Who Is Meryl Streep on Only Murders in the Building Season 3? Loretta Explained

The following story contains light spoilers for Episode 1 of Only Murders in the Building Season 3.

WHEN YOU HAVE a show led by three A-listers—two of whom have been industry legends for about a half century—there are certain things that your show can do that others cannot. One of those things is adding arguably the greatest actress in the history of cinema to play a brand new character in Season 3. That’s just one of many reasons why we love Only Murders in the Building, and why we’re so particularly excited to see how the story of Meryl Streep’s character, Loretta Durkin, plays out.

Let’s quickly recap how things in Only Murders land are going: about a year after the events of the show’s second season, Oliver (Martin Short) has made his triumphant return to directing Broadway productions. His show, Death Rattle, is in the middle of its splashy (pun not intended!) premiere, which stars Hollywood A-lister Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd) and his best friend, Charles Haden-Savage (Steve Martin). Things are going great! Until Ben drops dead on stage, that is. Whoops!

Season 3 picks things up from there, but not exactly where we expect. Rather than directly jumping to the aftermath of Ben’s on-stage collapse, we go back in time to see a little girl become spellbound with the magic of the theater. As Charles’ voiceover explains, people who love the theater have probably loved it for a long time. This little girl, it turns out, is Loretta Durkin—played as an adult by Meryl Streep. And a few months before the production of Death Rattle, we see Loretta squeeze her way into an audition with Oliver and his colleagues.

She’s not on the list, but she immediately raptures Oliver with a monologue. “Where have you been?” he asks her. Streep is so good in the moment that follows, overwhelmed by the kind of beaming compliment that she’s been waiting her whole life to hear, that she is essentially speechless in her reply.

She lands the Death Rattle role, and clearly becomes an angel in Oliver’s eyes. But there’s a lot more to go on with this character—and a whole season of Only Murders in the Building ahead of us.

Meryl Streep plays Loretta Durkin in Only Murders in the Building

"pictures from home" broadway opening night

Bruce Glikas//Getty Images

In perhaps the biggest flex in its three seasons on the air, Only Murders in the Building brought in Meryl Streep—yes, Meryl Streep, she of 3 Oscar wins and 21 Oscar nominations fame—to be a key figure in the new season of the show (She’s credited as a “Special Guest Star, alongside Paul Rudd, in the episodes in which she appears). And while her talent is instantly on display from her first scene in the show, it’s clear that her character, Loretta, is going to be absolutely key to everything going on this season. After all, they aren’t going to open the season with a character who’s going to be anything less than vital to the story being told.

As we see more of the time leading up to the show’s display, we learn a bit more about Loretta, mainly that she’s not exactly the natural talent that Oliver may have initially thought she was. When Death Rattle has its first table read (and Ben makes a big show of introducing himself to everyone), Loretta makes some “choices” with her lines—she does a few accents that are very bizarre and make just about everyone in the room shoot looks at whoever will look back at them.

It makes for such an awkward moment that Ben—who moments ago was putting on a nice guy show—asks Oliver to fire her. But Oliver tells Loretta how much he believes in her; if she goes, he goes. Clearly, though, this is the start of friction between Ben and Loretta.

The remainder of the episode is about the aftermath of Ben’s death, and takes us to the aftermath of the show… where he turns out to actually be alive. He puts on another show, attempting to be a changed, nice guy… until he talks to Loretta, telling her he knows a snake when he sees one. She says nothing, but the unseen history between these characters (a history we’ll be sure to see more of soon) is clearly going to play a big part.

Loretta also clearly with some kind of flirtatious relationship with Oliver. But this all gets put on the back burner by the end of the episode, when Ben once again turns up dead—for real this time.

If you ask us, Loretta has got to be the chief suspect. There’s something fishy about the relationship between the two, and you don’t bring in Meryl Streep to not have the splashy killer role. Or is that just what someone wants us to think? We’ve already seen Charles have a love interest turn out to be a homicidal maniac (Jan in Seasons 1 and 2, played by Amy Ryan); could Oliver really have gone down the same road?

Part of the joy of Only Murders is that we know these writers are smart, and we know that they’re aware of the tropes and pitfalls of the murder mystery genre. They could be thinking the same things we are… or they could be going for a subversion, making us think exactly what they want us to think as a misdirection, only to send our attention far away from the actual truth.

No matter where Loretta’s role ends up going, for now, we can trust that Meryl Streep is going to be able to sell it well.

Headshot of Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

This article was originally posted here.

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