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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 for weeks, at-home detectives may have finally cracked the case with a few episodes in the season to spare. From an unexpected partner in crime to a chilling motive, we pieced together some of the most compelling social media theories to identify Ben’s killer once and for all.
Is Loretta Dickie’s Mother?
The prevailing Reddit theory among at-home sleuths names Loretta and Ben’s brother-turned-manager, Dickie Glenroy (Jeremy Shamos), as accomplices in Ben’s murder. Citing episode seven, “CoBro,” released on Sept. 12, the theory draws heavily from Mabel’s (Selena Gomez) conversation with Dickie as she attempts to gather more information about the brothers’ relationship. During their discussion, Dickie reveals that his parents adopted him when they were struggling to conceive. Miraculously, the couple was also able to welcome “miracle Ben, child star Ben” into their lives, 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 that Loretta and Dickie are related may be less of a stretch than we think.
“It’s made me think there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye.”
While there are plenty of hidden clues throughout the season to suggest a mother-son relationship, Loretta all but confirms this theory in episode three during her spectacular rendition of “The Nanny’s Lullaby,” aka “Look For the Light.” 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 (Martin Short) 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!]” While we don’t know the conditions under which Dickie was given up for adoption, it’s possible Loretta is thinking about the past and hoping to establish a relationship with him moving forward.
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 as follows:
“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. Whether she is Dickie’s birth mother or a former caretaker, her attachment to him only seems to grow stronger as the season progresses. 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 killer. If Loretta is involved in Ben’s murder, however, it’s unlikely she was working alone, making it all the more plausible that she and Dickie conspired to kill Ben together.
What Is the Motive Behind Ben Glenroy’s Murder?
With an ego as big as his acting career, Ben Glenroy was not on the best terms with his cast and crew. Narcissistic, selfish, and inconsiderate, Ben 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 speaking with Mabel, Dickie reveals that he invented CoBro, the half-cobra superhero that kickstarted Ben’s adult acting career. Though CoBro was 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 a Reddit post shared on Aug. 16, one user pointed out that the name of the theater hosting Oliver’s play may have foreshadowed the brothers’ toxic power dynamic. According to the post, the Gooseberry Theater may be a reference to Anton Chekhov’s 1898 short story, “Gooseberries,” which tells the story of two brothers who grow up to lead opposing lives. “One brother dreams of one day living a pleasant, carefree life tending to a gooseberry farm in the countryside where they spent their youth,” the Reddit user writes. The brother’s quest for fulfillment, however, leads him to become a “callous landowner whose happiness comes at the expense of his workers’ suffering.” When the other brother sees what his sibling’s life has become, he’s mortified.
Ultimately. “Gooseberries” is a story about class division and the wealthy elite thinking they’re immune to life’s setbacks. The plot feels like a clear allusion to Dickie’s mounting frustration over Ben’s success and the late actor’s general disregard for anyone other than himself. He may have been so exasperating, in fact, that it pushed Dickie to kill him. While Chekhov’s play doesn’t end in murder, “OMITB” cocreator John Robert Hoffman is notably a fan of the playwright and his short story. In 2016, Hoffman directed Chekhov’s play, “The Seagull,” for the Ophelia Theater. Over a decade earlier, in 2001, Meryl Streep also starred in a production of the play at the Delacorte Theater in New York.
Though subtle, Hoffman and Streep’s ties to Chekhov make the theater’s name feel like less of a coincidence and more of a clue. “It’s also the same theater Loretta is in as a child when she falls in love with theater. That connection doesn’t seem like an accident!” another Reddit user wrote.
Did Loretta and Dickie Work Together to Kill Ben Glenroy?
Over halfway through the season, all evidence seems to point to Loretta and Dickie as Ben Glenroy’s killers. Initially, the writers attempted to divide us, throwing out clues to insist Loretta was working alone. Most notably, the 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.
Later in the season, Oliver goes into Loretta’s house and uncovers multiple scrapbooks filled with clippings of Ben. While this scene may support the idea that Loretta was, indeed, obsessed with the actor, fans noticed that each clipping of Ben also featured a photo of Dickie. For this reason, many “OMITB” fans believe the photos are an homage to Dickie, rather than Ben. If he is her long-lost son, this would explain her inclination to keep photos of him around her home and her desire to be part of “Death Rattle” in the first place – not to be closer to Ben but to Dickie.
After seeing the way Ben treated Dickie up close, Loretta may have poisoned him on opening night. This idea is further supported by the anger Loretta exhibits after learning Ben is still alive mere hours after being taken to the hospital. When Ben does reappear at the opening night afterparty, he takes a moment to apologize to all those he’d wronged, at the same time delivering backhanded compliments and further cementing himself as the resident jerk. It’s also possible that having thought his brother dead and seeing him return just as ill-mannered as ever was a breaking point for Dickie; he may have even been so upset to see his brother unchanged that he killed Ben and pushed him into the elevator shaft to ensure the job was done.
It’s unclear whether Loretta confronted Dickie about their potential mother-son relationship. If so, they might’ve planned to kill Ben together. If not, the actor’s death may have been a spontaneous crime of passion on either of their behalf. Of course, it’s also possible that neither Loretta nor Dickie killed Ben. With so much evidence pointing to the contrary, though, we’d be surprised if the duo didn’t at least play a hand in the murder.
At present, everyone is still a suspect. But with just a few episodes left in the season, Ben’s murderer won’t be left lurking in the shadows for long.
“Only Murders in the Building” is currently streaming on Hulu.