Search Party Season 5: An Infectious Goodbye

Drew, Dory, Elliott, and Portia look enthralled while entering the headquarters for LYTE
Photo: Jon Pack/HBO Max

The following contains spoilers of Search Party Season 5 in its entirety

Well, I was wrong. Search Party did not end with Season 4, and I couldn’t be happier about that, because the Season 4 ending didn’t really do it for me in terms of closure. You’ll recall that we ended with Dory (Alia Shawkat) going to her own funeral and “all of the different sides” of her combining before she wakes up in the back of an ambulance.

We don’t spend any time talking about the antics of last season, the kidnapping of Dory (and the revelation that she eventually chose to be kidnapped), or anything like that. And that might be for the best because last season was a bleak installment: Elliott (John Early) sold his soul to a conservative news network, Portia (Meredith Hagner) made her living off of playing Dory (until she got fired), and Drew (John Reynolds) created a Disney identity for himself in a theme park, while Dory was tortured by Chip (Cole Escola). There aren’t many avenues to go from there except maybe to do some trauma recovery and healing (which Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom has spoken about trying to make plot-driven and how hard that is compared to the drama that’s on television—I would link to these comments but the internet has failed me, but it’s out there, I promise.) They could have also done another courtroom season to see what became of Chip, but Search Party is above repeating itself.

“Do You Think You’ll Apply for Jobs?”

So we begin with Dory being committed by her friends on a 5150, as she claims she is the only one with the power to save the world from ending. We skip ahead some time and see Dory kind of thriving while being committed, to the point where her main doctor says that he wants to “be her.” (Sounds healthy, right?) Meanwhile Portia and Drew have realized they “have to” be together, but they can’t tell Elliott, who is meanwhile trying to adopt a child with his on-again life partner Marc (Jeffery Self).

I have to say having Portia and Drew feel like they have to get together, and all their awkward kisses really was great alongside the plot-line of Marc and Elliott adopting a baby. Final seasons seem to force characters into choices that maybe don’t feel right for the character, but feel right for the sake of closure of the series (Being Erica comes to mind, and also Insecure more recently). Portia and Drew definitely shouldn’t be together, and Elliott and Marc definitely shouldn’t raise a child, and we all know this, which makes their respective downfalls that much more enjoyable.

Elsewhere, Dory begins her master escape from being committed, and makes an Instagram Live video telling her story of enlightenment and her quest to spread love. She ends up breaking into Portia and/or Drew’s apartment (I don’t know one from the other at this point) and surprising the gang. Some part of Portia and Drew missed her, and they both begin seeing each other separately. Portia has never been particularly headstrong, always a bit of a sidekick, so this does seem to make sense from what we’ve seen of her. And Drew has always had one foot still inside the door since his break-up with Dory to be honest (which Dory later calls him on, which is super warranted).

Anyway, besides relationship dynamics, we mostly focus on Dory going into business with Tunnel Quinn (Jeff Bezos Goldblum) to make her enlightenment experience into a pill, which they help build demand for by bringing in notable influencers who combined have a hold on about one-third of the American population (weird to think about that, yikes.) Also weird to think that Dory amassed such a following post-murder trial/kidnapping etc., and that’s how she was able to garner the attention of a tech CEO like Elon Musk Tunnel Quinn, but I guess that is how the world works in terms of how people can become public figures.

We have fun with the influencers for a bit, get to know them, and then find out through a blackmail plot-line with Elliott (his adopted child isn’t working out) that the lab is actually not working on a pill after all (they’re working on making jelly beans), but are trying to make the public believe it’s possible. From there, Tunnel will then sell the company when the valuation becomes high enough. This all happens while Portia starts poisoning Dory (classic cult plot twist), which she then denies, but later admits to because she doesn’t want to lose Dory. It’s a comedy of errors that ends in Dory putting the place on lockdown and taking Drew and some royal family members as hostages.

The series truly is firing on all cylinders in moments like these, expertly balancing a set of spinning plates—and even pulling off a death fake-out—but where it goes after this is pure absurdism (in true Search Party fashion).

“The Pursuit of Everyone Living Life Well Is Enlightenment”

But before I get into the ending and its parallels to our current times (fun fact: this season was the only one written and shot during the pandemic!), let’s talk get into the colours in the title sequence, which are abundant this season! Gone are the one note reds, blues, yellows, or whites. This season is a tie-dye of previous colours and some new ones.

The initial takeaway is probably the hippie/Woodstock/free love popularity of tie-dye and its parallels to Dory’s movement, but an additional parallel may also be tie-dye’s come back in 2019. The trend, and anything trendy, is ultimately decided by companies who decide what is and isn’t a trend and they then pay influencers to peddle a certain lifestyle or aesthetic to the general public—much like the enlightenment pills.

Another thing that feels relevant to touch on is how Search Party skewers pseudoscience (and five minute hacks) through one of its influencers, and how its lack of testing, and cult-like leader (Dory) peddling it leads to something catastrophic hitting the earth. Obvious parallels feel like anti-vaxxers peddling Ivermectin, and killing some of their followers in some cases, or even gender-reveal parties that lead to fires. All some fun things that have happened in the last little bit!

“I’m Tired of Being The Subject of Everyone’s Whispers”

Finally we arrive at the end of the world, which is brought about by Dory’s followers taking her jellybeans (which cause you to turn into a flesh-eating zombie by either ingesting a jellybean or getting bitten by a zombie). Search Party isn’t very interested in the general want of the zombies or anything like that, it’s more interested in how the government claims to be handling it, and who is there to save the day (the epic return of Clare McNulty’s Chantal!).

Pandemic seriousness aside, seeing Dory and Chantal battle it out for who thinks they have brought about the end of the world is comedic gold, and a weirdly perfect bookending for the two characters who got us into this mess by making it about themselves in the first place.

As standalone finale’s go “Revelation” is a short burst that takes place either with the gang running away from zombies or in a flashforward where a safe zone has been built. It’s a strangely comforting finale for these unprecedented times seeing that everything has changed completely and yet life still continues to exist. Times Square has become overgrown with grass, and Broadway theaters are free for anyone to sing in (even Portia!). It’s not the bleak Walking Dead pilot in the way that everything is gone, but it is bleak in the fact that certain fields are completely dead, and the amount of people that have gone missing has skyrocketed. In a callback to the pilot where Dory saw a missing poster for Chantal, we end on her face as she looks at the number of missing people.

On the surface, it’s a cute bookend but when you dig deeper into the millennial experience this show was all about, it stings to think deeper about the amount of millennials displaced in their lives, creative journeys, careers, etc. due to the pandemic. How many things were put on hold not to be picked up again? How many dreams became impossible? How many career fields did we get rid of or make even more precarious than they already were before?

It’s an ending that leaves some sting in reflection, but Search Party was always about creating absurdist circumstances in each season’s ending in order to give thought and space to bigger things at play. It was never going to be a show where everyone ended up happy, married, and with children. It was a show that skewered the millennial generation’s ridiculousness, mocked its entitlement, while also questioning the hand the world dealt them. It was complicated and hilarious and dark, much like the times millennials are put through. It honoured that throughout, never took itself seriously, and turned in a show that will be hard to top for years to come—if for no other reason than to top it would be dated and out of style (and pointless). It’s a once-in-a-generation for a lot of reasons.

Written by Derrick Gravener

Derrick Gravener loves TV and has recently started killing plants again (by accident).

He's currently watching: Abbott Elementary, American Auto, Dickinson, Euphoria, RuPaul's Drag Race, and This Is Us

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