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Only Murders in the Building season 3 ending, explained

Each season, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building brings an exciting new whodunit murder mystery complete with a new set of potential killers. Every season also adds impressive cast members, and for season three, that includes Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep in pivotal roles. As usual, the episodes follow Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short), and Charles (Steve Martin) as they run their own investigation to uncover the truth, creating podcast episodes to chronicle each discovery and theory.

The story in season 3 picks up where season 2 ended, with Rudd’s character Ben dying on stage in front of a crowd during the opening night of Oliver’s play. Mabel, looking on from the audience, has that “oh no, not again” face. But how does it all play out?

Everyone is a suspect

Paul Rudd leaning over a desk smiling in a scene from Only Murders in the Building season 3.
Patrick Harbron / Hulu

Fans are instantly thrown for a loop when, after mourning the death of Ben, he pops up in a room full of his peers to declare that he survived after all. With the show being called Only Murders in the Building, Rudd, who is now residing in the Arconia apartment Amy Schumer previously lived in, can’t possibly die anywhere but in the actual building. That he does, his body falling from a broken elevator shaft, just as the true crime trio exits to find it. Why are these folks always in the worst place at the wrong time?

The first clue comes from a simple handkerchief. After Oliver and Mabel are kidnapped and tied up by Ben’s stalker Gregg (Adrian Martinez), they discover that he stole Ben’s handkerchief before he died. That means the handkerchief that was on Ben when he died belonged to someone else, likely the killer. Since the handkerchief happened to be a unique one Charles gifted to everyone involved with the play, the suspect list is instantly narrowed down. The trio, distracted as they might be by other things in their lives, get to work trying to figure out whose hanky is missing and thus who could be the killer.

Mabel standing beside Gregg in a scene from Only Murders in the Building season 3.
Patrick Harbron / Hulu

But it’s about a lot more than a handkerchief. The suspect list is long. It ranges from Kimber (Ashley Park), Ben’s co-star, to Jonathan (Jason Veasey) his understudy, Joy, the enthusiastic make-up artist (and Charles’ short-lived love interest in a scene-stealing role by Andrea Martin), and Loretta (Meryl Streep), the long-time struggling actor hoping for her big break (who becomes Oliver’s first love interest on the show). Eventually, even Ben’s jealous, adopted brother and manager Dickie (Jeremy Shamos) strikes suspicion. Plus, what’s with that odd stage manager K.T. (Allison Guinn) anyway?

The police aren’t investigating anymore since they believe they found their man in Gregg. They did save Mabel and Oliver from his kidnapping, after all. But despite his troubled behavior, the pair aren’t convinced he’s guilty. He loved Ben too much to kill him.

But who’s going to help Mabel with her hunch? Oliver, fresh from suffering a heart attack (one of two he’ll have through the season) is too consumed with trying to remake his play as a musical. Charles, meanwhile, is busy trying to figure out how to cohabitate with Joy while maintaining his sanity. Mabel finds a new helper in Tobert (Jesse Williams), a camera operator who was following Ben around for a documentary. He has insights that prove invaluable to Mabel. She isn’t getting help from her old buddies anymore, anyway.

From everyone’s perspective

Loretta looking angry and menacing in a scene from Only Murders in the Building season 3.
Patrick Harbron / Hulu

As the episodes roll on, each part of the story is told from the perspective of a different suspect. Each also reveals a secret. Eliminating Kimber as a suspect, for example, fans see that she was simply trying to get Ben to help her promote her scent creations. Joy, meanwhile, disgusted that Charles was unsure of her innocence, seems unlikely to be the guilty party either.

Loretta has skeletons in her closet, but it turns out they relate to Dicky. He is her biological son but doesn’t know it. She was keeping the strange book with clippings about Ben for the photos of Dickie, not Ben. Dicky, meanwhile, might have resented his brother, but he also loved him deeply. Plus, he has a solid alibi.

Ben and Dicky talking in a scene from Only Murders in the Building season 3.
Patrick Harbron / Hulu

When the finger is pointed at Dicky, however, after the Only Murders in the Building podcast presents new evidence police simply can’t ignore, Loretta claims she killed Ben to save her son. Mabel now has her duo back on board to help: Oliver won’t stand by and let Loretta go down for this while Charles doesn’t like Tobert taking their place.

Who killed Ben Glenroy?

Oliver and Charles offering Mabel a cupcake with a candle in it, their murder board behind them in a scene from Only Murders in the Building season 3.
Patrick Harbron / Hulu

As the trio works on their signature murder board, pieces start falling together. The trio speaks to Dickie and discovers new details about where Ben was before the opening night curtain call. They place themselves in Ben’s shoes, looking on through flashbacks at how everything fell into place.

After meeting with a group of elderly lady friends to sew gifts for the entire cast to apologize for his behavior, Ben learns that Dickie was about to quit. He confronts Loretta about her involvement in his decision, which leads to Charles punching him in the face for attacking her.

On the way back to his dressing room to have his bruise fixed up by Joy, Ben is offered a delicious cookie by Cliff (Wesley Taylor). He angrily refuses, but later when he finds the cookie in his dressing room, Ben reluctantly devours it and then writes a message to himself on his dressing room mirror using Joy’s lipstick, calling himself a “fucking pig.” That explains both the mirror message and who Ben was caught on camera arguing with in his dressing room: himself (well, a cookie).

The group realizes after Howard (Michael Cyril Creighton) spends hours putting together pieces of shredded paper that Donna (Linda Emond) must have gotten an early version of the scathing review of the play and shredded it before her son (or anyone) could see it. Desperate to prevent her son’s first play from bombing, she poisons the cookie and leaves it for Ben. He, according to the review, was the weak link in the play, not Oliver’s story. Loretta didn’t do it and now they have proof.

The gang arrives at the courthouse, Mabel posing as a bride to gain entry, just in time to stop Loretta from confessing to a crime she didn’t commit. They believe they know who the true killer is. But before they reveal the name, Donna stands up from the seats in the courthouse.

How does Only Murders in the Building season 3 end?

Donna and Cliff standing next to one another smiling in a scene from Only Murders in the Building season 3.
Patrick Harbron / Hulu

Just as the curtains rise for Death Rattle Dazzle, Oliver takes over the lead in the play, Donna confesses that she is the one who both poisoned and pushed Ben to his death. It was all the protect her son, and she’s willing to turn herself in once the curtain closes. She’s dying of Stage 4 lung cancer and doesn’t have much time left anyway.

Mabel picks up on something with the distraught Cliff and discovers that it was actually he who pushed Ben that fateful night. Cliff threatens to jump to his death upon being discovered but is saved in the nick of time by his dedicated and far too close mother. The pair are carted away by the cops and Oliver’s play, despite the ruckus at the end, is deemed a massive success.

Sazz and Charles from Only Murders in the Building standing side by side dressed identically.
Craig Blankenhorn / Hulu

Naturally, however, the story doesn’t end there. As the group is celebrating, Charles says he’s going to head up to his apartment to grab a 1966 bottle of Malbec he’s been saving for a special occasion. As he arrives in the dark apartment, a gunshot blazes through the window, hitting him square in the chest. However, it turns out it wasn’t Charles. It’s his identically dressed body double Sazz (Jane Lynch) who had just arrived at the party and must have offered to get the bottle for him.

So begins the next mystery: who killed Sazz and, more importantly, who presumably wanted Charles dead? Only Murders in the Building has officially been renewed for a fourth season, and it’s safe to say that Sazz’s presumed death and a potential hit on Charles will be central to the story.

Stream all three seasons of Only Murders in the Building on Hulu

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Christine Persaud
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