May 23, 2022

‘Only Murders in the Building’ has made a killer mini mystery out of Tie-Dye Guy

Welcome to Thanks, I Love It, our series highlighting something onscreen we’re obsessed with this week.

As countless documentarians and podcasters can attest, it takes serious finesse to make true crime fans care as much about the details of a case as the whodunnit at its center. But with the spectacular mystery of Tie-Dye Guy, Only Murders in the Building has pulled it off.

“This is our strongest suspect yet, next to Tie-Dye Guy,” Charles (Steve Martin) says at the start of episode 4, which sees the series’ amateur detectives continue their investigation into the death of Tim Kono. At this moment in the show, international superstar Sting is the primary suspect. Still, Charles stresses: “We cannot forget about Tie-Dye Guy!”

Upon first viewing, the moment seems like a throwaway bit, underscoring the zaniness of self-proclaimed crime buffs being convinced they know how to solve an actual murder. Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) don’t even seem to entirely know who Charles is talking about.

Of course, now with that doozy of a cliffhanger — an ominous shot that saw Mabel followed by the very same Tie-Dye Guy Charles spotted seemingly heading for the scene of the crime in episode 1 — the identity of the person behind the sweatshirt is a major point of speculation among fans.

Tie-Dye Guy: It's a case only Brazzos could solve.

Tie-Dye Guy: It’s a case only Brazzos could solve.
Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

Thanks to some clever marketing from Hulu, which touts Only Murders as having the most watched premiere of any comedy series in its history, #WhoIsTieDyeGuy has decent traction on Twitter and Reddit. Plus, a legion of tie-dye hoodie-wearing flash-mobbers are running around New York City as a kind of living advertisement for the series. It’s no Game of Thrones discourse (R.I.P. you remarkable disappointment), but it’s keeping plenty of fans chomping at the bit for episode 5.

Admittedly if you look online, you’ll find the mystery of Tie-Dye Guy’s identity isn’t all that hard to solve. Some seemingly spoiler-laden paparazzi photos of Gomez and the alleged Tie-Dye Guy from February appear to reveal the answer, and dozens of fans say they’ve figured out how this person fits into Only Murders’ story. (Search “Only Murders in the Building” on Getty Images and you’ll find all the clues needed to answer this riddle, but, be warned, that could spoil other plot points too.)

So Tie-Dye Guy isn’t some all-time great example of fan theories or even a particularly engaging puzzle. Still, it’s a special thing to see a fandom first emerge to work out a problem they care about deeply. Watching people collectively invest in a fictional world is an experience that feels not only needed for this difficult time, but particularly apt for this series.

You know, I'm still not ruling Sting out.

You know, I’m still not ruling Sting out.
Credit: craig blankenhorn/Hulu

Like a true crime show host asking rhetorical questions to keep their audience focused, Only Murders has done an excellent job of inviting its viewers to get in on the sleuthing week-to-week. Yes, it’s provided us with a chillingly fascinating situation for Charles, Oliver, and Mabel to navigate. But it’s just as often given us flummoxing questions to answer on our own while we wait for the next episode: What happened to Zoe? Why would someone poison Winnie? Who is Tie-Dye Guy?

More often that not, we assess entertainment by what its creators bring to the table. But true crime projects especially benefit from the work audiences do to keep them fascinating and fun through private conversation and research. In this way, Tie-Dye Guy is just another example of Only Murders completely nailing the subject it satirizes. By encouraging us, the fans of this fictional crime show, to solve a case of our own, this sparkling series has managed to up the stakes on screen and off.

Only Murders in the Building is now streaming on Hulu.