“SEARCH PARTY” IS THE ANTIDOTE TO BOREDOM
Everyone pretends to be something that they’re not in the series, especially Dory’s friends.
Dory (Alia Shawkat) is confounding. Is it possible to truly understand the different versions of her that we discover in Search Party or will she always remain as a nebulous personality? Clearly though, she’s a muddled person with an unearned sense of entitlement that almost certainty, makes her naïve. The daughter of high achieving Iraqi immigrants, Dory felt like the stakes were high, but didn’t quite believe that the task of finding a job that complements the need to survive and indulge in a passion, was nearly impossible. She meant to become something of substance by seeking a highbrow profession with her visual arts degree, preferably, the kind of job that people esteemed and that just so happened to pay enough to afford a studio apartment in New York. She was a dreamer, those lost, kind-hearted sorts, who believed passion, a willingness to work, and a good heart should be enough to earn you a good living —even without experience.
But in the real world, a novice wanting to find a meaningful career that allows for a life of colour is akin to an idealist. So, she struggled. While pursuing a career in the art industry, she held a position as a personal assistant, never giving up her dream, even after getting rejected from nearly everything she aimed for. But at some point, her confidence started to break down when all her peers were finding a footing within their careers as she lingered in a gig that was supposed to be a temporary thing. This all makes Dory very relatable and likable in the very beginning of Search Party.
Everyone pretends to be something that they’re not in the series, especially Dory’s friends. They are equally lost but they’re just a lot better at hiding it. Her boyfriend Drew (John Paul Reynolds), is in business school, a career path that isn’t the best fit for his anxious and soft-tendered personality, but refuses to be honest about it. Dory’s rich friends Portia (Meredith Hagner) and Elliott (John Early) walk around adorned in the latest fashion but neither of them has an inclining of what they are doing or how to achieve their goals, but they look pretty so, it’s OK. All of this makes the viewer feel for Dory and her turbulent journey, hoping that she will eventually find stability. Then the news of her missing college acquaintance, Chantal (Clare McNulty), changes everything. To atone for this slightly more feverish period in her life and gain some control, Dory redirects her frustration and need to be good at something, to finding Chantal. It’s an avoidance tactic but so what? Her thinking is, if she can do good in the process, isn’t it for the best?
And so, through Dory, Search Party distracts the audience to be convinced that the series is another missing person’s narrative; it’s absorbing. Dory’s persuasive yearning to find Chantal even consumes Drew, Portia, and Elliott, to the point that they afford so much of their time towards helping her with her goal. Eventually, the intentions behind her goal become murky and the series feels more like a surreal perversion of the typical, heroine story. Ultimately, Dory becomes a disaster and her friends fun-loving attitude only serve to enable her madness.
The show is a satirical dark comedy, created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter. It is sly. You never really know what is happening because it’s steered by the reasoning and thought process of Dory and so, just as chaotic and flighty as she is, the series blurs the lines between angst and lucid reflections on the absurdities within our modern society. With its mounting twists, it makes the slow build of horror grating and creepy.
Shawkat is brilliant in her role as Dory, but equally exceptional and amenable, are friends Portia, Drew, and Elliott. Portia has the most enchanting and relaxing voice ever. Whenever she’s pleading, her tone has a mix of a whining and melancholy tinge that is weirdly intriguing because of how soft her voice is. So, of course, she’s constantly overlooked. Still, in Portia, Search Party adds a bit of texture to the dumb-blond trope, affording her allure and sweetness. Elliott on the other hand, has a dirty glamour about him. He’s the embodiment of excess; excess wealthy, clothing, and ambivalence. He adds realism with his tough love mantra, but he’s a walking contradiction. Coupled with Drews soft, people-pleasing temperament, the three are almost Dory’s alter ego’s, balancing what it means to be young, fun, full of life but a train wreck.
Still, Search Party is disturbingly funny. Probably the most unnerving part about the series, is how it encourages audiences to laugh at objectively troubling events; it invites a feeling so uniquely unsettling and distressing of say, “The Scream”. But it’s a quality that keeps you in wait for the next big catastrophe. But at this point, what could possibly go wrong? … Right?