Note: This story contains spoilers from “Only Murders in the Building” Season 3, Episode 8.
In Tuesday’s new episode of “Only Murders in the Building,” audiences learned that Loretta (Meryl Streep) is the biological mother of murder victim Ben Glenroy’s adopted brother Dickie (Jeremy Shamos). The Hulu comedy’s showrunner, John Hoffman, credited writer Elaine Coe for Season 3’s biggest twist yet.
“It was an early pitch that helped us frame the entire season. We had Meryl Streep in our show, and we knew we needed to do some deep diving and give her something with heft, with mystery around her, and that dimensionalized that character,” he told TheWrap in an interview facilitated through his personal publicist and conducted in accordance with WGA guidelines. “We reframe Loretta’s story and how she came to even be in this play, and how her whole life was leading up to it, which we thought we understood from Episode 1. So that pitch was huge.”
The episode also saw Loretta take responsibility for Ben Glenroy’s murder to get the scent off her son, with the police ready to take her into custody. But Oliver (Martin Short) — who’d recently sparked a romance with Loretta and tried to conceal evidence tying her to the crime — collapsed from the stress, ending the episode on a wild cliffhanger.
Hoffman said he hesitates to write age-related jokes because he always sees Martin Short and Steve Martin as “the youngest spirits in the room.” But he noted that manifesting the stress on Oliver this season — the new relationship with Loretta, having his career dream decimated by Ben Glenroy’s murder and his attempt to make a bigger and better musical work in the aftermath — felt “very theatrical,” a la Bob Fosse.
“For [the health issue] to come back in certain ways that are critical to the storytelling for Oliver’s arc felt right,” Hoffman added.
Episode 8’s conclusion struck a very serious tone, but the installment featured a lighthearted moment for Charles (Steve Martin) when he conquered his fear and successfully performed “Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It” on stage.
Hoffman said he came up with the initial concept for the patter song in the shower after the show’s writers talked about the idea of centering the plot of “Death Rattle Dazzle” on three baby triples, as part of Oliver’s effort to turn his latest show into a major Broadway musical.
The show enlisted Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman to write the song, which Hoffman called “the craziest quadruplet combination in history for musical theater fans.”
“[Steve Martin] was like, ‘it’s an unbelievable song, but it’s also terrifying’,” he said. “He just hits it out of the park, and that [scene] feels very gratifying for Charles’ arc. It’s a heroic moment.”
During filming of the performance, Hoffman said he sent a photo of Steve Martin to Paul Rudd, who had already left to work on “Ghostbusters.”
“I wrote Paul and said, ‘I’m witnessing maybe the greatest night for Steve Martin in our show,’ ” Hoffman said. “He just killed it. It was just unbelievable.”
“Only Murders in the Building” is created and written by Hoffman and Martin.
The pair executive produces the series with Short, Gomez, “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman and Jess Rosenthal. The series is produced by 20th Television, a part of Disney Television Studios.
New episodes of “Only Murders in the Building” stream Tuesdays on Hulu.