As Search Party bows out for what could very well pass as a final time, let's take a look at the fourth season with a semi-critical eye. Understand that I love this show, but that doesn't make it immune from criticism.
The season opens with the closing images of last season, namely that Dory (Alia Shawkat) is being held captive by Chip (Cole Escola) - the twink from Elliot's (John Early) wedding. Though it takes some time to see where the story goes, the show isn't afraid to put Dory - our protagonist - in some really uncomfortable scenarios. It's weird because while it should feel cathartic, it definitely goes past that and delves into the realm of "I can't watch this anymore". More than once.
While Dory is being held captive, Portia (Meredith Hagner) has just been cast in a show about "the gang's" experience, except she's playing Dory; a role she accepts. In a similar vein, Elliot's talkshow with Charlie Reeny (Chloe Fineman) takes a turn when the network execs want Elliot to abandon his liberal principles to (at the very least) play the persona of a conservative on-air. The whole thing reeks of satirising Tomi Lahren and Milo Yiannopoulos and I love it.
Drew (John Paul Reynolds), on the other hand, just wants out of New York. As a celebration for being found "not guilty"/unwitting-goodbye-party, everyone gathers at Dory and Drew's apartment where Dory is nowhere to be seen. To them, she just left and moved away to Europe, leaving nothing but a note. This prompts her friends to drunk dial her and leave a voicemail telling her how much she ruined their lives, and the rest. It was pretty heartbreaking seeing that voicemail juxtaposed with Dory, held captive.
Whilst the earlier episodes don't focus too much on Dory, the routes down which the other characters go are a great substitute. Drew moves to work (and live!) in a theme park, where he meets his new girlfriend: Cindy (Rebecca Robles). Elliot's and Charlie's show is a hit; and Portia begins work on the TV show. This is all happening whilst Dory's Instagram account is still posting pictures as though she is in Italy, something that piques the curiosity of Drew when he sees Dory wearing a sweater that he distinctly remembered putting in storage.
And so begins the conceit of this season: rescuing Dory from Chip. Aside from a guest appearance by Susan Sarandon, the season focuses very closely on the central group and shows just how well these characters have been written as both individuals and members of "the gang". Dory having to deal with herself and how bad of a person she truly is, that was really really compelling stuff. It felt like Shawkat was tapping into something, maybe some unresolved trauma from her own life, and using that to fuel a captivating performance as Dory.
The show is good in that it isn't necessarily twist-driven. Sure, the first season did have somewhat of a twist, but the second and third didn't. There wasn't anything in the previous two seasons that reframed the narrative you've just been watching; it was still compelling. That said, when this show does do twists, it has them perfected. It was absolutely genius of the "reveal" to be Dory willingly getting kidnapped after escaping; it reframes the story and her character, whilst also giving us something to chew on. Did she want to get kidnapped for the attention? Or, did she want to get kidnapped because she wanted to die? There are arguments for both sides, but I lean on the latter of these.
The final episode, Dory's "funeral", was superb. If you've seen my tweets (@StreamingBuffer) you'll know the scene I'm talking about. When her friends are gathered around, fantasising about the life Dory would've led in a few years' time. Amazing. Then, this all being in Dory's brain, my head was spinning.
If you can't tell already, I liked Search Party (Season 4). It's a show that just keeps on giving and I can't wait to see what, if anything, comes next. Whilst there were some drawbacks to the season, mainly pacing issues, the overall feeling I had when I finished it was: satisfied. Also, that bottle episode with Chantal was super.
What do you think? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Have you never seen it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@StreamingBuffer)!
Until then, happy streaming!