If season one of “Search Party” was about evading responsibility, season two is about facing it head on. The elaborate string of clues that led the gang to Montreal ends up being a complete waste of time. Chantal is found to be unharmed, recuperating in her friend’s summer home after she and her love fell out. That’s the entire gag — surprise! Everything is fine! Except, really, it’s not. Moments before Portia (Meredith Hagner, “Younger”) cries out “I’ve found Chantal!” Drew (John Reynolds, “Stranger Things”) and Dory (Alia Shawkat, “Arrested Development”) are bludgeoning someone in the kitchen of the house. In a great twist, the real intrigue of “Search Party” starts at the end.
We find our heroes at the beginning of season two reeling with the sudden course of action that has taken place. Dory has cured her obsession to find Chantal — has been able to maintain some personal distance from it. Sure, she is ardent in her quest to find Chantal’s whereabouts, but Dory feels no real attachment to the girl. Her passion project has led her to become an accessory in the murder of Keith (Ron Livingston, “Dice”). Shawkat brings everything in post-murder Dory to life, from little tics of the eyebrows and lips to an uneasy wavering in her voice.
One of the greatest strengths of “Search Party” is its ability to keep you guessing, yet still satisfying that urge for thrill, pause or resolution at any given moment. For example, viewers were obviously looking for an brutal end to the Chantal arc, which they get in the form of Keith’s murder. Viewers also get to observe the shifts in character and the coping mechanisms of Dory, Portia, Drew and Elliott (John Early, “The Disaster Artist”) by forcing them to respond to a huge event they’ve perpetrated themselves.
“Search Party” is also a visual spectacle, telling story with scene and color as it does with narrative. Dory, Drew and Elliott sneak off to a recording studio in the basement that somewhat resembles “Twin Peaks” Black Lodge in its red, black and white color scheme and isolation. It’s the perfect setting for a reckoning with a surreal encounter. Elliott wears a jumper with an impression that reads “ANYHOW,” which adds a layer of visual irony since none of the characters can afford to act so nonchalant.
The protagonists of “Search Party” join the league of other characters that are made by their mistakes. They are like the women of Lena Dunham’s “Girls”: self-centered, egotistical and manipulative. Only in this series, the stakes are higher and the characters are brought together by an intense secret. The murder asks a great deal from each character: Portia’s acting talent gets them back in States even though Chantal has a fake passport; Elliott’s capability as a mediator consistently keeps everyone from losing it; Dory’s imagination and drive both get them both into and out of trouble. However, as the distance from the murder grows and the moral questions surrounding the circumstances of Keith’s death are asked, it will be interesting to see how they all are tested. Sure, they’ve kept it together enough to return Chantal to the States, but that’s only because they’ve been in close proximity. Once they are let loose in New York City once more, it’s a brand new game.