ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING, Season 3, Episode 6: Leave the “Ghost Light” On
Ghost lights are one of theatre’s most hallowed traditions. Visit any Broadway theatre at dark, and you’ll likely see an old-timey lamp on stage to keep the spirits appeased.
For the folks in Death Rattle Razzle, the Gideon Gooseberry Curse might be the cause of all their recent drama. It’s a haunting that goes back decades. First there was the cholera outbreak in Hamlet, then a shingles attack during a revival of The Iceman Cometh, and now Ben Glenroy is dead. When will the madness end?!
Perhaps sooner than we all think because at the start of the episode Howard confesses to killing Ben. HOWARD! Of all people! t’s pretty clear that Howard just thinks he killed Ben, but didn’t actually, right? RIGHT? Please don’t turn my sweet, gentle Howard into a killer.
Post opening credits, Howard explains to our podcasting trio how he didn’t sweep the Gooseberry curse away, as one is supposed to do before every performance, on opening night when Ben died. Ergo, it’s all Howard’s fault. Now, to any regular person, you might be thinking “he didn’t sweep, big whoop” but readers, this is a theatre murder mystery. Let me tell you: it’s a BFD that Howard didn’t sweep. You don’t mess with stage curses. There’s a reason why you don’t say The Scottish Play’s name backstage. That shit’ll kill you—and it killed Ben. As far as I’m concerned: case closed.
Of course, Mabel, Oliver, and Charles, don’t understand this (although Oliver should, having worked in the biz for so long) but as Howard points out, “it’s perfectly simple.” On opening night, he went to start his daily curse-cleansing ritual but the office was locked with strange noises coming from inside (people were definitely boning in there, right?). Stage manager K-T was nowhere to be found and due to her casual cruelty, among other things, Howard let it go and all hell broke loose.
In fact, he knows the curse is in full swing because more recently, as he was prepping for the show to move back in, he saw Gideon! Man, I love a ghost story…this is an excellent turn in an already excellent season. Howard thinks Mr. Gooseberry is coming for someone else next so everybody better watch out! There’s a storm a-brewing and there’s no telling where it’s headed.
In the middle of all the kerfuffle, Tobert comes out in a towel but plot twist (Charles, take note!) he’s also wearing a tank top. Jessie Williams was probably tired of all the objectification from Take Me Out, but it’s a real miss from this viewer’s point of view. Either way, the documentarian is ready to help out with the murder board but Charles and Oliver are not ready to make this podcast trio a quartet. This is a good rivalry for the show to drive our main trio back together and I’m more convinced than ever that Tobert is the one who actually killed Ben for documentary purposes.
The trio decides to go with Howard to investigate at the theatre but things get spooky fast! The ghost light goes out, sandbags fall from the sky, and tempers flare. It’s a lot to to handle. They even break horror movie rules 101 and split up!
Oliver is the first victim. After trying to match the “fucking pig” on the mirror to Loretta’s handwriting (inconclusive), he heads to the attic and discovers what looks like “the Phantom of the Opera’s dorm room.” An excellent design aesthetic tbh, but he doesn’t have much opportunity to explore as he’s attacked from behind.
Next up is Charles, who really has not had the best 24 hours. Joy left him with nothing but President McKinley, a fish, and the broken tatters of his heart. He says he’ll be fine but his high-pitched voice suggests otherwise. His fate? Locked in a utility closet! After talking to the fish about his loneliness, he decides he needs a pee break and then accidentally flushes POTUS down the toilet. Thankfully, Mr. McKinley swims back up the pipes, and after nearly fogging himself to death, Charles remembers to use his jimmy keys to get out of a tight spot.
Meanwhile, Howard is arguing with K-T about locking him out of the office as they check the flies to make sure no more sandbags fall. K-T swears she never locks her door so it must’ve been someone else and also warns Howard that Gideon is even more vicious than he realizes. Despite their frostiness, they bond over their lacking stage careers and they decide to go include Gideon rather than sweep him away. Later, Howard takes the stage to recite Gideon’s original monologue before he got unalived in front of an audience over a century ago. It works, the ghost light turns back on, and our favorite John Proctor wannabe gets his moment on stage.
Elsewhere, it turns out Oliver’s attacker is just Jerry! You see, the has-been director is squatting in the theatre and he was spooked that Oliver was someone coming to kick him out. He also is the one who scared Howard and dropped the sandbags to frighten them all away so he can live out his Phantom-chic squatter dreams in peace. Classic Jerry!
Jerry has also been keeping busy making theatre puppets. You can take a director out of a job but an auteur will always find a project. He shows Oliver what we saw last week—Loretta and Ben fighting, Charles punching Ben, etc…and Death Rattle Razzle’s director realizes all signs are pointing towards his love interest being the killer.
In the middle of all of this, Mabel finds Tobert trailing Jonathan so they team up again. They find the understudy-turned-leading-man pretty quickly and he’s almost instantly cleared as a suspect. Turns out Jonathan doesn’t want to take on Ben’s starring role — it’s a lot of pressure so he’s starting a cocktail of drugs (with just a dash of methamphetamine!) to calm his nerves.
They run into Charles banging out of the closet, Tobert goes to find him some electrolytes, and Mabel and our parched Brazos leading man chase after Oliver who has gone into Ben’s dressing room to erase the writing on the mirror in a last-ditch attempt to protect Loretta (and himself).
And then the big fight happens…the one that’s been building all season. It’s ugly, fam. Everything about the Charles-Loretta-Ben fight comes out. Charles accuses Oliver of being a terrible director and quits; Oliver says he’ll do anything to save the show and calls Mabel a child; Mabel admits she should’ve taken the Cinda Canning job and leaves. It’s a heartbreaking but truthful implosion— these three have all been struggling with their own issues lately, and either been too closed off or too blind to see how much they’ve needed each other. Is it too late for our generation-crossing trio? Let’s hope not!
Treading the Boards
-Howard and Oliver know Krav Maga and I really hope we get to see this put to use before the season finale
-Charles’ attempts to use “spoiler alert” and “plot twist” throughout the episode is pitch perfect.
-Jerry’s First Rule of Theatre: Don’t feed Hugh Jackman after midnight!
-Wise words from Oliver that he forgot long ago: “Indecision is death”
-My heart broken when Charles changes “he’s my buddy” to “was”
Only Murders in the Building is now streaming on Hulu.