Search Party is one of the most underrated and underappreciated shows in the era of Peak TV. This is a post for those of us who know and for those of you who should.
Search Party, which originally aired on TBS, is a delicious dark comedy some of us have been waiting to return for almost THREE YEARS. It has a cult following I am proudly a part of, which has many unspoken rules. The first being recommend this show to everyone you know, regardless of what they’re into (it’s that good) and the second is lose your sh-t, binge, and analyze the show when new episodes become available. I don’t even know how many times I’ve watched season 2, that’s how obsessed I am. Season 3, released by HBO Max last month, was different in many ways but kept the same hilarious, loveable, and binge-worthy qualities the series is known for.
Every time I’ve recommended Search Party to someone, I describe it as a show about a girl who made another girl’s kidnapping about herself. Of course, the end of season 1 showed the depths of Dory’s mediocrity and provided the biggest plot twist – not only was the girl not missing, but Dory’s antics over this small letdown turned into a huge problem: murder.
Season 3 begins by reminding us that this show will always be about Dory (played beautifully by Alia Shawkat), unafraid of highlighting her absolute worst qualities. Far past being relatable, with season 2 ending with two murders under her belt, she continues to be a nightmare that we can’t look away from. Season 2 was pure panic, as the group of four all grappled individually with what they did, and season 3 is about the consequences. Unsurprisingly, Dory remains in denial, continuing to make bad decisions that endanger the livelihoods of her friends and her estranged and constantly downtrodden boyfriend, Drew, played hilariously by John Reynolds.
Because we’ve waited so long for season 3, it was satisfying to see the first episode back pick up in the moments after Dory’s arrest for the murder of Keith Powell, an arrest that Dory and her crew tried all season to avoid, and represented everyone’s greatest fear – even Dory seemed surprised to be finally held accountable for her actions.
That’s the thing about Dory, she represents the themes the shows explores: millennials, narcissism, and entitlement. Her paranoia in season 2 has been replaced with sheer indifference to her actions, and this has devastating implications for her friends after her arrest. Dory is always arrogantly going with her gut, which is routinely wrong. Even though she has visions of the people she has murdered that throw her off, it’s nowhere near the horrific mental turmoil she puts her friends through.
Drew deals with his arrest and subsequent murder trial with none of the resolve that Dory has. He is a constant mess dying to come clean, and it’s so funny seeing how badly he navigates his circumstances. Even though he resents Dory, he relies on her because he’s so tragic. He and Portia (played perfectly by Meredith Hagner) are still the most honest of the bunch, but Portia is responsible for their disorganized murder going public. In season 2, her guilt from being associated with the coverup came through her work as an actress. Now her predator director has disclosed Portia’s confession, leading to the damning police tip that implicated the group for Keith’s murder. When she discovers this, she immediately admits it to the group and her separation from Dory begins with a fight where Dory calls her stupid for not being able to keep the secret for one night. It was a long time coming, and happens on the heels of a hilarious scene between the four friends, stripped down in the ocean, sharing information that way to avoid anyone being recorded (“it’s smart of us!”). This line, and so many other gems was delivered by Elliott, played by the insanely talented John Early, who manages to still stand out among the amazing cast.
Elliott has been through so much in this series, and it’s pretty remarkable there was even more of his moral descent to capture. The season finale of season 1 is still my favourite episode of Search Party, and while so much was happening plot-wise with Dory, Drew and a murdered Keith, it was Elliott steered the ship in the aftermath. He is so vapid and self- absorbed that even after inadvertently revealing that Dory cheated on Drew by messing up a lie, he dismisses their breakup to Portia, hilariously saying ,“I’m sorry. I cannot take straight couples fighting seriously. It’s like, get over yourself.”
To see him out-maneuver and manipulate Portia, Chantal, and Portia’s goofy Montreal “Frenchman” while plotting to hide then bury Keith’s body showed John Early’s range. Every moment he was onscreen after screaming “I love my publishing company!” to a blood-covered Dory and Drew was a scene he stole. Then in season 2, he begins by taking on the role of the most skilled liar, only to be so scarred by the murder and his entire life of lies. He ends up in a rehab facility, confessing that he’s so ashamed of being full of sh-t. In season 3, Elliott leans back into his identity as a “complicated liar” but ends up being publicly exposed again for more lies. He loses his doormat and fiancé Marc (played by Jeffrey Self), and there is some hope he’s going to change for good until he’s rewarded with another public platform to be his terrible self.
This show is magical, and it’s anchored by its magical cast. But Search Party is also show stacked with incredible guest stars, cameos, and secondary characters. The talents of Natasha Rothwell, Rosie Perez, Christine Taylor, Judy Gold and Parker Posey in season 1 alone truly elevated the show. And Season 3 is no different. Michaela Watkins and Louie Anderson shine as opposing lawyers on Drew and Dory’s messy murder trial, but it’s Shalita Grant who steals the show with her amazing portrayal of Dory’s ditzy and ambitious lawyer, Cassidy Diamond. From the moment she shows up onscreen with a masterful vocal fry and corresponding outfit, telling a concerned Dory she’s “30 and single!” with a Joanne the Scammer shoulder shake, Cassidy is a treat. Shalita is enjoying the well-deserved praise for her performance, and talks about her fascinating acting journey thus far in these recent profiles in the Los Angeles Times and Elle.
If you’re still reading this and you haven’t checked out this delicious show, none of the above spoilers will make a difference. As I just said, I’ve rewatched it several times and there’s no better time than now to binge all three seasons.