Search Party Season 2 (TBS)
Written by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Jordan Firstman, Starlee Kine, Anthony King, Christina Lee, Andrew Fleming, and Matt Kriete.
Directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Lilly Burns, and Michael Showalter.
The first season of Search Party ends with the central mystery solved but a much more significant problem on the hands of the four main characters: they murdered someone. The second season picks up right where the first let off and becomes an entirely new animal. Dory is wracked with guilt, knowing that her actions led to this murder. Her ex-boyfriend Drew continues to distance himself from her and is now joined by their friends Elliott and Portia. Each of them is dealing with their part in the murder and cover-up in very different ways, yet all destructive and sloppy in some manner. Whereas the first season was a mix of comedy and mystery, this round is still funny but much more psychological and darker in where it goes.
I continue to be surprised by Search Party and its creators, always feeling that my lack of enthusiasm about their work needs to go away. Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers are creators I need to get excited about because they are continually upending my expectations in the best ways. The narrative corner the series is in at the end of the first season seemed series-ending, yet Bliss and Rogers embrace the difficulty of it and make the entire season about the murder, its cover-up, and the fallout between these four friends. There are moments of genuine psychological horror as we begin to see the waking dreams Dory is confronted with. At some points, she becomes near suicidal. Yet, somehow the creators balance this is dry, smart comedy. It is one of the best tightrope acts I’ve seen on television in 2017. Bliss and Rogers managed to reinvent their entire series without losing a step and with the conclusion of the second season they will be reinventing it again.
Alia Shawkat is the dramatic standout this season. She is asked to bear the most significant weight of guilt and manages to convey that increasingly anxious, paranoid mentality without going over the top. Her psychosis is a quiet one that forces her to make foolish decisions in the moment. The entire season’s episode titles are the mental stages the characters are going through Paralysis, Denial, Obsession, Hysteria, etc. And Shawkat is able to convey the subtle shades between these states of mind with effortlessness. Between this series and her lead role in Amber Tamblyn’s Paint it Black, she is set up to have an incredible dramatic acting future.
The supporting cast continues to shine, especially John Early and Meredith Hagner as Elliott and Portia. Each has very different subplots, but they pull out the best in these actors. Elliott continues dealing the book deal he was given after his cancer claims were revealed to be a hoax. In an apparent reference to the James Frey/Oprah debacle, Elliott is a celebrated liar. John Early is genius-ly partnered with his comedic life partner Kate Berlant, playing his editor at the publishing company. They have both great comedic scenes and one incredibly tense and frightening scene near the end of the season. The chemistry they have fostered over the years shows it work outside of traditional comedy.
Meredith Hagner’s Portia gets cast in a stage production based on the Manson Family murders and ends up in the thrall of a cult-like director played by Jay Duplass (Transparent). Hagner is doing something special here, totally up-ending the trope of the ditzy blonde. Portia is a spoiled little rich girl on the surface, but there is much more happening. Play-acting the brutal murders begins to trigger her own PTSD related to what went down in Montreal last season. And much like Dory, it starts to boil over.
I have no idea where Search Party will go in Season 3, but I am very excited to see how the show redefines what it is. At first glance, you might perceive this as just another Millennial show (a la Girls), but it is much more, an ever-changing satire on economics and white culture mixed with murder and mystery.