What to Watch Verdict
The second episode hits the charming and poignant notes with a fantastic guest star at the center.
Guest star Shirley MacLaine
The two mysteries that link the past and present
Explaining the history of the building
Mabel's yellow coat
Good use of Billie Eilish
More meta-references that are too wink-wink
NOTE: This post contains spoilers for Only Murders in the Building season 2, episode 2, “Framed.” Read our previous Only Murders in the Building season 2 episode 1 right here.
Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell) spent her entire life living in the Arconia, but her ties to the Upper West Side building go further than simply being a resident. Turns out her grandfather Archibald Carter was the architect who designed the building, which helps explain why there is a secret elevator in her apartment.
It isn’t only Bunny’s grandfather who harbored secrets, as Charles (Steve Martin) is discovering about his father, who is immortalized in an erotic painting by Rose Cooper. A past and present mystery run parallel — as they did in season 1 — with the two cases connected in Only Murders in the Building season 2.
"Framed" opens with a brief explainer about Bunny’s grandfather and a scene depicting a young Charles with his father (played by Ben Livingston). Charles is helping his dad with an audition that happens to be taking place opposite the aspirational Arconia. "I hit it big, we’re gonna live there," he says about his son’s future home. Charles knows his father was a man of many secrets and their rocky relationship is referenced in season 1 when he revealed that his father taught him how to pick a lock.
Back in the present, picking up where episode 1 left off, the trio inspects Bunny's painting, finding "Savage" is written on the back of the canvas. Mabel (Selena Gomez) confesses this is what Bunny said to her just before she died. Clearly, Charles is not involved directly, but the fact the painting is now hanging on his wall only makes him look guilty. They need to enter Bunny’s apartment to access the secret lift, with a memorial in her home serving as the perfect opportunity — even if they are persons of interest in the case.
Bunny’s mother, Leonora (Shirley MacLaine), arrives at her daughter’s apartment, but grief is not on the menu. Instead, she asks, "Where the f*** is my painting?" and is dismayed that it's missing. Leonora sniffs each podcast team member to determine whether they are guilty, announces that none of them did it and accurately assesses that they know something.
Charles is left to talk to Leonora while Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel grab the artwork to sneak back up on the secret elevator. Everything is on schedule until Charles doesn’t hold the door open, tipping “Framed” into delightful farce territory. They have to leave the painting by the dumpsters, but it is missing when Charles goes to retrieve it.
In the meantime, Mabel combines research, art therapy and romance. When Oliver asks if a text that makes her smile is from Oscar (Aaron Dominguez), Mabel tells him the former sweethearts are better off as friends. Sure, the trauma bond is strong, but that isn’t enough.
Alice (Cara Delevingne) is the person making Mabel swoon and flirtation soon turns into kissing — Billie Eilish's "you should see me in a crown" is the perfect accompaniment to the scene. Mabel does find out that Alice knows about Rose Cooper (and that she mysteriously died). Mabel lights up in her presence and her choice of yellow coat on this date of sorts is another outerwear treat from Dana Covarrubias.
Cutting between this scene is a slightly unusual conversation between Amy Schumer and Oliver about the TV adaptation of their podcast. It turns out that Amy wants to write it from Jan’s (Amy Ryan) side of the story and she plans on playing this role. Amy asks many questions about Charles, later claiming it's because she is staying in character as Jan.
Part of the obsession with the Brazzos star includes hanging the missing painting on her wall (that she found by the dumpster) because of the similarity to Charles. There is a danger that this joke could get old fast, but Oliver's meta-references to sequels and second seasons that have overstayed their welcome. What works better is their clue-gathering.
The intrepid amateur sleuths show how resourceful they are as Charles gets the most information when he asks Leonora about her relationship with Rose Cooper. She bought the painting when Rose was desperate for cash because she was trying to get away from a man. Soon after, Rose disappeared and was declared dead. The mystery of her demise caused the value of her work to skyrocket. "In order to be recognized, you have to disappear," Leonora sadly notes about being a woman in this industry. MacLaine hits on the poignant, funny and sharp notes throughout this guest star turn, stealing every scene.
Oliver brings Mabel, Charles and Leonora to Amy’s apartment, where Leonora quickly deduces the painting is a reproduction and not the original. As soon as one mystery is solved, another pops up in its place. Did the killer have this made as part of an elaborate plan?
Another important clue is that Charles' dad was having an affair with Rose Cooper and Leonora. Earlier, Charles realized the building where Rose lived was where his dad had his "audition." By the end of "Framed," he has a memory of his father getting arrested. Each new nugget points to the Savage family; past and present are entangled.
One more clue presents itself in the form of Bunny’s chatty bird, gifted to Oliver. Let’s just say this is bequeathment is not welcomed with open arms. It turns out that this bird maybe was an eyewitness, or at least someone taught it how to say, "I know who did it."
Charles’ father (who died when he was young) isn’t the killer — well, at least not in the present-day slaying — but he is a central figure in both mysteries. The game is well and truly afoot and Only Murders in the Building is as charming and suspenseful as ever.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.