Today we say goodbye to Search Party, one of the most impeccable, twisted, and incisive comedies in years.
Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter, Search Party began as a show about one woman obsessed with finding a missing classmate. It has since evolved and contorted into a series arc unlike any other. The final ten episodes hit HBO Max today, sending the show off in an unexpected, gratifying, and bittersweet finale.
Bliss tells Mashable in a Zoom interview that some of Season 5’s satire comes from outrageous news stories of the past several years — things that seem impossible, but at this point, we’ll believe any of it.
“It’s just really hard to write the show, honestly,” adds Rogers, his shoulders slumping. “But every season… you have to clear up everything that happened in the last season and address that, then you have to restart. Then about midway through the new season, you start to switch into a new genre, or the genre that the season is heading to starts to settle in.”
Dory’s new outlook feels narcissistic — even to these guys.
Credit: Jon Pack / HBO Max
Search Party is a show that deftly negotiates that journey over and over again, raising the stakes for its characters without erasing their past actions and growth. In Season 5, Drew (John Reynolds) asks a question that has been burning inside him since Season 2: Did Dory (Alia Shawkat) really kill someone? The answer may feel immaterial after all these years, but Search Party‘s writing gives it fresh significance. Drew and Dory can’t move forward without tying up this loose end, and it’s worth devoting pivotal seconds of screen time to that closure.
“I think the main thing for us is just that everyone’s emotional lives feel very real,” Rogers adds. “And so things can get really heightened and crazy as long as you treat them like they’re real.”
This season finds Dory’s perspective and purpose shifted after dying, briefly, at the end of Season 4. The writers considered killing her off in earnest at the time, but the near-death experience became a catalyst for transformation. Dory’s friends are initially dubious, but back along for the ride when she decides to invent a miracle pill in collaboration with eccentric tech billionaire Tunnel Quinn (Jeff Goldblum).
“He’s just a character that finds his sense of worth in doing the biggest thing and taking risks and having big ideas that will change the world,” Bliss says. “It always comes down to changing the world and wanting to do that for the better, and ultimately it having consequences that are not what was initially intended.”
Tunnel Quinn (Jeff Goldblum) is a rich narcissist with deep pockets and big dreams.
Credit: Jon Pack / HBO Max
Millennial narcissism underscored Search Party‘s early seasons, but Season 5 weaves it expertly into themes of altruism and the greater good.
“The irony of the season rests in the idea that the ultimate narcissism is altruism,” Rogers says. “As Dory is trying to do good, it’s in a sense, like the cringiest and most despicable thing you can do in a world where everything is about being self-serving.”
Every season of Search Party is arguably its own genre within the wider category of dark comedy. Season 1 is the titular search, Season 2 a crime and a coverup, Season 3 a courtroom drama, and Season 4 a psychological thriller. Season 5, in its first few episodes, teases an examination of cult genesis and a big tech future — then takes off in a direction you’ll have to see to believe.
“The starting place for season five is about Dory being enlightened,” says Rogers. “That’s not necessarily a genre situation, but as we were writing we found that this season, without giving too much away, the season really leans into horror and sci-fi in ways that the show has never done before.”
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“It feels like over the last few years, culturally, we’ve kind of left the planet,” he elaborates. “So this season has a really apocalyptic and extreme take, and it feels to us like it’s kind of in step with how the world feels like it’s been ending for a while.”
In later episodes, Search Party mirrors reality in progressively uncanny ways, right down to the final shot of the series. It ends up far removed from the self-involved Brooklynite and her search for a missing girl — an immensely satisfying emotional journey throughout.
“It’s totally evolved, took on a life of its own,” Bliss says. “A lot of the writers joke about like, ‘If on day one of writing this we thought that this was where it was heading…’ We just didn’t have where it headed in mind, but it naturally feels like the right thing, in a crazy way, because of where the season goes.”
Search Party Season 5 is now streaming on HBO Max.
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