mabel to find him as endearing as she has been acting. Thus far, the overwhelming suspiciousness of Tobert makes Mabel’s interest in him feel disconnected from her character’s past actions and decisions. She was in constant conflict over whether she believed Oscar or not, and once Alice betrayed her trust, it took time for the two to reconcile. Somehow Tobert gets a pass, but there’s still time to see whether that decision will be validated or not.
Does ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Even Need To Give Mabel a Romantic Subplot?
With how tiresome these plots have become, it begs whether Mabel even needs a romance plot in the series. Though Season 3 features love interests for the three main protagonists, the relationships that Charles and Oliver are involved with have been more entertaining and intriguing to watch. Charles has always been self-loathing and down on himself, so pairing him with Joy (Andrea Martin), his long-time makeup artist who absolutely adores him, has been a wonderful and hilarious juxtaposition. Oliver, on the other hand, has not had a major romantic subplot in the series thus far. Ever the one for dramatics, it only makes sense that his showmance this season is with a suspected murderer (which is new for him, not for Mabel and Charles) who is also one of the stars of his production. It doesn’t hurt that Loretta is played by the incomparable Meryl Streep, who has been one of the standout performers in the entire run of the series.
There are so many other relationships and narrative arcs that Mabel’s character can uniquely approach, so sacrificing the screen time devoted to romance wouldn’t be in vain. This season, she has been struggling with the idea of growing up and getting a “big girl job,” as she is seen going through the same struggle of every young person trying to make it in New York City. While the crux of the show is centered around her youthful dynamic paired with the humorously older affectations of her podcast partners, her disconnect from other people her age has become a source of comedy and character growth that is ripe for the picking. Whether it be lack of consistency or repetitive story beats, Mabel’s romantic arcs in the series have become more tedious, so perhaps it’s time to approach her character’s relationships from a different angle.
Find clues, discover the killer, and catch the up-and-coming Broadway sensation on the third season of Only Murders in the Building, streaming now on Hulu.