Watch out! This post contains spoilers.
There’s more to Loretta Durkin than meets the eye. Since the beginning of “Only Murders in the Building” season three, Loretta, played by Meryl Streep, has been suspect number one in the mystery of who killed Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd). Though suspicion has been swirling surrounding Loretta all season, at-home detectives sent the investigation in a whole new direction when they uncovered major secrets about her past. Loretta may not be a killer, but she may have served as the ultimate red herring in a story that proves a mother would do anything for her child — possibly even commit murder.
Is Loretta Dickie’s Mother?
Leading up to the season finale, the prevailing Reddit theory among viewers was that Loretta and Ben’s brother-turned-manager, Dickie Glenroy (Jeremy Shamos), were accomplices in Ben’s murder. Citing episode seven, “CoBro,” released on Sept. 12, the theory drew heavily from Mabel’s (Selena Gomez) conversation with Dickie as she attempted to gather more information about the brothers’ relationship. During their discussion, Dickie revealed that his parents adopted him when they were struggling to conceive. Miraculously, the couple was also able to welcome Ben into their lives around the same time, and the brothers’ imbalanced power dynamic quickly fell into place.
As in every murder investigation, even the smallest clue can lead to a break in the case, and fans wasted no time latching onto the news of Dickie’s adoption. “Perhaps Loretta is Dickie’s mom now that we know he’s adopted,” one Reddit user suggested, attempting to draw a connection between the season’s most suspect characters. Though seemingly out of left field, the idea proved to be true in episode eight, “Sitzprobe.”
“It’s made me think there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye.”
At the start of the episode, Loretta reveals she became pregnant as a teenager and gave her baby to the Glenroys so she would have the freedom to pursue her acting career. “I followed you from afar. I made a book about you, which I cherish, but it also made me sad because I thought I’d never see you again,” she says in a voiceover, referring to the scrapbook she keeps featuring photos of Dickie and Ben. “These last few months getting to know you, they’ve been a dream, but I’ve been lying to you.”
Loretta also explains that she joined Oliver’s (Martin Short) “Death Rattle” production for the sole reason of meeting Dickie and getting to know him in person. Later in the episode, she writes Dickie a letter admitting she’s his mother, but she does not bring herself to give it to him.
Before Loretta’s confession, there were several other hidden clues throughout the season to suggest a mother-son relationship. Specifically, Loretta’s spectacular rendition of “The Nanny’s Lullaby,” aka “Look For the Light,” is a strong indicator that she’s driven by more than just a passion for theater. The song’s lyrics are sung from the perspective of a mother-like figure assuring the children in her care that she will always be there to protect them. “I will wait at the shore for you / I will, weather each storm / Standing by ’til / Safe you return from the night,” the chorus goes.
Though the lyrics make sense for Loretta’s character in Oliver’s play, her pointed glances at Dickie as she sings “my darling” suggest a deeper connection to the song. “It’s made me think there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye, especially with Dickie picking up her management so quickly,” one Reddit user theorized on Aug. 16, referring to the fact that Dickie began managing Loretta shortly after Ben’s death. “I’m starting to think that she may be [his mum/mum-like figure!]”
The theory goes on to suggest that Loretta’s opening monologue in episode one answers every question we’ve had about her character since her arrival. For those who may need a refresher, her monologue goes like this:
“Enough. Enough of your questions, Detective. I’m happy to tell you who I am and what it is I do without your insistent probing. I am a caretaker of children to whom I’m given charge. Am I a substitute for the child’s true mother? Some would prefer I say ‘no,’ but I believe I am. I must be their mother when it’s only me with them because a child needs to feel at all times safe. They need to feel protected with the kind of ferocity only a mother can summon. It’s no matter if they were born of my own flesh. Would I kill to protect a child in my charge? That is the question you have for me, I assume, Detective. To that, I would say without so much as blinking, I would kill without compunction for the sake and safety of any child in my care. So, now you have your answer.”
The lines, which Streep delivers beautifully, immediately establish Loretta’s role as a maternal figure. The scene also alludes to the fact that Loretta would do whatever it takes to protect her children, even kill for them. Of course, considering this scene takes place mere seconds into the season, some fans believe it may be too on the nose to pinpoint Loretta as Ben’s sole killer.
In “Sitzprobe,” though, Loretta confesses to poisoning Ben’s protein shake and later pushing him down the elevator shaft when she realizes the police are suspicious of Dickie. Her confession, while plausible, feels rushed, suggesting she may have lied in order to protect her son. In episode nine, “Fathers of the Bride,” Mabel, Oliver, and Charles come to this very conclusion after reflecting on some of the case’s key pieces of evidence.
Did Dickie Push Ben Glenroy Down the Elevator Shaft?
While it’s clear Loretta was covering for her son, Dickie’s involvement in Ben’s death remains up in the air. With an ego as big as his acting career, Ben was not on the best terms with his cast and crew. Narcissistic, selfish, and inconsiderate, he had several minor enemies who may have had a motive to kill him. No one, though, had a greater motive than his brother, whom Ben frequently treated as inferior. Generally soft-spoken, Dickie manages to fly under the radar of the “OMITB” trio’s suspicions at first. Even when Mabel interrogates him, he maintains his composure and shows genuine concern for his brother following his death. His love for Ben, though, isn’t without its fair share of animosity.
While investigating, Mabel uncovers a CoBro drawing with the signature R. Glenroy, possibly an abbreviation for Richard Glenroy. If Mabel’s theory is correct, this would mean Dickie invented CoBro, the half-cobra superhero that kickstarted Ben’s adult acting career. Though CoBro may have been Dickie’s idea, Ben made millions off the character and received all the credit for the franchise. This singular incident, of course, doesn’t seem like enough motive for murder, but it serves as a solid example of the way Ben has treated Dickie their entire lives.
In fact, while speaking with Loretta in the episode “Sitzprobe,” Dickie admits he felt free when he thought Ben had died after being poisoned. When he found out Ben was still alive, he realized he’d have to return to a life being bossed around by his brother. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” he tells Loretta, indicating that he may have played a bigger role in Ben’s death than she realizes. Following Mabel, Charles, and Oliver’s revelation about the case in episode nine, which indicates Donna Demeo’s involvement in Ben’s murder, it seems unlikely Dickie had anything to do with his brother’s death. Still, no one has drawn any solid conclusions about who pushed Ben down the elevator shaft, making Dickie a possible — but not probable — suspect.
Did Loretta and Dickie Work Together to Kill Ben Glenroy?
With the season coming to a close, all evidence appeared to point to Loretta and Dickie as Ben Glenroy’s killers up until the penultimate episode. Initially, the writers attempted to divide us, throwing out clues to insist Loretta worked alone as Ben’s murderer. Most notably, the “OMITB” trio’s investigation cites Ben and Loretta’s encounter on opening night as an important clue. When he was alive, Ben accused Loretta of being falsely sweet toward him and her castmates. He also claimed she was obsessed with him and that she only joined Oliver’s “Death Rattle” production to be close to him. This led to a physical altercation on set that ended when Charles punched Ben in the face.
Per Loretta’s confession to the police at the end of the episode, she is responsible for Ben’s first and second deaths. After she sees the way Ben treats Dickie up close, it seems likely Loretta is telling the truth about having poisoned Ben on opening night. This idea is further supported by the anger she exhibits after learning Ben is still alive. When Ben reappears at the opening night afterparty, he takes a moment to apologize to all those he’s wronged, at the same time delivering backhanded compliments and further cementing himself as the resident jerk.
Fans believed this may have inspired Loretta to follow Ben up to his penthouse and push him down the elevator shaft. Many viewers, however, found this improbable and instead suggested that Loretta was covering for Dickie, Ben’s true killer. Alternatively, other fans suggested that Dickie was pushed to a breaking point after seeing his brother return from a near-death experience seemingly unfazed.
It’s not until episode nine that Mabel, Oliver, and Charles unofficially clear Loretta and Dickie’s names. During the episode, the trio learn that Ben was experiencing immense pressure in his everyday life due in large part to his diet restrictions, strained personal relationships, and fear of failure. After reviewing the evidence — including information shared by the members of Ben’s secret Thursday-night sewing circle — the trio come to the conclusion that Ben’s death was connected to a duplicitous mother, but not the one they originally suspected.
Instead, all evidence points to Donna, the co-producer of Oliver’s production alongside her son, Cliff Demeo. For Cliff, “Death Rattle” marks his first “solo” producing debut. After catching wind of bad press surrounding the play — namely due to Ben’s poor acting — prior to opening night, Donna grew worried about the production tarnishing her son’s nascent production career. As a result, she may have taken matters into her own hands.
By the end of episode nine, the trio have gathered enough evidence to prove Donna tempted Ben with a Schmackary’s cookie sprinkled in rat poisoning. As they burst into Loretta’s court trial to prove her innocence, they see Donna in the gallery and realize they must confront her in person with their new theory. Though Donna is a likely suspect, she may not be entirely responsible for Ben’s death.
With just one episode left in the season, Ben’s true murderer(s) won’t be left lurking in the shadows for long.
“Only Murders in the Building” is currently streaming on Hulu.
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