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‘Tell Me Lies’: A train wreck

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the first three episodes of the new Hulu series “Tell Me Lies” was released. While the first episode begins in the present, the director takes us back to Lucy’s first year of college.

The director’s choice for bridging the past and present naturally presented spoilers. Even though these foreshadowing details somewhat piqued my interest, the decision to intentionally show the future unfolding didn’t fare well. Instead, it simply felt unnecessary. For instance, the tragic death of Lucy’s roommate Macy (Lily McInerny) lacked the shock value it deserved.

Episode one should’ve been stronger, but the following two episodes managed to create complex characters that were not only interesting to watch but you also found yourself despising them. Stephen (Jackson White) was a misleading image; he found himself in a dramatic love triangle with his ex-girlfriend Diana and Lucy. As the episodes proceed, we learn that Lucy wants more than a casual relationship while Diana is hesitant to take him back. In the end, Stephen effectively convinces them to stay with him. 

It is difficult to know how much what he says is true, and his friends fail to provide insight into his true intentions. Even though he may be a fascinating character, he is a toxic individual.

For example, one of the most difficult scenes to watch was when Stephen’s friend Wrigley (Spencer House) asks for help when studying for his economics exam. Evan (Branden Cook) apologizes profusely for not being able to help him while Stephen says he doesn’t have enough time. In many ways, I wish Wrigley’s storyline was highlighted. 

In the scene where Lucy writes a nonfiction piece for her fiction class, she feels personally attacked by their harsh criticisms of the main character. I found this scene to be funny because it made me question whether or not I should’ve sympathized, and it opened my eyes to the portrayal of Lucy as an emotionless character. She breaks up with her boyfriend the morning before leaving for college and all of her actions were not explained. There is no backstory, instead the director alludes to the difficulties with her mother. Her struggles should have been explored in a deeper way in order to enhance Lucy’s character arc. Her character is very unlikable.

Even as the series continues to progress I still couldn’t help but think that there should’ve been a different focus. However, despite being a train wreck, it is hard to stop watching.

“Tell Me Lies,” first three episodes

Starring: Grace Van Patten, Jackson White 

Favorite episode: Episode 3

If you like: “A Teacher”

Where To Watch: Hulu

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5

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‘Only Murders in the Building’: Killer Comeback

There’s a blackout across New York City. In the Arconia apartment complex, a murder investigation is occurring. And during all of this, the building’s residents come together for one moment and sing. This is “Only Murders in the Building.” There’s murder, there’s mystery, but what stands out most is the cast of characters and how they deal with the chaos they find themselves in. Though the episode had suspenseful moments and revelations for the investigation, the moment that stands out most is how the background characters interact and expand beyond just one-note personalities into complex characters with hopes and goals of their own. What’s even better is how these characters return throughout the season to help solve the mystery underlying the show. 

The show centers on Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez), all residents in the New York apartment complex, “The Arconia.” In the first season, Mabel’s childhood friend Tim Konos is found dead in his apartment, leading the three to unite over their shared interest in murder-mystery podcasts and start their own. The trio, despite all odds, make not only a great team unit, but great investigators, too. After a night of celebration over the arrest of Tim’s killer, the three get a mysterious text and find a dead body in Mabel’s apartment: their neighbor Bunny Folger, the owner of the building. The second season picks up on this thread, with the main trio investigating the killing, while defending their reputations from rival podcaster Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) and the crooked Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport). These five aren’t the only characters the show takes time to know, however. In fact, every character, no matter how small, feels developed in such a way that they have a life outside of their purpose in the story. This is one of my favorite aspects of the show.

In the first season, the question “who killed Tim Konos?” carries much of the plot, but the second season places less emphasis on the actual murder and more on a wider theme of family. Family remains a clear theme that runs through the season, with all three central characters confronting their own fears and obstacles: Oliver worries about the results of a DNA test; Charles confronts the meaning of fatherhood as mysteries towards his own father arise coinciding with the arrival of his former partner’s daughter, someone who viewed him as a father figure himself; Mabel confronts her unhealthy coping mechanisms regarding death and negative emotions that rose from her own father’s death. Through all of these subplots, new revelations arise that lead the investigators to new evidence, no matter how unlikely they seem. The mystery is not impossible to solve, but it is not so clear that one could solve it from the season’s start: the show makes a point to have the audience learn and connect the pieces in the same ways the characters do. Twists are surprising, yet always rooted in information that was already known: the twist comes from solving the puzzle, not learning something unknown to the audience entirely. 

The show balances great character moments with an overarching mystery. Even when the show feels like it’s meandering or abandoning the mystery in favor of character moments that are unrelated to the wider picture, the show ties it all together with such skill it never feels forced or unfounded: every reveal is justified and has some foundation to stand on. The show is not only a great mystery, but also a masterful character-driven comedy, carried by the performances of Short, Martin and Gomez, along with the writing that provides them with great material. Whether you’re looking for a laugh or a chance to play Sherlock, you can’t go wrong with “Only Murders in the Building.”

Show: “Only Murders in the Building”

Starring: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Tina Fey

Favorite Episodes: “The Tell,” “Hello Darkness,” “I Know Who Did It”

If you like: “The Afterparty,” “Knives Out”

Where to watch: Hulu

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

Andy Ottone

Contact Andy at aottone@nd.edu